While doing some research about Junk Farm before writing this review, I came across a review of their music (interestingly enough, featured on the band’s website) that just about summed up my feelings towards this album: “annoying.” I’ve grown to appreciate it a bit more since that first listen, but I still find the band’s mix of fast and complex riffs, verse-chorus-verse structure (featured in virtually every song except the instrumentals), and macho (if satiric) lyrics to wear on my nerves after the first few songs.
Before you read further, know that I am only submitting this review to this site because I received this album as a promo to review. In reality, this album has nothing at all in common with prog except that it mixes jazz with metal, which is a very tenuous connection at best. The songs do not generally evolve over time, just stick within the tried-and-true verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure. This is not a bad thing necessarily except that the way the band use the technique creates a formulaic feel to the album. Nearly every non-instrumental song starts with a riff (or, in the case of the slower songs, a theme). Then the first verse of the lyrics comes in, followed by the chorus. Another verse or two, another rendition of the chorus, and then we’re done. The only variation comes in the form of a bridge section used in a couple of the songs.
That said, the two instrumentals (“Master-Sync,” “www.Superficial-Girl.com”) do not hold to this pattern. Not only do they not follow the v-c-v-c structure, they are also not riff based, focusing more on the jazz fusion aspect of the band’s sound, which is a big improvement, at least as I see it. The vocals aren’t particularly bad, but they don’t help the songs either, so the instrumentals truly amplify only the best aspects of the band’s sound. In short, the band would be best if they moved away from the riff-based metal (or at least balanced it with more of the fusion) they play now and became entirely instrumental, because, while the vocals neither hurt nor help, the lyrics clearly hurt the album.
I do have to give Junk Farm credit for trying lyrically. Rather than write your standard (and generally boring) “let’s get lots of girls” lyrics, they satirize this culture. And I respect them for that. However, the lyrics come across as straightforward and bland, such as on “Great Guy,” where they say, “the bigger the muscles, the bigger the cock.” Also, on “Vernissage,” I cannot tell if they are serious or not. They probably aren’t, but because that ambiguity exists, it comes across as reaching the pretentiousness level of “Karn Evil Nine First Impression Part Two” (you know, “Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends…”), but entirely lacking the humor factor.
All of this said, I don’t dislike this album. The first five songs are generally good, with interesting, complex, and funky riffs for the vocal songs (and I find the instrumental to be the stronger of the two on the album). The musicianship is high throughout, no one can deny that. Ultimately, what it comes down to is that if you like riff based metal with jazzy elements added for color and don’t mind macho lyrics, you may well like this album. It’s certainly good at what it does, even if I feel it should be doing something slightly different. Simply on the scale of personal taste, I give it a C- (decent), but in the grand scheme of things, the album probably deserves a C+, which is not a bad rating at all. Hopefully, what they do in the future will be even better.
(All Album Reviews by Windhawk)
(originally written for www.prog4you.com)
Junk Farm is a German trio, formed in 2001. The intentions of the band at that time was to become the best jazz-trio in their part of the woods in Germany; but as this album shows the end result was to be something a bit different.
Musically, the basic sound of this album seems to be melodic hard rock like they made it in the 70's. Strong melody lines, good vocals, vocal harmonies and versatile use of the guitar - sometimes acoustic, sometimes clean electric, but also varying degrees of the usual distorted electric guitar. And a great versatility as to how that particular instrument is played in form as well as manner. Effective drumming provides a solid foundation for the songs, and organ and keys underlines the melodies just as well.
In many ways the basic sound of this group reminds me much of early King's X; but where King's X look towards more mainstream rock and psychedelia for adding flavor to their music, Junk Farm heads off on a completely different path to add flavor and identity to their music.
As stated at the start, the band had an intention to become a tight jazz-trio when they started out. And the element of that ambition that still remains is in the extensive use of elements from jazz and funk these guys insert into their songs. Sometimes the drums heads off on a jazzy path, sometimes the guitar plays along in a jazzy style with funky inputs and sometimes the band seems to improvise a bit. Sometimes single elements are fused into the songs; at other times the entire soundscape takes a left turn into jazz or funk territory before going back to their melodic hard rock base.
It's all very well done too. A few of the tracks fail to rise above the nice category here, but most of the songs are interesting and catchy. No stellar tracks, but lots of good ones. A good debut, that probably will appeal to quite a few listeners enjoying King's X as well as fusion fans.
My rating: 75/100