Are we ready for the first album from Janus Stark since 1998? Does the world need a new album from Janus Stark in 2019? Well, I am ready for it and fuck yeah the world needs it! The new album hits us, November 15th, it is titled ‘Angel In The Flames’ on Time & Matter Records. Janus Stark are flag bearers for the best British punk and metal, their influences range from the Clash to the Ruts through to Motorhead, Nirvana and so much in between. Formed and fronted by insanely talented guitar hero Gizz Butt, the band broke up in 2002, but lucky for us they got back together last year. Gizz was formerly the live guitarist for the Prodigy, I saw him a few times in that role, which is one of the reasons I know he is such a great guitarist. Gizz has a great pedigree in UK music; he played with Steve Ignorant when he played the Crass catalogue live and he has played with the U.K. Subs. Charlie Harper of the Subs guests on the new album. The band takes their name from a British comic character from the late 60s. That Janus Stark was an escapologist in Victorian London who privately used his extraordinary abilities to battle against injustice. This Janus Stark use their musical abilities to raise their voices about modern-day injustice and wear their hearts on their sleeves about so many things that ail our world today.
Album opener “Crucify All The Leaders” sets the whole collection up perfectly with a clarion call to deal with our ‘so-called’ leaders. The line “Crucify all the leaders, in the end there’s a planet to defend, none of them could be our friend” sums up for me why we need to finish off the old guard of politicians and hope that something better and new rises up. This track could be one of the best songs the Foo Fighters ever recorded had it been one of Mr. Grohl’s. In fact, Dave Grohl once described Janus Stark as “a great melodic kick up the arse…”. The production on the album is close to sonic perfection and it is an album that is so much better with the volume cranked up to 11. Gizz’s guitar is hotter than fresh lava throughout, but the band is rocking hard in every department, especially the thundering drive of the rhythm section; Simon Martin (Bass) and Fozzy (drums). The aural assault of “Commodity Awakening” is breathtaking and the power resonates with you for a long while after the song ends. The song is about how business, treats people as commodities, which is so prevalent in our flawed society. After the first listen “Dead! Dead!” is one of my favourite songs on this collection. It felt like I had done a couple of rounds with Mike Tyson at the end. The lyrics are about the arrogance of so many world leaders who blindly follow a course of action even when that action is obviously dangerous and foolish to anyone with half a brain. The final coda summarises the chilling message perfectly; “This is all on you – everything’s on you”. I am an atheist so I have no religious beliefe, but I do believe that karma exists. I never have sought revenge on anyone and nor would I. But sometimes I have seen people who have wronged me suffer in a similar way to how they treated me. In “Karmageddon” my thoughts on the subject of karma appear to be laid out in song! Guitarist Richard Gombault says of “Some Stars Never Fade”; “Remember that great line from the ‘Wizard Of Oz? “Now I know that I’ve got a heart…because it’s breaking” and that is the crux of this tune. It is how we give ourselves to love even when we know it might one day break our hearts. Perhaps the most emotionally driven song here. The album closes with”A Traitor’s Call”, a song about betrayal, not just betrayal of one person by another, but betrayal of beliefs, morals and perhaps what the betrayer actually stood for at some point.
I should also make a special mention of the album’s beautiful and thought-provoking artwork created by Gizz’s daughter Astrid with some collaboration with her Dad. The soldier who for me represents the everyman soldier of both World Wars and the thousands of other conflicts. The soldier’s skin might be black or white and it is difficult to discern gender. I understand that the butterfly represents something that changes with no choice, like the soldiers that went over the top from the trenches on to certain death. Even if I searched hard I would not find a bad song on this album, which for me is definitely one of 2019’s finest! While this record channels anger and aggression about the world today there are a number of songs that deal with mental health issues; notably “Last Exit To Change Your Mind” and “Murderers Rights Society”. Gizz has been refreshingly open about his struggles with mental health and he is a great supporter of his local ‘Stop Suicide’ campaign via the charity, MIND. Like all the classic punk albums from the past, (‘The Clash’ and ‘Never Mind The Bollocks’ particularly) this one grabs you by the throat from the first note and doesn’t let you go until the end. If you like riffs that could split Everest in two and a band that has the power to cause earthquakes then this is the only album you want this year. ‘Angel In The Flames’ takes you on a rollercoaster ride through every emotion; into a dark powerful maelstrom of depression and back out into the beautiful world of hope. This ride justifies why the world needs this new album from Janus Stark. It should be force played to every single so-called world leader until they finally sit up and take notice of what is really happening to our planet and its inhabitants!
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