I was already familiar with Floridian sludgernauts Junior Bruce when I saw them play at Maryland Deathfest. They were part of an A389 Records roster I revered. Headless King was frequently spinning on my turntable. But their songs sprang to life with Orlando’s sweat and swelter at the Baltimore Soundstage. Junior Bruce deliver Everglades sludge with urgency and purpose. The anticipation for their new record has endured since 2016’s Endless Descent opened its fanged maw. Now my Hades-bound prayers have been answered.
“The Sleeper Awakens” starts like High on Fire are kicking off another expedition through the mud ‘n’ blood. The riffs in “Terror Mounts” are so huge you might shiver in their shadows. The band dredges disarming melodies from the muck in “7,000,000 years” and “One-Nine-Nine.” But those splashes of shoegaze and post-punk help color an album that’s otherwise just as nasty as anything they’ve written. “The Basement” emerges as a career highlight by the time it fades to black. “Anti-God” is a deceptively textured 3-minute cavalry charge that roars around a central Brett Walker solo. Guided by Scott Angelacos’ distinct howl, Pray for Death is a towering sludge record that reflects a veteran band at peak power.
What struck me during Junior Bruce’s live show was they never forget they’re a rock band. During a time where most concerts have been cancelled for safety purposes, the energy of a live show permeates Pray for Death. The performances are assured and cleanly mixed/mastered by Sanford Parker without sacrificing grit. Junior Bruce have shared stages with Eyehategod, Integrity, Yob, Monolord and more. They have played with some of the best and heaviest for a reason. After you memorize this album, you owe it to yourself to see these songs live.
You don’t need to pray for an early stream, because it’s already here. Press play below and surrender to Junior Bruce’s reaper scythe. We’re honored to stream it exceptionally early for you before it’s released from Sludgelord Records on October 30th.