Ah, the Tau: our friendly neighborhood extremist Space!Utilitarians. I'm told I can rest assured that the horrible hellfire their fleet used to cleanse those major cities from orbit directly proceeding our joining the Tau Empire ensured the happiness of the majority. If /tg/ and tvtropes are to be believed, the phrase "good for the good god" came from the gravely mistaken belief by some newcomers that the Tau were the "good guys" of the Warhammer 40k universe. I am not sure how anyone could possibly come to that conclusion, but then again, I'm inherently suspicious of two things: dem commies and dem God-Emprah-hating xenos. The Tau happen to be both. Well, except when they're not. How could those vile traitors who joined the Tau ever leave the caressing hand of the Imperium? I haven't the faintest. Only the God-Emprah knows, I suppose.
Would you believe that this is a lead-in to me talking about music?
Well, it is. For some reason, I always associate the album Cross by Justice with Warhammer 40k. I'm not precisely sure how that happened, but it did. Something about reading through some codex entries at the time, probably. Whatever the case, for what it's worth, I'm probably the only person in the whole world who has made this connection, so yay me?
Dear god that was lame. Should give you a hint to just how professional this review will be, what with the ever so classy track-by-track analysis and sentence fragments. Anyway, the album opens with a 60s sword-and-sandal movie soundtrack...or so it seems. This seems entirely appropriate, for a track named Genesis. The orchestra drops into an funky synth-guitar-thing with nice use of sampled vocals, redoubled with a wubby sounding synth. The slight chorus in the background give the track a very grandiose, deep feeling, and the heavy, syncopated bass beats hammer the point home, smoothing into a bit of a transition track (I hesitate to call it filler) called Let There Be Light. Justice seems to be dropping The Book on us with the Biblical themes. Hey, electronic dance music is exactly the time and place for bombast. Of the track itself, it adds little stylistically except as a bit of an emotional refractory period. It does not have as clear a progression, except for the addition of instrumentation. That is, until the end of the track, where a light, wet synth is introduced, carrying a light theme on top of the base. D.A.N.C.E follows, and plays on the lighter feel of the end of the previous track, with a more disco-y feel to it, and a Jackson-5-esque vocal section. If the Jackson-5 wrote stupid lyrics, that is. I suppose if you're looking for awesome lyrics, electronic dance music probably isn't the place to look. Unless you're a Touhou Doujin.
So anyway, the next track - Newjack's - instrumentation still has the characteristic Justice open transformer circuit buzz, but the overall style reminds me more of Daft Punk. The heavily fragmented vocal samples make for a catchy melody, and the chime backing and interludes work well with it. Then the album takes a turn for the heavy, and goes into Phantom parts 1 and 2. The main melody is at first carried by what might or might not be a really, really heavily vocoder-ized voice, or might be an exceptionally voice like synthesizer. Either way, it gives the track a very distinct, unique feeling. We get an interlude of broken transformer circuits arcing in minor keys, leading back into the main melody with renewed vigor, now with mild un-distorted electric guitar. Part 2 leads into a logical progression of the first part's themes, except the buzzing synths take the lead, and the vocoderthings take a continuo position. Disco strings return here, and they give a rather eery feeling, being certainly in keeping with the track, but somehow feeling at odds with the form. Justice samples at prolifically from all concievable sources, and the finished product, while composed of constituent parts that may on their own make no sense together, when used for Justice's purposes, make for truly unique aesthetic that can only be called Justice's own.
We're given a bit of a refractory period with Valentine. Compositionally, compared with the heavily sampled tracks that proceeded it, it feels very simple. Standing on its own, I'm not sure it quite holds up, but it functions very well in the context of the album. After that comes TTHHEE PPAARRTTYY. We don't talk about that track. For what it's worth, this singer does the Ke$ha thing better than Ke$ha. Regardless, *skip* What I really meant was that the next track is DVNO. This is also a vocal track, though with the saving grace that the actual lyrics are very hard to decipher. I might have to make a misheard lyrics video for this one. The vocalist - a male - does not have the most precise voice, but it has an interesting texture, and is expressive to the extent that it lends more to the track than simply another instrument at Justice's disposal. He reminds me a bit of MGMT's singer, actually.
The next track is Stress, and belongs in an Alfred Hitchcock movie from hell. I would say there were sawing violins, if they were actually violins, and I would say that there were quavering violins too, if synths could quaver. Eventually, more samples of instruments that come and go too fast for me to identify give the track more melody, but it's still very much focused on the suspense. It maintains this atmosphere very well. I have no idea what DJ would ever play this track in his or her set, but it's pretty damn fascinating as a case study in atmosphere in the age of electronic composition. And as just being all around awesome. Speaking of awesome, Waters of Nazareth! Timpani drums! Not often you hear those in electronic dance music. Which is a shame, really. Also, some is going "guh" into the microphone. And lots of distortion. ALL the distortion! The intro is rather repetitious, but leads into a cool organ section with Justice's signature growly and beepy synth work backing it. It works exceptionally well.
The final track is One Minute to Midnight, with has some neat, highly compressed and manipulated electric guitar action. There's not much going on in this track, but it's a very nice lead out to the album.
This is the only Justice album I've listened to in its entirety, but I haven't heard anything quite like what I've heard on Cross. Shibayan is the closest, having some heavy Justice influence at times, but they both have their own distinct styles, and listening to their albums back to back (I just put on Musou Materialise right now), I have a hard time comparing the two on any level except, perhaps, technologically. On the other hand, like Shibayan's albums, Cross is far more uniform in style and mood than, say, Daft Punk. They do not vary from track to track as much, and though Cross does not run into problems of listener fatigue (that I've encountered), this is not their strong point. Still, it's a singular album that anyone looking for something different in house should sample.
Ah, I feel I should also mention this. The album itself is not particularly well mastered: it's very loud. It's not much of a problem, but it's sometimes enough to be noticeable. It's a shame, really.
Some Other Notes
I'm currently waiting for the Dark Moor album Hall of the Olden Dreams to come from Amazon, at which point I will talk about that. I've been listening to quite a bit of Dark Moor recently. They're very good, and I look forward to talking about the album.
I hear Daft Punk will be coming out with a new album, possibly this summer. I can't wait for more news.
Also in the cue, Reitaisai (a convention where Touhou doujin sell stuff) is coming at the end of this May. Syrufit will be coming out with a new album, as will TAMusic. I will likely talk about both, as well as anything else interesting that comes out then.
Until then, enjoy some mega-cheesy fantasy power metal: