Djunah – Femina Furens

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Artist: Djunah
Album: Femina Furens
Label: Independent
Release Date: March 3, 2023
Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Whenever my first thought when listening to an album for the first time is “how would I describe this if I were to review it,” it generally means that the artist has created something truly unique and interesting. Djunah have done exactly that with Femina Furens, an album that straddles multiple genres and blurs the lines between each with raw passion and powerful delivery.

I would probably have to classify the music as a blend of noise rock, post-hardcore, alternative metal and punk. Regardless of what you want to call it, what really matters is Donna Diane’s performance. Aside from drums and percussion (for which we have Jared Karns to thank), Donna is responsible for everything on the album. Her contribution on the guitar is a driving force on the album and one that helps give it a lot of its varied tone and energy. There are moments of underlying catchiness woven in between the darker, more depressive moments and the more aggressive, heavier segments. Further elevating this is varying levels of feedback and distortion expertly employed as needed.

While I appreciate all of Donna’s contributions, it’s her vocals that really elevate the album from being solid to being fantastic. Her vocal performance stands out from her peers for three main reasons, her powerful delivery, her commanding presence, and the level of raw emotion she conveys with each word. My favourite moments on the album are those where she pushes her vocals to the limit, resulting in pained shrieks where her voice sounds as if its breaking, or the powerful shouted moments bordering on hardcore punk and conveying a sense of righteous anger/rage.

I think it’s important to understand the meaning behind the music, the band describe the album as:

“Femina Furens” fuses influences from poetry (Gerard Manley Hopkins, Sylvia Plath, John Donne) and heavy music to tell the story of diagnosis and continuing recovery from complex post-traumatic stress disorder, or C-PTSD. The album’s title comes from the Latin for “furious woman.” The artwork is inspired by representations of the divine feminine in 1970s sci-fi metal art.

The result of this inspiration is that the album’s lyrics do in fact read like poetry as they cover complex, relatable and system issues faced by many in society. The raw nature of the music truly lends itself to the content of this nature, amplifying its effect tenfold.

I do have to also give some serious praise to Jared Karns for his work on drums. This album would not be nearly as impact as it was without the energy and depth of sound that he brings to the mix. You can’t really go a second on the album without hearing some powerful hammering, cymbal crashes or catchy rhythmic patterns.

As far as favourite tracks go, Phaethon (the first real song on the album), kicks things off with an absolute bang. This song features some of the most jarringly raw vocals on the album, immediately letting the listener know what they’re in for. As with the whole album the lyrics read like poetry and this particular segment really stood out to me:

The earth to hush my hell so serious

Could beg for shame but never stall the day

I turn to white meadows, ash rivers dry,

And drag the sky to make the heavens slip.

Suicidal on Christmas is another favourite on the album, finding a perfect balance between moody tension and raw emotional aggression. Much of the song sits between being spoken and sung, giving it a broken, melancholic energy. Then suddenly things open up completely as Donna’s vocals explode into shouting, reaching points to shrill and raw that it sounds like her voice may break and leading into a powerfully aggressive delivery to close out the track.

Reining could quite possibly be my favourite song on the album. It just has an energy to it that makes me want to keep coming back for more. There’s a sense of moral injustice imbued in the song that seethes through in the vocals, instrumental work and lyrics. The delivery is what really sells the song, but the lyrics are extremely powerful, drawing comparisons between the way show horses are treated and the objectification and dehumanization of women:

I’m not a person, and I want to be

Loved not for self but ability.

My competition mouth and glittering eye

Go to the rider who ends my wild, naked life.

I’m just a body to share and gait to shape,

And there’s so much earth to dominate.

They say, girl, give over the animal

To little men with the wherewithal

That they might brush my hair and steal each gnat

And with my tail tie a tourniquet

Or bind me in a button braid

And leave me soaking on my hay.

I think I’d do well as property —

I ache to serve men in pageantry.

I’m a showpiece. I prance, I preen,

I’m sharp, I’m soft, I’m hard, I bite.

I’m warm and unrelenting. These are things Men like.

And me, I just like things.

So take thee hoof, take thee tooth and thigh.

I’ll take hand, purse, and ribbons to fly.

Don’t think I’d mind to be well-heeled once shod,

Long as the heel is high and the rider God.

Overall, this is one hell of an album and one that caught me completely off guard. Generally, when you see an album cover with a stunning woman staring intensely into the camera with a dramatic background it turns out to be a bunch of guys with Japanese influenced sleeve tattoos and stretchers, wearing buttoned shirts playing melodic metalcore with a band name along the lines of She Seeks Vengeance or Blood Will Spill. I cannot tell you how far from that sort of generic nonsense this album is. This is true art, both lyrically and musically, and it should not be missed.


Listen to and order the album:

Bandcamp




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