Junior Bruce – Pray For Death
Release Date: 30/10/2020
Running Time: 40:13
Review by Steven Hooke
Those of a spiritual nature may feel that the forces are conspiring against Junior Bruce. The Floridian five-piece has already overcome the passing of their founding drummer shortly after the release of their debut album; in 2015, their guitarist had to depart the band following a horrific motorcycle accident; and much in the same way as the bulk of the music industry, the coronavirus pandemic struck early this year and put a hard stop in their plans.
But in spite of it all, the rifflords commeth, and Junior Bruce delivers a high energy wave of sludge, heralding the guises of High on Fire and “Remission”-era Mastodon. It’s an explosive start with ‘The Sleeper Awakens’, spearheaded by a pummelling drum performance from Jeff McAlear seemingly wanting to reprise every position on a high school drumline.
From there, “Pray For Death” enters a staggeringly good one-two of ‘Terror Mounts (Wretched Thing)’ into ‘7,000,000 Years (Ancient Astronaut)’. ‘Terror Mounts’ opens with up-tempo bounce, reminiscent of Priestess before an octave change and a warcry courtesy of Scott Angelacos, sends the song into a Motörhead-esque punk-meets-metal rush of adrenaline that is gagging for a live audience. The track spends most of its second half at a more calculated, yet dangerous pace, bringing forth those Mastodon vibes once again, capped off by Angelacos, whose death metal-adjacent tomes add an extra layer of ire to proceedings.
Into ‘7,000,000 Years’ and the floating guitar works from Brett Walker and Christopher Hayden almost feels likes they’re performing above the song completely. A shoegazy vibe that gives an extra lift to Junior Bruce’s repertoire.
There’s something for fans on both sides of the sludge metal coin on “Pray For Death”. In the fast-paced, punkier market, ‘The Mirror’ fully embraces its gnarly punk origins, as does Cancer Bats-like closer ‘Unspeakable Horror’ and ‘Anti-God’ – which is an absolute belter by the way – is all too coy in its flirts with death and thrash metal. For those about the groove and wanting their riffs to sound like they’ve come from Swamp Thing’s arse, ‘The Basement’ has all sorts of Crowbar feels and ‘One-Nine-Nine-Nine’ bathes itself in those shoegaze influences from earlier.
As a listening experience, this album has got you covered. From gurning you face with a slow head-bop, to full-on windmills and mosh pitting your flatmate out the kitchen window, Junior Bruce comes at you with force, in an affluent well of ideas and creativity. Although not quite as immediate on the first couple of listens, once you get there, it becomes an exciting time of discovering what they’ve snuck in next.
01. The Sleeper Awakens
02. Terror Mounts (Wretched Thing)
03. 7,000,000 Years (Ancient Astronaut)
04. The Basement
07. The Mirror
08. Unspeakable Horror
Scott Angelacos – Vocals
Brett Walker – Guitars
Christopher Hayden – Guitars
Thomas Crowther – Bass
Jeff McAlear – Drums
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