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Aunt Mary - Janus CD (album) cover


Aunt Mary


Eclectic Prog

3.40 | 73 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
4 stars 'Janus' - Aunt Mary (71/100)

If anyone has seen fit to keep the memory of Norway's Aunt Mary alive, it has been the progressive rock crowd, always eager to pay respects to the names that the bigwig magazines might have missed at the time. With that preface, it is notable that Aunt Mary only graduated into the world of full-fledged prog with their third LP, Janus. The hard rock of their first two albums is met with a strong grasp of heavy psych, art pop and symphonic prog. Looking back at the album now, Janus doesn't really excel in any particular way. Rather, Aunt Mary culminated their career with an enjoyably varied and consistent piece of work.

Although 1972's Loaded was replete with proggy undertones, there was a great deal of new territory for Aunt Mary to explore on Janus. While some bands may have used the template of another band's sound to forge their own, Aunt Mary didn't settle for a single style. Sure, there's a certain closeness on "For All Eternity" to Yes Album-era Yes- "Mr. Kaye" might have even passed for one of the deep cuts off a psychedelic Beatles album. Hell, I'd even go one further and say there's a certain Bowie glam to "Nocturnal Voice". From organ-heavy symphonic rock to pop and heavy psych, Aunt Mary weren't trying to evolve or identify with a particular sound so much as taking a sample of each. Had Aunt Mary stuck around for a fourth album, I sure we'd have seen them make a more confirmed decision. The jack-of-all-trades approach undeniably comes at the cost of the album (and band) leaving a rather indistinct impression. Had Aunt Mary made a purebred symphonic prog, or a pop, or a glam rock album, they would have had an easier time selling Janus.

At the same time, there is something to be said for the kind of variety Aunt Mary tackled here. While the fact that they were willing to explore so many options means little by itself, the confidence Aunt Mary approached each style with is striking. With the stylistic difference, for instance, between the symphonic "Path of Your Dream" and quaint pop of "Mr. Kaye" is easily recognizable, the album flows so well together that it's easy to overlook the fact that that Aunt Mary are really shifting gears to begin with. Even beyond the eclectic angle, Janus has a near-immaculate sense of flow; even the goofy "Untitled" snippet that closes off the first side feels in place. Considering I would usually think of a band that jumped between styles like this as non-committal and undecided, it's all to Aunt Mary's credit that the album works together so well.

Janus is a remarkably consistent album, though calling it that limits the possibility of truly excellent, as well as weak material. The bluesy "Stumblin' Stone" or proggy "Candles of Heaven" would probably be my picks if the jury was ever out on choosing 'highlights' off of Janus, but there isn't a song here passionate enough, complex enough or otherwise ambitious enough to have nominated Aunt Mary for the big leagues. The band's performance kinda strikes me the same way. I like the Keith Emerson-y synth runs Bengt Jensen delivers on the album's proggier pieces, but even then it's never wild or nuanced enough to distinguish the band from so oh-so-many of their contemporaries. If in doubt, you can always tell how tight or technical a prog rock band is from the drumming; in this case, Kjetil Stensvik holds a steady beat for Aunt Mary, but personal flourishes are minimal. Their vocals fare a little better; three of the four members lend their voices in arts, although none really serve to replace the considerable charisma of former vocalist Jan Groth.

Janus is a strong, consistent and enjoyable album, and even so it feels like a disappointing place for Aunt Mary to have ended their career. Janus is demonstration of a young band playing with fresh styles, quickly gaining confidence with a considerably expanded range of styles. Had there been a fourth album from these guys, I'm near-certain it would have been even better than Janus. Whatever the case, Aunt Mary closed their career on their best note, and however short their journey together may have been, it resulted in at least one standout record.

Conor Fynes | 4/5 |


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