A taste of triumph

JULII: Taste Of Triumph

Release year: 2021
Label: Steinklang Industries

When it comes to martial industrial and related substyles, the most recurring themes are World War II and Ancient Rome. Would it be exaggeration to say that these two themes cover half the artists in the field? Maybe, but not a very big one.

Julii go for the latter, as can already be surmised from the name. With no lyrics and very little text to flesh out the concept of the album, we’re left guessing as to the exact nature of the project’s fascination with Rome: is it the empire’s martial prowess, some kind of Evolian thing about Tradition and Empire, some kind of fetishism, or something entirely different?

Musically, Julii take their cues from the heroic, neoclassical and bombastic tradition of martial music – think more Triarii than Puissance or Arditi. In other words, Taste Of Triumph is closer to a symphonic score than the loop-and-sample nature utilized by Arditi or the even pop-tinged military nihilism of Puissance. And, in fact, Taste Of Triumph does on many occasions come across as very soundtrack-like: one wonders if the tracks weren’t crafted with a scene from some (imaginary) movie in mind.

The movie analogue leads me to a point of criticism: sometimes Taste Of Triumph feels sort of like a Michael Bay movie set in the Ancient era; Julius Caesar instead of Optimus Prime. A lot of the time, there’s that same sort of bombast as in Bay’s movies: more emphasis on shape than content. In Julii’s case, this means that the album sounds good. Really good. Especially the more dramatic, majestic tracks sound quite impressive when listened to at loud volumes. However, this does not manage to entirely cover the fact that there’s not a lot going on in most compositions. It’s just dramatic build-up to a dramatic blow-up, but not much in terms of melody, development or complexity. There’s little to no subtlety here, and there’s no narrative or dramatic arch to the tracks, making it a bit unrewarding to listen to the album.

The fact that most tracks are quite short – more than half of them are under three minutes long – means there isn’t much room for developing themes or taking time to build up suspense and create some kind of dynamic in the song. Everything is pretty much blasted in the listener’s face during the first ten or so seconds. Sadly, this robs Taste Of Triumph of longevity: it doesn’t take too long before you start to feel like the album doesn’t have anything more to offer.

It’s a shame, because Taste Of Triumph does have things going for it. The sound, as already mentioned, is full, heavy and at the best of times impressive in its bombast and power. When things are at their most dramatic, with kettle drums pounding away, low brass rumbling the earth and trumpets sounding the clarion call of war, Taste Of Triumph even manages to impress. But beneath the surface layer of bravado and bombast, there’s too little there.

As such, Taste Of Triumph leaves me somewhat conflicted. Certainly, it’s not a bad album. But neither is it particularly good. Ultimately, it feels like Julii is a bit under-developed at this stage. Hopefully this isn’t the last we hear of the project, because I do hear potential here, which could be actualized by more attention to the dynamics and development of the compositions.

As it is, I’m a bit loath to recommend this very much to anyone. Friends of the already mentioned Triarii and the heroic, neoclassical and bombastic school of martial music may find it worth their while to give this a spin.

Summary: Neoclassical martial music suffering from the Michael Bay syndrome – more shape than substance.

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