Back in the late nineties, I had a cassette in my car with all the best songs from the cover-mounted CDs that Kerrang! Magazine gave away. The first song on side 1 of that TDK C90 was ‘Every Little Thing Counts’ by Janus Stark, possibly the most pedal to the metal, anthemic opener anyone driving a Vauxhall Nova could desire back in the day!
Formed by former English Dogs/UK Subs guitarist Gizz Butt, Janus Stark released their mighty fine album ‘Great Adventure Cigar’ in 1997 on Earache records, at that time Gizz was also playing guitar for The Prodigy while they were touring on the back of ‘Fat Of The Land’.
Of course, all good things must come to an end and even something as great as an adventure cigar is not made to last, and Janus Stark sadly split in 2002. Fast forward to 2018 and Gizz decided to reform the band, roping in Richard Gombault of 90’s pop-punk band Midget and friends Fozzy Dixon and Simon Martin. A recent tour with The Wildhearts and The Professionals followed and this leads nicely up to the highly anticipated release of their first album in way too many years entitled ‘Angel In The Flames’.
The thing that sets Janus Stark apart from their contemporaries is the fact that Gizz is a shredder. While ‘Angel In The Flames’ is littered with turn of the Century pop punk sensibilities, buzzsaw guitars and full band harmonies, there is a more technical and aggressive element in place thanks to Gizz’s guitar histrionics. Yet, while the lyrics are socially and politically aware, and the riffs crunchy, it’s the melodies that always shine through, they are pure sugar for the soul.
The topical opener ‘Crucify All The Leaders’ sets the scene nicely with harmonies and melodies straight out of the Eureka Machines songbook and sweet picking to match the likes of Vai and Satriani. ‘Last Exit To Change Your Mind’ builds nicely with a cool melody to a signature Gizz Butt chorus that embeds straight into the brain. A power punk chorus that reminds me of Brit Rock contenders Compulsion.
These comparisons continue through the album. Punchy, anthemic choruses abound in the likes of ‘Dead Dead’, and while the 80’s metal riffage that opens ‘Karmageddon’ could easily be mistaken for Quiet Riot or Ratt, that is where any Sunset Strip comparisons end. The melodic hardcore and post-punk roots of the songwriters here shine through and save the day.
‘Some Stars Never Fade’ has great songwriting and sentimentality that bring to mind another long lost nineties favourite of mine Mega City 4. There’s great song dynamics as the chilled verse builds beautifully over picked chords to a rousing, yet passionately delivered chorus that sends shivers down the spine. A killer solo is over in a flash and we return to the anthemic chorus hook. It’s beautifully delivered and a lasting album highlight.
2020 is shaping up nicely for the band with a return to live-action that will see Janus Stark travel the length and breadth of the UK through February, March and April for a headline tour of their own. They will surely come within spitting distance of your comfortable abode, so my advice to you is buy this album, dig its glorious sonic sounds then buy a gig ticket… you can thank me later.
Author: Ben Hughes