Release Date: August 30th 2018
The Junkyard Federation are a blistering rock band based in Sacramento, CA. After initially forming with the intention of playing 90’s-influenced alternative rock, the band quickly began to incorporate a wide range of rock-based influences into their sound, including dream pop and shoegaze. After a productive period of writing, the band decided to showcase their extensive mix of influences and cement their inaugural mark on the local music scene by recording an ambitious debut EP. The resulting product, ‘Heaven’s Gate’, presents a varied and exciting set of tracks from a very talented group of musicians.
Pounding drums and a chorus-drenched bass riff confidently kick off the opening track ‘At the End’. Genre-wise, the track features an interesting mix of various 80’s rock influences, from the slick groove of Guns N’ Roses to the effect-laden guitar work of Van Halen. Particular praise goes to the arrangement, which is wonderfully varied and accomplished. The stripped-back opening verse is dynamically contrasted by the power chord-laden chorus, before being followed by a verse of wah wah guitars. This is sure to keep any listener on their toes throughout the entire track and shows fantastic attention to detail from the band. My attention turns to lead singer Archie Jones’s vocal work, which is notably effective. His vocal style is very much influenced by the classic rock genre, which is well-suited to the band’s sound and carries a great sense of charisma. His dynamic range and delivery are both excellent, sounding vulnerable and cunning at his quietest moments and passion-filled at his loudest. His vocals certainly carry the much-needed ‘swagger’ that’s so desperately required from a rock singer and this again shows good attention to detail.
‘The Abyss’ features a huge range of influences, including heavy metal and electronica. The guitar work on this track is excellent, being fantastically varied and accomplished. The main riff is well-crafted and melodically adventurous without becoming overbearing. Verses are enhanced with various different guitar parts, from reverberated clean picking lines to distortion-drenched harmonics. There’s also a wonderful dual guitar solo at around the midway point of the track, reprising figures from the main riff and showing excellent technical accomplishment. This instantly displays one of the band’s biggest selling points; their meticulous nature and strong sense of musicianship. It’s clear they’ve taken adequate time to compose appropriate parts and arrange the material as effectively as possible, enabling them to come across as a very capable and accomplished act. This is something I’d encourage them to place at the forefront of their marketing as it’s certainly a notable trait.
‘Will to Live’ once again kicks off with a drum and bass intro, before leading into a more hip-hop influenced verse from Jones. The drum track instantly captures my attention, making great use of ghost notes and syncopated hi-hat beats in the verses. This forms solid infrastructure for the main groove of the track and consistently upholds the momentum, truly gluing the arrangement together. Tom fills are frequently employed between sections, which are well-crafted and allow the band to smoothly transition from section to section. This effectively adheres to the philosophy of ‘playing the song, not the instrument’ and once again displays a great sense of musicianship. At this point, my attention turns to the band’s sonic identity, which is overall a very interesting case. Whilst their sound is incredibly varied from track to track, their sonic identity is efficiently formed by their well-channeled array of signature traits. These include melodically sound main riffs, classic rock-influenced vocals and stripped back introductory sections of bass and drums. I’m looking forward to seeing how the band choose to further refine and develop their signature traits on their next few releases in order to fully establish their sonic identity.
The EP rounds off with the dream pop-influenced ‘Shadows’, which sees ethereal-sounding vocals delivered atop a bed of clean, reverberated guitars. The more typical dream pop sections are interspersed with bursts of alternative rock-influenced guitar parts, effectively holding the bands’ sonic identity together. My attention now turns to the EP’s production, which is overall fantastic. All instruments are very well-recorded and it’s clear the band have taken the time to obtain appropriate tones and takes at the source. The mixing and mastering work is also excellent, with all levels and frequencies being well-balanced and the production having a consistent feel from track to track. The dying chords of ‘Shadows’ left me with a feeling of satisfaction and a keenness to hear more from the band. Ultimately, ‘Heaven’s Gate’ serves as a confident and effective showcase of a very talented and ambitious band. They showcase a wide range of influences and a whole host of unique signature traits which I’m sure they’ll continue to take advantage of when it comes to future releases. Highly recommended for any fans of classic or alternative rock.