Before the world knew who they were, Janus was a local Chicago band. They spawned from Chicago bands of the past that made up one of the best rock scenes in the world. For over 10 years the band worked tirelessly building and perfecting their craft, performing for anyone who would listen. It never mattered if there were 10 people or 1000 people Janus puts on a show EVERY single time I have seen them. It is now 2012, the band has begun to see the success they deserve and yet, Janus is STILL a local Chicago band.
That work ethic has spawned their past 2 releases 2004's Armour and 2008's Red Light Return. To this day some of my favorite rock songs of all time are on Red Light Return so leading up to No Aeris I had a large amount of anticipation for what was about to come. The thing that keeps me so attached to Janus is how connected to the ground they truly are in person and in their music. There have been a hand full of very successful Chicago bands I have known or been close with during my time in this business and somehow when they achieve the success they fight so hard for, many seem to forget where they come from. This is NOT the case with Janus.
Whenever the members of Janus are home from the road I see them out at shows supporting the rock scene in Chicago that they come from. They remember the names of members of fellow Chicago bands. They know the fans of other bands in the scene. They make a point to stay connected to employees at the venues that gave them the opportunity to grow. They sing along to the songs of the bands they are friends with and they are always around to give advice to bands fighting the same fight they did for more than 10 years before finally breaking. That's where the members of Janus come from which makes it no surprise to me that their new record Nox Aeris is the best of their career so far.
Every once and a while a record comes a long that truly displays the blood sweat and tears a band has gone through in order to get to the level they are at. For me that is the emotion that is displayed by vocalist David Scotney, Guitarist and Programmer Mike Tyranski, Bassist Alan Quitman, and Drummer Johnny Salazar on Nox Aeris.
The record begins with the song "In Flames". It possesses a familiar sound we attached ourselves to on Red Light Return. The programming is very tasteful on this track. It does not overshadow the pin pointed guitar or soaring vocal hooks. The song starts of the record with one of the strongest vocal hooks we have ever heard from Janus. It is "In Flames" that sets the tone for the next 10 songs on the album (12 if you have the deluxe version). The rhythm section is also spot on on this track. It is clear that Scotney was able to really channel the emotions from everything him and his band have been through over the years on this song.
Track 2 is the first single off the record called "Stains". Catching on early to radio airplay this is by far the strongest track on the album. Scotney has a way of drawing us in from the very first verse of this song. It is as if he pushes and pulls our emotions from side to side before breaking into the chorus which explodes into a catchy story of hiding stains. The symbolism he displays lyrically is full of metaphors for the things we all experience in life. The chorus also includes a dub step esk outro where Scotneys screams once again get stuck in our heads. The programming on this song also sticks out allot accenting the huge guitar and bass tones.
Track 3 "Lifeless" is the first down tempo song on the album. It is dark and melodic. This song possesses much less programming than the past tracks. Scotneys vocals eerily resonate within the listeners head making you want to know more about the story behind the song. Lyrically this line "Stay away until the sun burns through and leaves you lifeless" really stuck out to me when listening. The song really builds into an emotional crescendo up to the bridge. Many of the guitar hooks are reminiscent of Tool and Chevelle but still retain their originality. The song really catches me with the idea of being left lifeless wanting more.
Track 4 "Promise To No One" is a progressive rock song that grows rhythmically as the song grows. In my opinion it is the strongest hook on the entire album. The lyrics really attach to the audience Janus has become a household name in. This song also has some of the best lyrics of the album. "How far will you run now? How long will you lay down? Tomorrow isnt promised to no one at all When will it all end?" This track affirms that this band understands their success wont last forever and lets us know as listeners that they are going to embrace what they have while they have it. The thing is, I believe their success has only just begun.
Track 5 "Pound of Flesh" begins with programming that allows the guitars to explode at their entrance. Once again Scotney takes us on a journey of emotions on this song lyrically. It is during this song you really start to embrace the theme behind Nox Aeris. The guitars are extremely progressive and catchy on this song. The song especially features the bass guitar. The production on this song is the best on the album so far. I can see this song creating mosh pits on every tour Janus goes on during this album cycle.
Track 6 "Waive"is my least favorite of the album however it still successfully continues the flow of the album as a whole. I have trouble making out some of the words that are being sung on this song which makes it hard for me to follow along to what the song is about. The guitars are progressive and fresh in this song. They carry a completely different rhythmic pattern and vibe than in other songs so far on the album.
Track 7 "Stray" reminds me allot of the Chevelle style of Nu Metal and Hard Rock. Scotney redeems himself vocally to me in this song and I have allot easier time understanding the words he is singing. The chorus once again is huge in this song. In this song, Janus shows their ability to go outside the box. The song is melodic and progressive but it also has an edge to it that we hadn't seen thus far on this record.
Track 8 "Numb" starts off extremely aggressive and at the verse is brought down so that Scotney can deliver the heartfelt lyrics of becoming Numb. The chorus is extremely strong on this song lyrically and it has lyrics that many listeners can relate to. The message is extremely powerful. "I'm awake, still alive, I'm barely breathing. Now and I realize, All Ive ever known All Ive Ever Tried Will Fade. But I'm still Alive" I could run, say goodbye still no real feeling like all I've ever known, all I've ever tried, will fade, but I'm still alive." It is extremely catchy and thousands of people will find themselves singing these words and asking themselves these questions.
Track 9 "Always Rain" is the longest song on the album. It begins with a beautiful string arrangement which really sets the tone once Scotney comes in with the vocals. Once again the vocals stick in your head. The drum performance and tone really sticks out during this song. The guitar and bass drive the emotionally drenched vocals. The song itself has a very melonie vibe to it.
The final track (10) "Polarized" is the opposite of "Always Rain". It ends the record aggressively both lyrically and musically. It is as if this is the final turn of a 37 minute emotional roller coaster. The screams in this song really accent the progressive guitar licks. The tension created in the bridge and the effect on the guitar really help to build into the rest of the song. This song is a great way to end a fantastic album.
The deluxe version of the album also includes acoustic versions of: "Numb" and "Stains".
From beginning to end Nox Aeris has something for every time of hard rock fan. There are moments of triumph, moments of fear, moments of anger, moments of pain, the creation of tension, and like previous releases by Janus there is resolution.
Nox Aeris is a fantastic effort by a great band who have not forgotten their roots. This is only the beginning of the Janus story. With a release like Nox Aeris, we will be hearing about them for a VERY VERY long time.