How excited am I about this album? So excited that I’m running this review several weeks before it’s released, just to make sure you’re all paying attention. With Neuroteque Juggernaut have done the seemingly impossible (or, at least, very rare) and injected post-metal with groove and a light step. Weird, right? The genre is known for its heaviness and drab aesthetics, channeling the blasted landscape of urbanity or abrasive scenes of frozen nature. There’s some of that on Neuroteque, don’t get me wrong, but to these sludge underpinnings Juggernaut add dynamic drums, Latin-inflected passages, cinematic flairs, and lots and lots of smart instrumentation. All of this makes this quite lengthy instrumental album a breeze to listen to, an enjoyable and tasty ride from start to finish.
The fun starts right off the bat. The build up which opens the first track, “Limina”, makes you anticipate a crashing chord progression, a classic post-metal opening to an album. Instead, quieter guitars dance around deep-seated bass, interacting with the drums (always versatile and varied in their tone and execution) to create an impossible to resist groove. Those bigger chords do come in eventually, latching on to the basic groove of the track in a beautiful way; the bass becomes much faster, a churning maelstrom at the bottom of the sound, while the drums pick up pace to join it with ambitious and consistent fills. The guitars enlarge to swallow up the space left by the rest of the instrumentation, reminding us of early Russian Circles.
These heavier vibes return several times throughout the album. The following “Astor” builds on the end of “Limina”, hitting that same spot of dexterous yet chunkier riffs, elaborating on the power replete in the drums and bass. However, this duality between light and heavy is not all the album has to offer; check out the closing track “Orbitalia” where the band pull out a few more trump cards. The intro on this track is even more ambient than on “Limina”, a creeping sense of dread, evoking Lento perhaps, and their horror/occult infused post-metal. Interestingly enough, both bands are from Rome, operating in this space of narrative-driven, atmospheric, and cinematic post-metal.
However, Juggernaut are not content to remain within these somber spaces; “Orbitalia” quickly picks up on some of the ideas contained in its time-signatures to begin with and suddenly elaborates on these with Latin influences. The groove at the base of the track takes on a new, immensely danceable kind of inflection, increasing both in volume (as the guitars once again make themselves known) and in agility as the track nears its end. By the time it’s done, both track and album, you’re left with this unique feeling of expansive levity. This is further enhanced by the faintly psychedelic and frankly odd elements introduced throughout the album (like the synths on “Charade” or the deep, percussive elements on the same track). These remind us of bands like Astuko Chiba, channeling the same feeling of being stranded in some hallucinatory desert while the colors of the sky shift spectrums above you.
This feeling, of size and depth as well as light-heartedness and speed, of expanse coupled with incredibly tight playing, runs throughout the album; from the heavier segments of tracks like “Titanismo” to the contemplative, psychedelic melodies of “Charade” (seriously, this track is so good. The heavier passages on it hit so much better after its weirder intro), Neuroteque is always dedicated to hitting the notes which we expect from post-metal albums but always, always injecting it with the band’s joyous dedication to dynamic, momentum filled ideas. The end result is a type of post-metal that surely deservers the “cinematic” moniker but which is also immediately accessible, enjoyable, and, again, danceable.
Neuroteque releases October 11th. You can and absolutely should pre-order it right here.