“The Secret” is not only the title of a fantastic new album, but also of a popular self-help film that purports to teach people how to attract success and realize their dreams. Whether related or not, it seems like a very appropriate title choice by North Carolina’s JONIN, who have released an extremely impressive debut that to me sounds more like something from a veteran European band instead of its southern US origins. Seriously, I think the music on “The Secret” harkens more to the style of Viking Folksters TYR than it does to any of the bands like SHADOWS FALL, IN FLAMES, and KILLSWITCH ENGAGE they list as influences in their bio. The musicianship is impeccable and the arrangements are very atypical of what you expect from most newer American bands these days who are too busy tripping over themselves trying to hop onto the Deathcore bandwagon to even think of attempting something as unique as these guys have.
Featuring the clean singing of Stuart Smith, the vocals are certainly the most distinguishing feature of this album as they truly give the already excellent songs a larger and more epic feel. The rest of the band certainly play’s incredibly well with some superb guitar work and outstanding drumming that gives a very punchy bottom end to their sound. The songs are at once very musically challenging with a somewhat progressive feel, yet possess a great sense of melody and even dare I say, catchiness. Still, this album was a bit of a grower that required quite a few listens for me to fully appreciate, and usually I see that as a good sign. To me it typifies music with complex arrangements and intricate playing that needs time to properly ‘sink in’ and that was certainly the case with this one. There’s so many interesting things going on in each song that it has a huge wall of sound quality and so another musical comparison I make would be to one of my favorite bands, Denmark’s brilliant Progressive Metal masters MERCENARY.
All of the songs on “The Secret” are equally strong and a pleasure to listen to. Still, to pick some favorites I would name the excellent album opener “The Secret”, and also “Flood” with its wailing guitars and huge bombastic feel thanks to the superb drumming. The track “Shameless” brings things up another notch with even more intense drumming and intricate guitar rhythms as the snarled guest vocals from Matt Rudzinski (KILLWHITNEYDEAD) and Eric Stopka (KANASHIBARI) add a different element to the singing on the album. Closing track “The Embrace” encompasses in one piece the full talents of the band with a variety of great guitar riffs, a very cool solo, and even an acapella vocal fade out that really brought home the TYR comparisons for me.
Not to be too much of a fanboy, but I struggled to think of any real complaints about this album. Perhaps as a guitar fan, the fact that there aren’t a few more of the great solos would be the only minor quibble I’d put out there, but as many know, well played music often doesn’t often require such embellishments. Thankfully that’s the case here as there are certainly more than enough interesting melodies, technical guitar lines, and unique song structures to make up for it. I was very surprised by this album and think this is a strong contender for debut of the year in my books. Most definitely recommended to those that like Melodic Metal that still has a degree of technicality and a progressive feel.
(Online December 29, 2007)