I just received a beautiful neon green vinyl copy of Junior Bruce’s LP The Headless King this past week and sought out their newest material, the recently released EP The Burden. In an old interview, vocalist Scott Angelacos explained the idea of their LP’s title, saying, “Other than a general feeling of unrest, we wanted the album to feel like an uprising. A headless king has nowhere to place his crown.” That same sense of defiance surfaces in The Burden, though there’s also a streak of melancholia in both songs. But Junior Bruce’s sound doesn’t wallow in solemnity, it uses the somber platform as a launching pad to meaner, heavier riffs that pound at the gates of each song, threatening to burst through.
The EP’s title track commences with haunting guitar work teamed with Tom Crowther’s growling bass that stomps into morose hardcore before building a groove layer by layer that feels like the song is regenerating rhino skin. Angelacos’ voice has extra grit on this effort, like he’s been gargling with bathtub whiskey and alligator teeth since The Headless King’s recording sessions. It’s a great song executed with confidence and powerfully projected emotion.
“The Ocean’s Daughter” opens with a creeping riff that feels like vintage Candlemass before abandoning the dirge in favor of melodic ruminations over a backbone of mid-tempo distortion. Jeff McAlear sounds like Bill Ward on this song, with frantic fills injecting energy into the slower moments while kicking the song forward with a persistent bass drum pulse. Three quarters of the way through the song a guitar lead soars over the droning main riff and leads the song to its downtrodden conclusion.
Junior Bruce (named after a character from the original Death Race 2000) is a great band on the fantastic A389 Recordings label and these new songs verify that they’re headed in an exciting direction that develops melody without sacrificing aggression. These two songs are a great teaser of what’s to come from this Floridian outfit and definitely promises that there is more quality heaviness waiting to obliterate us in the future. It may not be the brutal soundtrack a Death Race driver would listen to in his car while tallying a high body count on the blood-slick roads, but it certainly fits the soundtrack of a post-Death Race wrestle with colossal guilt and shattered morality. And hey, that’s brutal in its own way.
The Burden is currently available as a FREE download over at Bandcamp, with links to Junior Bruce’s Facebook page as well: http://juniorbrucefl.bandcamp.com/
This is also the band’s first release since the unfortunate passing of drummer Brett Tanner. If you’d like to donate to cancer research in his name it would be a great gesture.