Sunset Junkies are a heavy prog band from Australia led by the creative impetus of Byron Short (guitar and vocals) and aided by the majestic vocals of Ellie Jane. Stefan Fuller (bass) and Daniel Trickett (drums) complete the lineup. Despite the impeding effects of covid on the live music scene, Sunset Junkies have much to be excited about; with the promise of a new album in 2021, the band are using the time they have before this release to properly celebrate their debut 2019 album ‘Cosmos’ that was prevented from being performed in the flesh. It is unsurprising that the band want to relaunch the album on vinyl and milk it for all it’s worth, as ‘Cosmos’ is a powerful musical statement that promises satisfying bluesy rock, that sometimes leans towards heavy metal, along with a more ambitious experimental flavour that arises near the end of the album.
It certainly packs a punch! The first half of the album in-particular, is all about grit, power and chunky riffs that stay true to a classic rock n roll sensibility. Nowhere is this better emphasised than in ‘Sunset Junkie’, a clear nod towards the greats of classic rock such as AC/DC. The song is energised, driven and has a clear purpose in that it does not attempt to be anything other than a classic rock n roll headbanger. The guitar solo in the interlude is hearty and honest, fitting well with the bluesy style of the song. The track previous to this ‘It’, takes this sensibility even further; structured around a 12-bar blues, the band stay true to the very roots of classic rock n roll. However, the playful piano interjections, that punctuate the quieter sections of the 12-bar blues with some very tasty notes, gives the rigid 12-bar blues structure some much needed fluidity and interest. The album opener ‘Inertia’, is probably the most powerful statement on the album and has the right lasting impact that any opener should have. It is also the heaviest track on the album, bringing to mind Dream Theater as opposed to a classic rock band. The anthemic vocals really stand out here, sounding as if they are being gloriously shouted from a high mountain top. There is certainly a sense of revolutionary anger in the way the vocal melodies are communicated, especially with the multiple layered backing vocals that succeed in giving this already powerful song a very full, chant-like sound.
We then move on to the final two tracks of the album – things become a little more proggy here! The former of the two is the 9 minute title track that really slows things down. In contrast to the unrelenting power and drive that characterised most of the previous songs, ‘Cosmos’ begins as nothing more than an acoustic guitar and vocals underscored by subtle, spacey background noise that highlight the fragility of this opening. Repetition and development are the key here as the band take their time in constructing the piece from its humble beginnings, gradually layering in each instrument until the song sounds fuller, stronger and eventually reaches the point of its emotional climax. The final 13 minute track ‘The Spheres’ couldn’t differ more in the way it begins, coming alive instantly by enveloping the listener in a sudden and inescapable wall of noise. Much like ‘Inertia’, this piece is initially very heavy but differs in that the opening lends itself to a gothic sound that provokes a sense of dread and evil. Not that this lasts too long, as the piece is constantly evolving and transitioning into new and contrasting sections. The vocal polyphony that emerges from the dying wall of noise, for example, abandons the previous evil and menace and instead opts for something much more uplifting. The piece then makes its way towards the end and feels more purposeful, developing on a chord progression towards a powerful and euphoric ending. The final minute of the album is tricky to describe but trust me when I say that it brings the whole album to a mysteriously ambiguous close.
There is something here for lovers of classic rock and prog alike! It is a shame that the band haven’t had a proper chance to perform these songs live where they are bound to sound even more powerful. However we are glad to have contributed in celebrating this awesome debut album! Keep your eyes out for their next studio album out next year – I certainly will!
Written by Dominic Sanderson!
You can find Sunset Junkies on Facebook and Instagram. Their debut album ‘Cosmos’ is available on all major streaming platforms!