Fans of Protest the Hero, With Passion (RIP), The Human Abstract and Between the Buried and Me, take note. Detractors of all four, go click elsewhere.

Plying a borderline pretentious, yet brilliant amalgamation of chaotic, spazzy tech metal, death metal, power metal and thrash, Californian six piece Journal have delivered an epic self-released masterpiece that again cements the fact that there is no justice in the music industry (see Amia Venera Landscape). Journal‘s Unlorja would have been a surefire top 10 for 2010 had I heard it earlier.

Based on a fictional fantasy video game concept and littered with a few sly Nintendo nods here and there, Unlorja is an epic record that balances out a cacophony of stuttering, jagged, techy spasms with some absolutely gorgeous melodies and choruses. As you’d expect, the skill on display is off the charts, as is their ambition as a lot of the songs are 6+minutes — including an actual 30 minute track, without hidden noise or silence. Combined, the tracks make a ride that lasts for 1 ½ hours. But with the help of three vocalists (including Embrace the End’s Jesse Alford and Drew Winter of Shadow of the Colossus) delivering hoarse shouts, deep death metal growls and proggy clean croons, some supine shreddage and some glorious melodies, the album comes together perfectly — as I’m sure the band envisioned with their fictional game world.

Trying to convey such an album in words is difficult, since at times, as with their aforementioned peers, it’s just all over the place and riddled with ADD songwriting that spazzes with seemingly random furor that only musicians might appreciate for how well they are doing it, not what they are doing. But many times within the album, Journal reign things in with some sort of mind-bending arpeggio, harmony or vocal injection that makes it all worth it for the rest of us too. That all being said, in overall tone, they are actually a little heavier and beefier than the bands mentioned in the opening paragraph.

A few examples would be the brilliant Protest the Hero -like (a continual reference point- so get used to it) break about three minutes into opener “Labyrinth of Betrayal”, about 3 ½ minutes into “Velvet Ribbon”, the close of “Conducting With Passion From the Grave”, an unexpected jig in the middle of the very Protest the Hero-ish “Blight Reflections”, the proggy chorus of the title track and the album’s most  direct tracks: “Veila” and “Festooned with Snakes”. OK! So virtually every track has something sublime in it. A few acoustic and instrumental interludes break up the commotion (“Tragic Aura”, “Village of the Elders”, “Illuminee”) and they serve the listener as rest stops between the album’s mammoth haul — and they serve well. I should probably at least mention the 30-minute closer, “Affinity”, which is a combination of orchestral movie score, guitars, atmospherics and a female voice delivering a narrative summary of the album’s concept. It’s like an alternative, instrumental re-telling of the album’s story for those that didn’t quite get it from the preceding tracks.

In a perfect world, Journal would be signed and be considered the future of metal, but their Dragonforce meets Dillinger Escape Plan visage might be a bit too progressive for most. And alas, in the real world, bands like Brokencyde and crunkcore are luring the kids away from truly skilled musicians like this… on the other hand, I guess that leaves real music to us adults, right?

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
March 21st, 2011


  1. Commented by: Cynicgods

    I’m checking this out. We shall see if it lives up to the lofty expectations you have set in my mind by comparing it to those 3 bands (haven’t heard With Passion).

  2. Commented by: Erik Thomas

    i hope the review and the cd does no disappoint. check em out here:

  3. Commented by: Justin

    Please go and check them out on the book of faces, as well!

  4. Commented by: Loïc Charlier

    Properly reviewed.
    Absolutely stellar record.
    Over seven years – and probably well past a hundred listens- later, this just doesn’t get old.

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