Year of release: 2016, 2018
Released by: Spartha Productions
Rating: not this time
JOWISZ (“Jupiter” in Polish) is a project of a musician nicknamed Mr. Wolf. The dilogy of his albums “Trench Rat’s Banquet”, released from 2016 to 2018, is inspired by the “bloody trenches of the World War One”. The proposal to review it seemed quite interesting to me, because only a year ago I was virtually in these trenches myself, spilling blood in Battlefield 1. It was decided to cover both albums in one review, because they are tightly connected.
JOWISZ performs dark ambient with marching elements and a small pinch of experimental compounds. Truth be told, "Trench Rat's Banquet" was not what I expected. I thought that there would be a lot of battles on these albums. But this side of the war, apparently, is not very interesting to the author. Shooting and explosions are rare here, but you can't say that there was not enough of rotting in the trenches. The first album mixes two main types of tracks - classical ones (for example, the sound of rain accompanied by a simple hypnotic synth motive) and psychedelic ones. The advantage is behind the latter: there is more of them and they set the atmosphere of the whole album. Insane discordant melodies, filled with open contempt for the basics of playing music - this is just the tip of the iceberg. They are superimposed on deliberately distorted voices, the sounds of military marches (mostly Russian), all sorts of unpleasant noises or, for example, a convulsive cough, as in “The Yellow Cloud Ritual”. All this blurs the line between reality and illusion, making you feel like a soldier who has undergone a gas attack, who kneads bloody mud in a trench for the fifth day without sleep, suffering from increasing pain in his stomach. Jacob from "Jacob’s Ladder" probably would have understood, even though he fought in Vietnam, not in Verdun. However, I should note that each track tries to show what is reflected in its title, and quite successfully - if you listen carefully.
Most of what I said above is true when it comes to second album. But there are differences. It seemed a little more "musical" to me, and at the same time more belligerent. Diversity and dynamics have increased, so now most of the tracks have familiar, moderately melodic fragments of classical ambient, plus different warfare sounds. On the contrary, there is less noises and painful visions. If you look at the names of the songs, it becomes obvious that the second album, let's put it that way, got out of the trenches in order to run around the battlefield and see what is happening in the world. Therefore, changes in music are explicable. Attention is paid not only to the places of the largest battles (Marne, Gallipoli, Kaiserschlaht), but also to exotic things like the Serbian organization Crna Ruka. Although the most powerful track here, in my opinion, is “In the Cage of Shell Shock”, quite reliably (I believe so) depicting a contusion and its sad consequences.
I will not count the final rating for this dilogy because such albums cannot be assessed with the usual measures. After all, this, by and large, is not music. “Trench Rat’s Banquet” cannot be played in the background while you're doing some stuff. With the same success, you can simultaneously turn on a movie about the war, play a record with speeches of some historical figure, and send your wife to the kitchen so that she would rattle pans and buzz with a mixer. This dilogy requires perseverance; you need to understand the context of each track, otherwise the creativity of JOWISZ may seem to you as a set of sounds. In some places I’m not sure that I understood the author’s intention — there is clearly a lack of erudition somewhere, but somewhere you just won’t guess without a hint. Therefore, I won't think about ratings. But I can assure you that those who decide to study these albums will meet a very curious look at the World War One.
Both albums were released in digipaks with small booklets. The quality of releases is surprisingly high for the music which is definitely not waiting for commercial success. Usually ambient performers are limited to penny envelopes or one-sided jewels with a CD-R inside, but here everything is rich and beautiful - factory made CD, excellent paper. The design is retouched with the help of a simple filter, familiar to anyone who has worked at least once in Paint.NET or another graphic editor, but one cannot but admit that it looks stylish. More on the videos - the first, the second. From the design you can find out that the musician supports Creativity Movement. It is commendable, although it is not entirely clear how this applies to these albums. However, in propaganda any means are good. Some of you who read this have already googled what Creativity Movement is, am I right?
You can buy the CDs at JOWISZ' bandcamp or order them from Szymon at Werewolf Promotion.