[25 March 2010]
Concept albums, as history shows, either fulfill their intellectual promise (and premise) with excellence or they miss the mark with half-cocked ideas and only the loosest of connections. So taking up that particular gauntlet is a gambit, one the bearded gentlemen of Junius have done with supreme confidence. The ten songs of their sophomore album The Martyrdom of a Catastrophist create a narrative that revolves around the controversial scholar Immanuel Velikovsky, interpolating his philosophy into the sonic structure itself through the lyrics and two short interludes. Within the context of sweeping post-rock (think Hum meets Explosions in the Sky), Junius have crafted a rich and rewarding cerebral opus that traverses the void between the raw and the refined with grace. The fluidity of the album is surprisingly subtle, like a slow leak, from the gradual crescendo of opener “Birth Rites by Torchlight” to the crashing piano-driven “A Dramatist Plays Catastrophist” to the expansive unpredictability of “Ten Year Librarian.” The Interpol-esque “Elisheva, I Love You”, led by a beautiful and memorable riff, fits perfectly into the overarching conceptualization, and the haunting choral touches of “The Mourning Eulogy” concludes the experience in fitting fashion. And this experiential quality is what needs to be stressed about The Martyrdom of a Catastrophist. Junius is making more than music, as evidenced by the wonderfully illustrated insert that comes with the album, which is packaged itself in the increasingly amazing gatefold style of Mylene Sheath. They are making a comprehensive aesthetic, distinct and brilliant, that supersedes sound or simple description. In other words: this is how you do a concept album.