Post-rock music, with its dynamic compositions and its expressive melodic phrasings, has the tendency to inspire the mind with vivid images of ‘the sublime’, a philosophical term that could mean something like ‘awe-inspiring greatness’. This tendency of overwhelming the listener with impressions is what makes the genre very fit for soundtracks of movies and series, a notable example being Ricky Gervais’ series After Life (which is highly recommended), but throughout the years the term cinematic has also become something of a platitude.
An increased focus of cinematic post-rock bands on form over narrative has led to a sound that describes unspecified sadness or hazy anticipation – a placid majesty which many emotional listeners will revel in. However relatable these sentiments may be, a lack of content ultimately makes the music forgettable and with an overkill of record’s coming out each day, it becomes harder for bands to stand out and attain lasting power.
In contrast with many bands in the genre, Italian post-rock/metal outfit Juggernaut are cinematic in their own right. Hearkening back to Italian movie soundtracks made by prog rock bands the 70s, this band from Rome creates dramatic rock music with a unique emphasis on tension, suspense and release, rather than indulging in winding compositions or moving melodies.
Juggernaut’s third album Neuroteque takes the listener on an overwhelming journey that is best described as a collection of fast-forwarded movie scores, combining heavy post-metal riffing with dark jazz and prog rock influences. The album title – which consists of the prefix ‘neuro-‘ and the suffix ‘-theque’ – roughly translates as ‘a place where things pertaining to the nerves are kept,’ which is a very apt description of the sounds on this record.
“Neuroteque has a wonderful way of quietly creeping up on the listener, serving them moments of brilliance seemingly ex nihilo, and it is in these small details that Juggernaut conjure their own version of ‘the sublime’.”
Neuroteque is the place where Juggernaut imagine their darkest fantasies and most wondrous nightmares, with the seven songs acting as seven doors through which the listener can enter this enticing world. Moods vary somewhere between science fiction and psychological thrillers. Staccato rhythms and tribal drumming are used to build up tension. Meanwhile, moments of suspense are created by serpentine guitar lines laden with phaser and reverb effects, while silky synths and crushing riffs each provide release in unique ways.
The quick succession of these different dynamics – tension, suspense and release – is what makes Neuroteque such a unique work of art. Every part played by these musicians is in service of attaining one of these three effects, and it is a true joy to unravel the ways in which they do so. For example, the ascending notes opening “Limina” firmly grip the listener by the gut, while “Charade” with its the brilliant acoustic guitars and smooth synths transports the listener to a nightly trip through the desert.
Overall, Juggernaut leave the listener very little room for breathing between the scenes, which is a bad thing for cinema where slowing down is elementary to building suspense, but on Neuroteque the band manage to arrive at a cliffhanger with terrifying speed which adds to the frantic and slightly absurd nature of the record.
Because the overwhelming speed with which the ‘scenes’ follow up on one another, this album could be experienced as somewhat inaccessible to some listeners. Despite the fast-paced switches between heavy riffing and lulling textures, Neuroteque is not so quick to arrest the attention, and while the mind is entertained elsewhere the music quickly fades into the background. Stated differently, the devil in the detail might easily be overlooked.
This makes those same details all the more a revelation upon discovery. Neuroteque has a wonderful way of quietly creeping up on the listener, serving them moments of brilliance seemingly ex nihilo, and it is in these small details that Juggernaut conjure their own version of ‘the sublime’.
The tremendous attention to detail on Neuroteque shows that Juggernaut have continued to challenge themselves, and this detail is what gives this album lasting power. Inadvertently the listener will remember certain moments in the music, or they will find themselves humming parts of riffs to themselves long after they ceased listening to the record, having them return to Neuroteque again, and again, and again.
This album is… **interesting.