The latest album from US rockers Juniper Avenue is entitled “Chuck Rock” and it’s a genre-bender (if we may use that term nowadays). The album is balanced and has a variety and versatility to it that’s much needed in today’s music scene that hasn’t been lacking releases, but lacks the power and tastefulness that this record relieves its listeners with.

The album begins with the larger-than-life intro “Everything Must Go” and it is packed with riffs and chunky bass lines that feel like 70s sabbath took a shot of early 80s Metallica’s speed and steroids. The track wastes no time with its fast tempo, screamy vocals, and a speedy shreddy guitar solo that made me get off my chair and start a one-man-mosh pit in my bedroom with its intensity. The following track was the title track which was a bit slower in tempo and had some pedal effects on its guitars. The vocals struck me with their uniqueness because they pay homage to the 70s with their long phrases, hints of vibrato, open vowels, and that distortion that every rock and metal fan digs. The song has a transition with the bass and drums where it changes tempo and begins a shred-fest guitar solo…once again showing that the band don’t intend on taking it easy or playing it safe. What I didn’t expect was a slow breakdown after that part…I mean…We deserve to hear this track in a live performance at a sold-out arena. I love this band’s chemistry and coordination more than anything, and how they write tracks that feel effortless and fluid (seemingly) without breaking a sweat.

Another aspect I dug from this record was how the band sustains a distinct personality while showing their influences. This is clearly shown when we reach the third track, “Self and Pity Doubt“, that made me begin to notice how the chunky guitars and groovy basslines with the vocal style soaring over them capture my attention and appeal to me even when they aren’t comparable to another band…and that is an achievement in itself nowadays. With rock n roll’s rich history and having a million bands to be influenced by, these guys managed to achieve the hard task of having reference/guide without copying their influences. After a streak of three short tracks, “Miss Shine” hits us with a grandiose 6-minute duration. It starts out fast and energetic then breaks down into a slower interlude and midsection where the guitarist and vocalist flaunt their skills. Behind all this show, the rhythm section were also showing off their impeccable chemistry and coherence as they managed to keep the song’s heavy and energetic vibes no matter how slow the tempo got. We have the slow interlude “Acadia” followed by the track “Victim” that begins with some layered wailing vocalizing and a quiet atmospheric vibe. Shortly after that, the groovy and chaotic guitar and bass begin dueling with their interlocking lines and tight technical hard rock playing. I really couldn’t be any more satisfied with this track because it also showed some thunderous drums and intense vocal styles full of screams and belted high notes….this track was a masterpiece indeed.

Bumfuzzle” begins with a scream that will either give you a heart attack or make your heart explode…and dare I say it’s the only thing in 2023 closer to some old school punk rock like the sex pistols or the dead kennedys…. Yes, the band are capable of sounding punk-ish too. Pleasant surprises keep coming when you have a band that has a malleable sound and every member plays their instrument with much appeal on its own. The killer solo on this track has to be one of my favorites on the entire album. After that change of style, “Vodka Man” takes us back to the 70s with some Black Sabbath vibes and a riff-based structure. I really can’t get enough of the vocalist and his creativity at this point. He commands the songs effortlessly by starting or stopping whenever he likes…shortening or lengthening his phrases gives him no trouble too because of his amazing intonation and clear pronunciation. His high screams are to die for, and his low chest notes are powerfully grounded. “Everybody/Everywhere” is another punky number with some odd drum lines and creative basslines. It fits into more than one influence or style but the one thing that’s for sure is that this song isn’t stereotypically just punk, nor just hard rock. It has everything an appreciator of rock oldies would love to hear….with some extra fun on top thanks to the Juniper Avenue personality being present throughout. 

The most technical-sounding and dare I say unconventional track in here was “Danny Fanatic“. The bassist plays some complex lines and actually leads the song. It’s as if Primus and Faith No More decided to collaborate on a technical math-rock song….and yes, that confusion as to whether the song wants to be technical or simple is exactly the attractive quality that Juniper Avenue brings to the table. This is my favorite song on the entire record because of its composition and how it made me understand how this band can’t be put into a single description, although having a lot of direction and personality…it’s just that no two listeners will be able to put the same label on this because of how multi-layered and multi-influenced it is. 

The album draws to a close with the short track “Karen” which feels like it was conceived at a jam session or rehearsal when the band felt like just pushing all their energies together at once. The track slows down and speeds up one too many times, to the point where conventional and mainstream fans will avoid it…and if I’m being honest here that’s exactly why I love the track and this record at all. There’s a delicate balance between giving your fans something to appreciate and following exact and direct commands from them, and it seems to me like these guys will act according to their own vision regardless of what the public eye wants or dictates. The album ends with the bass-heavy and slow-paced “Bang!“. It’s one of the tracks that the band shows more modern than classic flavors on, and this is just another nail in the coffin of play-it-safe musicians that need to be taking notes from these guys. The track has the album’s most complex drum lines and here I began to feel like the guys actually implement some genres other than rock, punk, and metal into their mixed sound. 

All I can say about Juniper Avenue and their “Chuck Rock” (more like Chad Rock at this point) is that any record where the first track is just as fun as the last is a total masterpiece. Like a good movie can’t be summed up or spoiled in two sentences, a good record can’t be put under the umbrella of a single genre or a preference of style over substance to be a people pleaser…with every track in here, I was shown a new taste or element performed with heart and soul that I came to appreciate and will surely be searching for in other records and bands from now on. Congratulations to Juniper Avenue on this beast of a record and on kudos to them on the experimental and restless music-making process they have.