Following the 2007 release of their debut album, Dystopia, in their native Australia, Midnight Juggernauts found themselves earning numerous accolades, supporting Justice on their United States tour, and playing major festivals and their own headlining gigs all over the world. Dystopia took disco, glam rock, 80s synth pop, and electro and mish-mashed these different sounds and styles for a fun album that defied simple classification. For their sophomore album, The Crystal Axis, Midnight Juggernauts continue to combine a variety of sounds to intriguing effect. The primary difference that sets The Crystal Axis apart from their debut is that it drifts away from the dance floor and towards the open arms of 70s prog rock.
The Crystal Axis opens on an eerie note with Induco, a two-minute instrumental intro where an alien whistle mixes with a spacey synth to create a sound reminiscent of retro sci-fi films. Induco seamlessly flows into the previously released single, Vital Signs, one of the more pop-oriented songs on The Crystal Axis. Three minutes into Vital Signs, Midnight Juggernauts abruptly go into what is almost a new song characterized by tribal drumming before everything comes together for a spell-binding close. It’s moments such as these when Midnight Juggernauts are at their most compelling.
While This New Technology is the most accessible track on the album and also the most reminiscent of Dystopia, its Krautrock-esque organ and garage rock drumming make it distinctly The Crystal Axis. The organic, percussive element of Axis reaches its pinnacle on Lara Versus the Savage Pack, a triumphant pop-rock anthem that stands out among even the strongest songs. The Great Beyond represents a further departure for the band, as they jam into prog territory, and hooks give way to instrumental freak-outs.
Unfortunately, as magnetic as it is, The Crystal Axis noticeably peaks early. Matching or topping a standout trio like Technology, Lara, and Beyond is no easy feat, but with the exception of the forgettable transition track Lemuria, the second half of the album is still an engaging listen. While the driving rocker Winds of Fortune is one of the most irresistible songs, it’s also a somewhat awkward fit. Fade to Red brings the album to a shimmering end, as keyboard loops and distorted vocals swirl together in a hypnotic soundscape. The Crystal Axis is the sound of a band defying expectations and testing their limits, while continuing to evade fitting into any single musical category.