Julii between regimes

JULII: Interregnum

Release year: 2021
Label: self-released

Neoclassical project Julii are keeping busy: this is already the third release this year, following the full-length album Taste Of Triumph and the EP/demo Rats Of The Senate (reviewed here and here). Three releases in a year, two of which are album-length is no mean feat.

Less than surprisingly, there hasn’t been much in terms of stylistic evolution in such a short time. For the most part, Interregnum is cut very much from the same cloth as the previous two releases. What differences there are, are mainly to be found in the details.

As such, the name of the game is as before: martial, neoclassical music with a thematical focus on ancient Rome. In broad strokes, Julii fits into the scope of martial industrial, though there’s little in terms of any kind of industrial to be found here – where acts such as Triarii or Arditi, for example, undeniably have strong industrial undercurrents, Julii approach post-industrial neoclassical from a much more soundtrack-oriented viewpoint.

And indeed, as before, the cinematic element rises to prominence on Interregnum. Most of the tracks on the album feel like the score to a scene from some majestic, epic movie of heroic action, martial prowess and political conniving in ancient Rome. Herein lies both the strength and the shortcoming of the album.

It’s a strength in the sense that at the best of times, the music on Interregnum is powerfully evocative. It conjures up images of steel-clad legions marching under the bright sun, of the majestic buildings of an ancient metropolis, and of the sinister figures that plot in the shadows. Especially when Julii blow things up to climaxes of high-tension strings and sweeping horns, Interregnum manages to shine.

On the flipside of the coin, at other times Interregnum suffers from the same thing as many soundtracks do: it’s missing something. Soundtracks miss the movie, the context and narration provided by it. Similarly, with tracks focusing on one concept and emotion, the feeling of narration and dynamic is sometimes missing on Interregnum. It feels like the tracks are excerpts sans context from some greater whole.

The resulting album is something of a mixed bag, as before. At times, Julii truly shines. Certainly there is talent and vision here, clearly shining through in those moments when the tracks reach their peak. On the other hand, as an album, Interregnum feels a bit choppy atmospherically: there’s little sense of unity, continuity and cohesion between the tracks. Each track starts with its own build-up and reaches its own climax, but the whole suffers from this. The metaphorical roller coaster of Interregnum reaches a dip at the end of every track, starting another slow rise. The album never seems to find a proper pace.

This is a bit of a shame, because there is much to be lauded on Interregnum: the clarity and power of the sound, the aforementioned effective climaxes, etc. The elements of a really good, cinematic neoclassical album are here, but the pieces don’t gel together as well as they could. I feel Interregnum would work better as a whole, if there was less focus on the internal dynamics of each track, and more focus on the overall dynamics of the album and between the tracks. In doing so, I think the album could serve as its own narrative.

However, even with its shortcomings, especially at the low price of “name your own price”, Interregnum is worth checking out. It’s definitely not a bad album, and it has more than enough moments to make it a worthwhile listen; it’s just not as strong as it could be.

Visit Julii on their Bandcamp

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