Music Reviews

Sonic Jesus New Gothic Rock Album ‘Badway’

Sonic Jesus released their newest album, Badway in October of 2023. The music is gritty, heavy psych rock with industrial grind and 80s new wave inspirations but is a creation unique onto itself. The baritone vocals and electronics are paired with dirty guitars and powerful fuzz bass. Badway continues the band’s evolution, bringing elements from their past and intentionally making something new and different. The arrangements feel strategic with each instrument sitting neatly in its own pocket and blending wonderfully with the whole. This album will appeal to fans of The Black Angels, A Place To Bury Strangers, early NIN, Suicide and European heavy psych.

Badway challenges the listener with its unique form and style. The music drips with artistic inspiration coated in melancholy. This is expressed with outbursts of energy that shatter convention. The underground industrial rock has a 80s gothic style harking to new wave and early new punk bands like Suicide. There is something violent and confrontational in Badway that attracts a punk aesthetic.

Sonic Jesus is from Doganella Di Ninfa, Italy and is the project of musician Tiziano Veronese. They started releasing music in 2012 with a split EP with The Black Angels. Their debut double album Neither Virtue Nor Anger was released in 2015 on Fuzz Club and had their most aggressive and dark music. The video for ‘Telegraph’ completes the vampire cult sound of the first album beautifully with a gothic style and dark mysteries. Neither Virtue Nor Anger set Sonic Jesus on the path of high quality creative underground gems from the European psych scene.

The follow-up album, Grace in 2017, was the final album released on Fuzz Club Records. This album had nods to pop music of the 1980s with shimmering synths driving danceable beats paired with their gothic style and searing guitars. The single ‘I’m In Grace’ has a music video with a couple of pierced rockers making out in a cool car. This marked a change in direction from the previous album.

Memories from 2018 was the first self-released album from the band and is named appropriately as the album is b-sides and demos elevated to final production. The music has a sense of nostalgia with lo-fi raw recordings. The vocals get exposed and the production feels intimate and close to the core of the band’s emotional inspirations.

Between 2018 and 2022 Tiziano Veronese arranged and performed all the music on Badway. Production was handled by band member Don Rhajin and released on Sonic Jesus’s record label, making it a completely in-house production. This approach to music seems natural for Veronese who has always been the songwriter and has performed all the instrumentation on the albums. Now he has complete creative control over the artistic process, removing the expectations and restraints of appeasing a record label. Sonic Jesus is a highly artistic project and Badway branches out in new creative directions and has space for experimentation.

Badway was largely written during and as a response to the isolation and challenges of the pandemic years. The atmosphere of the album is groove centered with a sense of disorientation and frustration. The driving bass lines are delicious and punchy and give the music a steady foundation along with the simple beats. Synthesizers layer in strange melodic sounds with deep buzzsaw textures and floating modulated notes. The guitars add a lot to the music and expertly cut in and out of the arrangements for amplified impact. The guitar can be echoing and washy with vintage vibes or cutting dark, with gritty textures and velcro gating. Vocals are at the heart of each song, layered in effects from megaphone lo-fi to washy tones with distortion and compression. The vocals add rhythmic complexity and drive to the music intertwining with the other instruments.

The first singles ’Annoying Foal’ and ‘Anxieties’ both have music videos with futuristic scenes enhanced by AI. The future punk aesthetic matches the music perfectly. ‘Annoying Foal’ has grinding guitar, repeated discordant high notes following the lyrics and a 90s industrial sound that really rocks. ‘Anxieties’ is a krautrock styled rhythm that guide the songs. The vocals present a sense of great unease backed by the percussion and filtered mono synth. Static rips through the composition further emphasizing the feeling of disorientation and intoxication.

Badway is distinctive from the band’s previous releases. The music is dark and heavy like their first album Neither Virtue Nor Anger and has the rhythmic drive from the album Grace, but Badway takes the band into new territory. Badway is more experimental breaking away from a rock-oriented sound toward free compositions that are self-contained. Songs like ‘Anxieties’ sound like sonic paintings in the visual style of H.R. Giger or Edvard Munch. The layers of instrumentation gathers and breaks apart at the edges. The form doesn’t feel obligated to conform to verses and choruses. The beats guide the compositions as the instrumentation and vocals unleash expressive noise that crystallizes as a song born on feeling rather than a structure.

Badway is another strong album from this unique band. Sonic Jesus is committed to making each album different than the last and to pushing their creativity. The production, mix and mastering all sound great with each part coming through clearly. The percussive drive is cool and hits hard, giving the listener a reason to move their body in new and unusual ways. The music builds and cools off making each peak and valley impactful. Interesting sounds are used throughout the album. They achieve tonal variety with new and wonderful tones being introduced in each song. All this combined with strangely captivating melodies makes this an album that stands out amongst its peers.