Band: Juniper Grave
Title: Of Hellions and Harridans
Label: Wasted State Records
Release Date: 7th December 2018
Format reviewed: Digital
As usual, in my relentless pursuit for discovering new music, the trawling of new metal release lists and habitual Bandcamp stalking, I stumbled upon this debut release from Scottish quartet Juniper Grave. Graced with a striking cover art piece, an intriguing album heading and song titles that hinted of ethereal matters and occult leanings I was more than happy to investigate further. As it turns out, Juniper Grave are much more than the initial impressions I read about. Let’s take a deeper walk into the Forest….
Juniper Grave walk a particularly thin line with the type of music they play. Occult Blues Rock with a slice of Doom (as frontwoman/vocalist/keyboardist Jenni Sneddon has described recently). I say thin line because their style as a genre has a fair history that says some sort of deviation is almost required otherwise you’ll be lumped in the ‘they all sound the same’ derivative category (but hey, could we say that about any genre of heavy music??). As a mark of comparison, let me mention a couple of names – Alia O’Brien and Blood Ceremony; Jinx Dawson and Coven and Jex Thoth. It is clear Juniper Grave are massively influenced by the foundations laid down by said ‘Occult/Psychedelic Doom’ acts – and true to the style that has now been established – Juniper Grave feature a keyboard playing, vocally bewitching frontwoman. It’s instantly recognizable and cliché for the style no question – but fortunately for Juniper Grave they have brought a strong set of songs to the table here, enabling the listener to give them more than just a cursory glance.
If you’re into Witches, Mythology, Paganism, and matters of the dark, the Occult, then this genre can get kind of trippy and weird with the theme and esoteric nature becoming more important than the music. Whilst they clearly embrace the ‘themes’, the absolute best move Juniper Grave have made with this debut is to make their songs THE major element of what they do. ‘Of Hellions & Harridans’ contains seven extremely well-constructed compositions that showcase a band that has honed and refined their style with hard work in the live setting.
I am a true sucker for a female vocalist that can sing – and Juniper Grave have a winner in Jenni Sneddon. Possessing an authentic soulful and distinctively smooth tone (Alia O’Brien a major influence), Jenni drives her band’s music with passion and character – melodic, powerful, catchy and always on the mark in the choruses, she is along with her haunting, shimmering 70’s style organ work, the cornerstone of what this band does. However, it would be remiss not to mention the riff work of guitarist Shonagh – at first I thought her work was a little understated – but boy, take a listen to the chord patterns of ‘A Trick of Light’ and the bouncy gallop of ‘Rest With Your Dead’ where she works in parallel unison with Jenni’s swirling keyboard to create what is possibly their most impressive piece to round out the album. Sarah Bramley (Bass and paint brushes – the artwork is hers) and drummer Jason hold down a steady bottom end in this band, allowing the light and shade of Jenni’s vocals to weave their magic. And if you’ve taken any notice to this point, Jason is the 25% male in this band.
‘Of Hellions and Harridans’ was a slow burner for me initially, mainly because of the familiarity of the bands style. But repeated listening is the key here – listening that will reveal a great sense of song – some really catchy, chorus driven compositions (‘The Forest, A Trick of Light, Daughter of the Waves’) mixed with some darker, brooding, powerful crescendo building epics (‘Dance of the Daemon Queen, The Bridge Between Worlds’ and the aforementioned ‘Rest With Your Dead’).
Production wise, the vibe is clearly stuck in the 70’s – recorded and mixed by Graeme Young at Chamber Studio, mastered by Alan Douches at West Side Music, and released by Wasted State Records, Juniper Grave are a band looking to etch their name firmly in the Occult Rock/Doom book! If the band maintains their emphasis on the song over theatrics as their major point of difference in this genre and writing more dynamic tracks like the closing ‘Rest With Your Dead’ then the future can only be positive. As it stands ‘Of Hellions & Harrigans’ is a very impressive album and Juniper Grave are a quality band to keep an eye on moving forward. 8/10 KMaN
8/10 To Greatness and glory!
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