What does Djunah sound like?
If the early 90s PJ Harvey went harder and heavier whilst processing a traumatic event in sonic real-time.
The review of Djunah – Femina Furens
‘Femina Furens’ is Latin for ‘furious woman’ and I can’t think of a better descriptor for this anthemic album. Djunah is Donna Diane’s music and words backed up with drums and percussion from Jarde Karns. The guitars and drums hit hard and fall somewhere between alt-punk and metal – sticking with simple but powerful chords and riffs. Whilst it is lazy of me to throw PJ Harvey’s name in here, there is more than a whiff of the same vibes here. Djunah is far heavier on the rock front though.
This comes through in the opening ‘Grooming’ which is like winding the album up akin to a clockwork toy. Donna is screaming like a warrior as the guitars lift themselves into action. It leads seamlessly into ‘Phaethon’ which chugs dark, moody guitar chords and revels in the overall subject matter of the album. Djunah is a project that deals with complex post-traumatic stress disorder. This album deals with the diagnosis and ongoing recovery from it and it is a veritable rollercoaster of emotions. You have the dramatic, percussive and dissonant ‘Suicidal on Christmas’ that unwinds in frenzied brutality. ‘Phaethon’ is far more defiant and warrior-like as Donna declares ‘who reins the reins, reins the reins’ over two oscillating chords. ‘Hallway’ keeps that oscillating going but between taut verses and cathartic chorus release. As the main riff bursts into a surge of metal for the chorus, Donna tries to reconcile a corridor to recovery from childhood trauma with the line ‘I was only joking’. It reminds me of when someone tries to downplay their own feelings and convince themselves it’s nothing really. The song packs a heavy gut punch, much like the rest of the album.
Snaking between two chords like a tick-tock is a recurring theme on the album. ‘Seven Winds of Sekhmet’ leads with this but cleverly disrupts it with fumbled high-pitch guitar whines in its climactic middle section. It signals a disruption to the pattern and the lyrics are crammed with empowerment and tearing up of the established trends. It’s clever musical tricks like this that elevate Djunah’s music and give the listeners waves of euphoria from a dense subject. ‘Lopsided’ is a rare calmer track on the album as noodling riffs take the lead over power chords. The track has some absolutely superb lyrics describing feeling incomplete or asymmetrical. Djunah states their lyrics are inspired by poets like Gerard Manley Hopkins, Sylvia Plath and John Donne and it shows. They write lyrics that you can pour over for days.
The final third of the album continues this poetic metal onslaught. ‘Butchering’ is an anthemic torch-waving track that is made for shouting along to in concert. Heavy, deliberate, seminal drums and big vocal explosions – stadium rock lovers will be at home here. ‘Petting’ is skittish and discordant, like a blitzkrieg of emotions bubbling over the saucepan lid. It is so frantic, it takes a few listens to pick up all the threads but over time has become a firm favourite for its abundance of emotion. The concept of taking the reins of your recovery and life returns for the murmuring ‘Reining’. It’s the sole piece largely without drums and paints a moody and desperate world. “I think I’d do well as property — I ache to serve men in pageantry” purrs Donna. The album closes the uplifting ‘Soft World Circle’. Here, Djunah’s drums and guitars dive and drive around like darts as we sing about closing the circle and arriving safely at home.
‘Femina Furens’ is a stunning album. It is visceral, catchy, anthemic and poetic in all the right places. Lyrics and riffs stay with you long after listening and this is certainly going to feature in my favourite albums of 2023. If you are longing for some heavy rock that cuts straight to the emotional core of living – Djunah has you covered.
Recommended track: Phaethon
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