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Janus - Gravedigger House Calls CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

3.79 | 10 ratings

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4 stars Will this Gravedigger guy ever die? Last time he crawled out of his catacomb was on the 1993 Janus album Innocence after bidding farewell on a beach in 1972 on the cover of the original Gravedigger LP after which the Janus creature went into death throes only to reappear in 1990. House Calls harkens back to that 1972 album with dark brooding themes, heavy metal madness and even a wacked out song about greasy food. Despite all this disorder Gravedigger House Calls, while not sounding anything like it's 1972 ancestor it is yet another superb work from an oft overlooked band. Those familiar with previous work from the 90s and 2000s will not be disappointed with this latest jewel from the a restless psyche of Janus.

House Calls kicks off with an acid sodden hard rock discharge , Let's Go Down To The Beach and culminates with a Latin hymn ( Sanctus ) sang in plainsong as if there were some transcendental divine intervention which leaves the listener with some weird after thoughts..Sort of reminds me of early seventies albums from the Dutch band Focus that were all over the musical map.What really holds this Frankenstein together though are the common song themes which are not all that happy. I guess one would presuppose this from the grim reaper with his spade at the ready and The Fall of the House of Usher-like manor on the cover. Even the title itself is an understatement

Exploiting formidable musical and compositional facility, the redoubtable Colin Orr ( guitar, keyboards, composer, engineer ) is also joined by vocalist extraordinaire Paul Phoenix, original 1970s Janus alumni , Roy Yates ( acoustic guitar ) and Mick Peberdy ( bass ) as well as Rikki Hanson-Orr ( vocals, clarinet, keyboards ) and Thea Hanson-Orr ( vocals ). By it's nature House Calls appears more like a musical risk than a band because of the stylistic fluctuation from track-to-track Each individual composition also holds it's own revelations both musically and lyrically which makes House Calls such a delight.

Better known for his meticulous choral work with the King Singers, vocalist Paul Phoenix is just a at home in the prog rock domain as he is singing A capellas and gives House Calls a convincing tone Although he is not by any stretch a Ronnie James Dio, Paul Phoenix gives a solid vocal performance outside of his discipline. Even if the listener is not aware of his formal credentials as an accomplished tenor, a trained voice is evident. On the heavier more derisive tracks, My Top Hat, On Your Knees, Watching You Dry and Winter's Tale accompanied by angry keyboards and heavy guitars a comparison to the late John Wetton with the '72-'73 King undeniable. Phoenix is positively at the top of his game everywhere but really shines on Wooden Spoon, a mournful l refrain composed by Colin Orr that touches on old fashioned ideals and values augmented by a poignant clarinet melody played by Rikki Hanson-Orr. Even with it's dismal perspective House Calls is often allegorical and there is some fun to be had listening through the 13 selections.Two ethereal laments, Walking On Splinters and Sit Down and Listen feature the female vocalists, sisters Thea and Rikki respectively who offer compassion and lucidity. Both songs explore emptiness, loss and soul searching and are accompanied with pensive musical arrangements. The young ladies also appear on backup vocals on Sinner's Blues, with lead vocal by original drummer Keith Bonthrone that conjures up images of tumbleweeds, saloons and wild west justice replete with ghostly harmonica. It doesn't really harmonize with the rest of the album but neither does the psyched out Chewing The Fat that sizes up unhealthy eating habits. With Hammond organ and furious guitars it's a throwback to the glory days of heavy psychedelic prog rock and echoes the track Red Sun from the original Gravedigger LP from 1972.There is also a lonely short instrumental track that appears just before the end of the album with the abstract title Slightly Deranged Onyx which has a '70s Floydian hue to it. One to burn the midnight oil to.

Unbeknownst to many this is indeed Janus' 10th full studio album. It is whimsical, bitter, heartbreaking, dangerous and solemn. All the hallmarks and peculiarities that have made up Janus' inner sanctum throughout an eclectic and sometimes precarious musical odyssey.

Kepler62 | 4/5 |


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