Plumbiferous Media

The Martyrdom of a Catastrophist – Junius

Nov 19th 2009
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The Martyrdom of a Catastrophist - JuniusJunius
The Martyrdom of a Catastrophist
Score: 78

Junius began its musical career in 2004 with the release of its debut EP, Forcing out the Silence. Over the following five years, the band released a second EP and then a self-titled LP, developing its sound into the post-rock influenced sound of its newest album, The Martyrdom of a Catastrophist. The Martyrdom of a Catastrophist is a concept album focusing on the life of Immanuel Velikovsky, a psychiatrist who, in his own field of study, focused on Freudian psychotherapy but later became interested in cosmology, proposing a theory that the Earth had experienced numerous “close-contacts” with other planets, as well as a rather unique view of history based upon this view. Though Velikovsky’s cosmological views are largely refuted by modern scholars, the fantastic nature of his idea of the world continues to captivate the minds of so-called “catastrophists.” It is this view of the world that serves as the inspiration for The Martyrdom of a Catastrophist, creating a thoroughly interesting album which manages to carry over the profound sense of the extraordinary from the theories of Velikovsky.

Combining the musicality of post-rock with the regular use of vocals, The Martyrdom of a Catastrophist is an expertly played album. The album often delves into uncommon rhythmic patterns and so it is unsurprising that the drum line comes across as one of the strongest on almost any given track. Of particular note is “A Dramatist Plays Catastrophist,” in which the contrasting, yet interlocking rhythms of the drums and vocals are further complicated and glorified by the also rhythmically unique guitar lines. This track then contrasts excellently with its successor, “Ten Year Librarian,” which, while overall noticeably less interesting than previous tracks, has an extremely creative middle section in which the entire track is broken down until only a drum line remains, upon which the track then slowly, carefully rebuilds itself.

More than the rhythms though, it is in moments, transitions, and paths where the album shows its worth. Excellently dynamic, tracks grow, transition effortlessly, and move between themes perfectly (although tracks late in the album are not quite as successful in this regard as earlier tracks). One effect this often has on the listener is to block him from concentrating heavily on the music, and instead become engulfed in the image the band projects through the album. There is little that is easily identifiable as undesirable on The Martyrdom of a Catastrophist. The one exception might be the overly gratuitous choir of the final track.

Junius’ music relies upon a spacy, post-rock-like feel, further accentuated and made unique by Joseph Martinez’s ethereal vocals. Martinez’s voice roams through The Martyrdom of a Catastrophist in an almost ghostly fashion, creating an echoing sound that which is remarkably complementary to the instrumentals – a second stream of sound which is simultaneously similar to and completely different from the musical base of the album. The Martyrdom of a Catastrophist is also interspersed with recordings of Immanuel Velikovsky himself, explaining the theories which made him so controversial and upon which the album is founded. Expert mixing makes these sections incredibly interesting, as Velikovsky expounds upon catastrophism.

The sort of music played by Junius is quite frankly perfect for a musical consideration of Velikovsky – whatever your opinion on his theories, it is hard to deny that the immense, constant energy present in The Martyrdom of a Catastrophist does an excellent job at bringing to mind the near-collisions of catastrophism in an impressively vivid way. Lyrically, the album also has parallels to Velikovsky in its mixture of inquisitiveness and surrealism. On “The Antediluvian Fire,” Martinez sings of “the needing to know” – perhaps the best way of describing the questions inherent behind such seemingly curious theories as Velikovsky’s.

The Martyrdom of a Catastrophist is an excellent mixing of a large number of related genres. It draws incredible amounts of energy into its elements, which it steadily releases in carefully directed streams, each combining to form a delicately balanced, but musically powerful track. And while there is certainly a degree of quality differences between tracks, even the weakest of tracks on The Martyrdom of a Catastrophist stays away even from mediocrity. Overall, The Martyrdom of a Catastrophist is quite good.

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