It’s crazy when you think of how many different sub-genres there are out there; grindgaze, nerdcore, twinkle emo. I could go on all day. The reason I bring this up is because Making Out With My Death, the debut album by Montreal’s Junkowl, clearly sounds like they base their sound on a very niche sub-genre known as Southern Hardcore or Southern Metal. For the uninitiated, the style is a general evolution of blues-tinged Southern rock into an aggressive, heavier sound, similar to groups like Every Time I Die and The Holly Springs Disaster.
The album has a banger loaded and ready in the chamber with its opening track “Snakecharmer.” A little ambient feedback and a tasty guitar lick gently lead you in as a beautifully dirty bass tone sets the mood until the aggression hits you like a shovel to the face. It doesn’t take long to see that Southern Metal isn’t the only influence on them as there is a steady, sludgy, stoner groove throughout the track. If you were to mix the previously mentioned bands in with a slightly more well-adjusted version of -(16)-, then you’d get a better picture of Junkowl’s sound.
Unfortunately, this track is followed up with “Quarantine Us All,” which starts off with Jesse Frechette doing some of the most off-putting vocal gymnastics I’ve ever heard. By the time it gets to the chorus, things tighten up and become more appealing, only to once again return to a verse with the same odd-sounding vocal pattern. The good almost weighs equally with the bad on this track, making it an awkward roller-coaster of “wow, this is bad” to “actually, this is pretty good” back to “no wait, please stop.” Fortunately, the vocal pattern does fit in at the end when it becomes a group effort of “How do I know that this song isn’t fucked up?/How do I know that this song isn’t wrong?”
Luckily, this isn’t a situation of the opener being the only good track. Much of the remaining album has some really good quality tracks on it. “Crawling Up My Feet” gives the right amount of rock n’ roll swagger that works well with the sound, and “Straitjacket” gives you some solid speedy aggression while keeping a steady groove. But, I’d be doing a disservice if I didn’t discuss the album’s most disappointing track, “Little Scum.” The song starts out with a strong progressive build mixed with a walking bass line and a great vocal melody, which immediately caught my ear and made me believe this was going to be the standout song that would completely sell me on the band. But when the aggression breaks, so does my interest as they roll into a generic chugged groove and barked vocals that made me think of early Korn. It’s not that it’s a terrible song, it’s just a questionable choice as it seems that this song could have evolved and grown into something far more memorable.
Truthfully, as I’m writing this I realize that the song has more of an impact than I initially thought, but maybe not in the way Junkowl intended. The album as a whole is very much like this song: some solid moments of real interest-grabbing music sandwiched into questionable directions and lost momentum. The band has a huge amount of potential, no doubt, and the songs that they do well are done really well, and as a debut, it’s a solid effort. I think we can expect some great things from them in the future, and I look forward to being proven right.
Written by Ted Berger
*Edited by Dominic Abate