Janus - Nox AerisTaproot - The EpisodesHurt - The Crux

These vernal months have played host to a number of mildly to moderately exciting rock releases, so here’s a quick little rundown for you. Gauge your interest accordingly!

Janus – Nox Aeris

Ever wish Chevelle sounded a little more like early ’00s-era 30 Seconds to Mars? Chicago four-piece Janus have got you covered. The electronic rockers take what seem to be the pre-existing sounds of two distinct artists and slap them on top of each other with surprisingly solid, albeit, ultimately unsurprising results.

The group turned heads back in 2009 with their radio-domineering, scream-along single, “Eyesore,” but their breakthrough release suffered from a crippling lack of variety. Does Nox Aeris see the band doing anything to correct this? Nope, not at all, but the group is a lot heavier this time around and those nifty industrial touches that showed up every now and then on their debut feel far better integrated in this outing. The winning moments here are the feel-good trade-offs between Dave Scotney’s dramatic choruses (by way of Pete Loeffler) and Mike Tyranski’s sharp riffouts. The album, again, lacks just about anything you might liken to diversity, but, barring a dud opener, the quality is pretty consistent if this is your brand of mainstream rock.

(three out of five horns)

Taproot – The Episodes

If MetalSucks commenters’ opinions on Taproot’s latest single “No Surrender” are anything to go by, this was probably your most anticipated album of the year. Well, allow me to assure you: The Episodes doesn’t disappoint! Taproot frustrated this listener beyond belief on their past couple of albums, first by trying a shaky hand at Top-40 accessibility and then “party like it’s 1999” nu-metal revivalism, but they finally get back on the saddle with this loosest of concept albums.

With this release, Taproot settle back into the hard yet hooky middle ground they successfully worked on their fan favorite, Blue Sky Research. Additionally, the group have all but abandoned their relentless reverence for the “verse-chorus” song structure, finally allowing their closeted prog tendencies and love of polyrhythms and big delay soundscapes to surface in all their dorky glory.

The Episodes isn’t Taproot’s heaviest release ever, but six albums into their career they may finally have that semi-magnum opus (that is if you can get past Steven Hawking’s many unwelcome vocal contributions…)

(four out of five horns)

Hurt – The Crux

Hurt is one of radio rock’s best-kept secrets, and I’ve felt that way for a while. Since logging their big hits “Rapture” and “Ten-Ton Brick” into the annals of Active Rock, the perpetually frowning four-piece have continued to refine their brand of morose art rock.

2009’s Goodbye to the Machine saw the group wandering ever closer to a not-so-cripplingly-depressing accessibility, an area that the band who penned the Volumes releases would have never wandered into. Despite some pleasantly somber moments, The Crux very much continues in that direction with the strongest vocals, shreddiest solos, and most minimalist instrumentation Hurt has ever put into a release. All together, you have a solid album — one I can only assume will be one of the better rock outings released this year — but I really do wish the guys would have kept a little more of their early ambition. Proggier tunes like “Numbers” and the single “How We End Up Alone” are masterful songs, but too many of the album’s more straightforward rockers, as good as they are, are barely distinguishable.

(three and a half out of five horns)


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