Hot off the Press

Janus | Nox Aeris

by Mark Allen
Staff Writer —

Not exactly bringing anything new to the modern hard rock/metal stakes is Nox Aeris, the latest album from Chicago-based Janus. While it’s all played very well and professionally engineered, the band’s Chevelle-meets-Red style of dark, melodic, electronica-tinged metal is a bit past its freshness date. Still, stale chips and leftover pizza retain enough flavors to make them palatable, so maybe the same can be said for Janus.

Things kick off with the big, beefy crunch that defines contemporary rock, and from there pretty much does everything you would expect from an album wearing the alt-metal name tag. Every song is engineered within an inch of its life, anything closely resembling edginess strangled by the slick production. The standard-issue format of quiet verse-loud chorus is used on nearly every song and while there is nothing felonious about this, it leads the listener to the inevitable realization that they have heard this all before. Even the hooks, while not as pop-rock instantaneous as, say, Nickelback, are carefully cultivated to appeal to the mainstream. Janus practically oozes their need to be embraced by the masses and such a blatant sense of desperation is detrimental to rock credibility. Put bluntly, Janus generally come across as groveling for mainstream affection.

That said, while the above-listed attributes are negative in tone, you could certainly spin them in a different, more positive light if you were so inclined. If at this point in the review you are thinking to yourself, Hey, Janus sounds like my cup of rock and roll tea, then yes, Janus is probably your cup of rock and roll tea. Because what they do, they do well. Really, the only problem—and granted, it’s not going to be a problem for everyone—is that what they do has been already been done more times than a washed up porn queen.

So, yeah, these guys aren’t exactly cutting edge. That said, they don’t necessarily have to be in order to woo their targeted demographic. Since the modern rock machine is not renowned for rewarding daringness and creativity, it is quite likely that the “been there, heard that” albatross around Janus’ neck will not impede them from achieving success in today’s rock climate. For that matter, you could rattle off the names of the top twenty currently active modern hard rock bands and then bet your next two paychecks that Janus bring more to the game than at least half of them. You could also safely bet that at least half of them do not have a vocalist as superb as David Scotney, because this guy is really good, with a voice capable of powerful authority and emotional fragility at the same time. Janus’ music may not be gifted, but their singer is.

In case it hasn’t become crystalline yet, let’s flog this deceased Equus caballus one more time; Janus is a middle of the road band and while one is justified in criticizing their tired modern metal formula, there is near-equal justification in defending the band for being better than a large portion of their contemporaries. None of the songs are putrid; “A Promise to No One” has a great headbanging riff, “Pound of Flesh” pumps out some pulverizing power chords, and “Always Rains” shows the band capable of slowing things down for a Breaking Benjamin-style rock ballad. But there is nothing here that makes you say, “Whoa, that was awesome,” nothing here that compels you to hungrily reach for the Repeat button when it’s over. In the end, Nox Aeris merits neither love nor hate but is trapped in that no man’s land between the two extremes. Damning with faint praise…or praising by faint damnation? The scales are equally balanced and it will be the personal taste of each listener that tips them in one direction or the other.

Genre: Modern Hard Rock

David Scotney (vocals)
Johnny Salazar (guitar)
Alan Quitman (bass)
Mike Tyranski (drums)

Track Listing
1. In Flames
2. Stains
3. Lifeless
4. A Promise to No One
5. Pound of Flesh
6. Waive
7. Stray
8. Numb
9. It Always Rains
10. Polarized


Label: REALID Records

Hardrock Haven rating: 6.5/10