Review: “Making Out With My Death” by Junkowl

Formed in 2017 and known for creating a unique blend of Groove Metal, Stoner and Hardcore that is matched with a high energy ‘in your face’ live performance akin to Buffalo New York residents Everytime I Die and even fellow Canadians Cancer Bats, Montreal’s Junkowl have come a long way in three years. It was actually a year prior, in 2016 that vocalist Jesse Frechette met drummer Dom Labrie and after a few jam sessions they picked up guitarist Marco Larosa and bassist Samuel Matte and the rest is history. Moving through the Underground music scene, Junkowl quickly made a name for themselves when they won the 2019 ‘En Route Vers Heavy Montreal’; a competition between nearly 200 bands which landed them a prestigious spot at the largest Metal gathering in Canada, Heavy Montreal.

The dirty, fat Stoner Sludge Metal riff of “Snakecharmer” is one designed to be accompanied by a beer and the gut-wrenching roar of “blow your brains out, blow my brains out” that brings it to it to its unnatural conclusion will no doubt be chanted by audiences across all lands as the band hit the road. At it’s core there is a dark tale of self-loathing, confusion and intoxication but it oozes charm and is an addictive listen as Frechette sings the blues. “Quarantine Us All” ups the pace and energy, leaping into a Hardcore Punk direction with a clear Cancer Bats influence within its four walls. There is a seemingly random quality to the lyrics which are more of a collection of thoughts and musings than following more traditional structures and are hilariously good fun. Frechette changes up the vocals in “Shake Me” using a couple of other pitches to get the point across with greater range. It seems he could do a Jonathan Davis impression if he wanted to but it wouldn’t suit the party animal blues style of the music. The stompey “Dead Hooker” has a marching groove while some spoken word parts add another vocal change up, a little bit of overlaying between the styles gives the impression of backing vocal from the same person which adds to the fun. Melancholic and mournful with it’s introduction, “Little Scum” builds into a heavier bite and in places sounds like an American Head Charge track, both stylistically and thematically. The power of the breakdown bridges between the melodic verses is really something else and it makes for dirge laden stand out cut, especially with some of the shrill vocal moments. It also seems obvious that these tracks have more in them to give and there could be as much as a 10 percent tempo increase when they take them to the stage, without losing any of the charm or quality. If you’ve seen the aforementioned Heavy Montreal set that is floating around YouTube, you’ll know what that means.

A Marilyn Manson esq groove is at the heart of pre-release single and music video “Crawling Up My Feet” but it’s distinctly done in a Junkowl style without any addition of programming or synths. The solo isn’t really one, more of a tight lead chord progression, but it’s a welcome change up to the groove riffs and makes for another stand out track. The restless, relentless “Sickness Lives” is an ode to Mental Heath, a wake up call to what’s going on inside ones head when anxiety drains your energy. Easily relatable and as powerful and driven as the rest of the collection, it’s musings are something to reflect on after the album plays out and the headbanging is done. It plays perfect partners thematically with “Relapse“, a tale of getting wasted and high to break the chains only to fall back into the same patterns when it wares off, but doing it is so much fun, as is the track. Buzzsaw guitars with little lead breaks bring the madness of “Straitjacket” home, while it’s driven bass moments that build into a sublime piece of soloing are magnificent. The beauty of the record is that it’s not complicated, instead relying on it’s charm, quality and a sense of telling it like it is, as seen through bloodshot eyes in a post drunken haze. “10,000 Vultures“, the first song Junkowl ever wrote, which was completed after the first jam together with almost all the lyrics being free styled during that session closes the album with a live, free energy. It’s Stoner Metal riffs chug along at a decent pace, threatening but never quite breaking out to go full throttle [8/10]

Track listing

1. Snakecharmer
2. Quarantine Us All
3. Shake Me
4. Dead Hooker
5. Little Scum
6. Crawling Up My Feet
7. Sickness Lives
8. Relapse
9. Straitjacket
10. 10,000 Vultures

Making Out With My Death” by Junkowl is out 5th June

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