Juzo has leveled up.

I first heard of the musician and visual artist when I reviewed his first EP, ANIMA 01, in early 2021. Since then, Juzo has clearly settled into a sound all his own with the release of his sophomore project, Dystopia 02, in September of this year.

Juzo continues to communicate with listeners in a deeply personal way in this next entry to his story. “This project stemmed from a very dark season of my life where I felt an overwhelming sense of hopelessness,” the musician said on Instagram. “There were many hardships and circumstances that led me to doubt my long-held beliefs, and through that birthed a foreign sense of bitterness and resentment.”

Through the narrative of Dystopia, Juzo manages to do what many Christian artists have struggled with: tell a story that includes a hopeful, redemptive ending without pretending to have found all the answers. “Lead me to you through these voids I tread / ‘Cause I know my faith has been lost in dread,” Juzo sings on the last song from the project, “Deus Ex Machina.” “I feel like nothing; searching for something.”

Track Listing

  1. The fallen / N-01R 魂
  2. Monster (feat. Shxrda)
  3. 99 But a Reverie
  4. Zone.
  5. Idols:Re
  6. Deus Ex Machina

Standout tracks for me include “The fallen / N-01R 魂” and “Monster.”

“The fallen / N-01R 魂”

This track sets the tone for the project masterfully, painting a picture of the world we’re entering almost like an audio-only short film. According to the liner notes, this track features additional vocals from a host of other indie CHH artists, from Lazarus! to Emmanuel LKD. If someone asked me which Juzo song epitomizes his style, I’d probably recommend this one.

“Monster”

Easily the catchiest song on Dystopia. Driving drums and bright synths combine with dark chords to mirror the lyrical content. Juzo plays a lot with using different vocal textures to shape the narrative, and a feature from Shxrda helps to that end.

 

To quote my past self, “Juzo’s songs are refreshingly original, masterfully crafted, and very personal. The branding and soundscaping of the album are on point.” All these details are still true, but if ANIMA was an experimental venture, Dystopia is the fruition of those experiments.

Even though Juzo’s style doesn’t quite mesh with my usual day-to-day listening habits, I like this project more with each playthrough. I believe that any listener will benefit from giving Dystopia 02 a spin.

Check out Dystopia 02 below and let us know what you think of the project! Find tracks from Juzo and more on our [FReSH PiCKS] YouTube playlist!

 

Juzo, "Deus Ex Machina"

Juzo returns with new record Deus Ex Machina.

“Deus Ex Machina” is a Latin phrase that translates to “god from the machine”. The term describes an unexpected power or event saving a seemingly hopeless situation. Often used in ancient theatre, the phrase originated from how an actor, playing a god or goddess, would be lowered on stage. A “mechane” was the name of the crane device used.

Here, Juzo is seemingly trapped within his own hopeless circumstances. Lamenting, wondering if God will come and rescue him in his sullen state.

I’ll be honest: I was not familiar with Juzo before this review.

However, given the overall branding of this project (including the title, cover art, and unorthodox use of capitalization or lack thereof) and the features listed, I was excited to dive in.

Let me tell you – Juzo did not disappoint.

In addition, every artist featured on ANIMA 01 is of Asian descent, with Juzo sharing on his Instagram story that “[a]s an Asian artist, I wanted to represent my heritage with this project and encourage my Asian brothers and sisters that our voice and stories matter.” This, to me, makes the project even cooler, right off the bat.

So, let’s get right into it and take it track-by-track!

ghost in my shell feat. Hatsune Miku

“You fill my soul but I’m still so empty.”

“ghost in my shell” sets the tone for the EP with an atmospheric track filled with dreamy synthesizers.

Juzo sings uncomplex but compelling lyrics over this soundscape, accompanied at times by Japanese vocaloid (i.e. synthetic voice program) Hatsune Miku. The title of the song is an obvious nod to popular manga Ghost in the Shell, and the lyrics reflect that inspiration. All-in-all, “ghost in my shell” does exactly what an intro track should: build anticipation for the rest of the project.

(Side note: I love creative uses of syntax in song titles, and I think that’s something ANIMA 01 does very well. Each song title is all the more interesting for it, and the tracklist is very aesthetically pleasing!)

SIBYL feat. Rhomar Jessy

“SIBYL” picks up the pace without completely leaving the vibes of “ghost in my shell” behind. Juzo and Rhomar Jessy each contribute a heavy-hitting verse. Overall, this song is masterfully crafted, from the bars to the variations in the beat to the brief interlude in the middle.

“Asian American with a driven approach / I’m tailor-made by a deity I’m knitted to boast.”

The Void feat. Thomas Iannucci

ANIMA 01 takes a darker turn three tracks in (which might’ve been predictable, given the title).

Juzo returns to sung lines, a style that matches the atmosphere of the song well and sets up Thomas Iannucci’s verse perfectly. Both artists paint a vivid and captivating picture of personal struggle.

“I still might fall back into the void and this emptiness I should avoid.”

Pathogenesis feat. HeeSun Lee

Pathogenesis: the manner of development of a disease.

Juzo continues with the strikingly transparent lyrics relating battles with vices and idols.

The hook is oddly simplistic, and the effects on the vocals are weird – but even though that sounds like a negative comment, I actually really dig it. It’s unconventional, refreshing even, as is Juzo’s honesty in his writing. HeeSun Lee delivers a killer verse as well, unsurprisingly.

“I gotta fight for my soul.”

fvith feat. Sarah Kang

“Don’t let me lose my way / Don’t let me lose my faith.”

“fvith” is a well-done song, but doesn’t really stand out from the rest of the project. The type of song that I would enjoy listening to (and did!) but wouldn’t put on a playlist. A highlight is when Juzo and Sarah Kang sing together as a duet at the end of the track.

JEHOVAH feat. Noah Moon

“I live for my King, this a do or die yeah.”

ANIMA 01 concludes with a heavy-hitting anthem in the form of “JEHOVAH.”

Juzo has emerged through his struggles and came out the other side with a renewed resolve to live for Jehovah. The project ends on a definite high note with this track. If I was recommending ANIMA 01 to a friend and I knew they’d only listen to one song, I’d recommend this one.

Some may find ANIMA 01 to be weird, but it’s exactly the type of innovation I like to see and exactly the fresh sound we need.

Sometimes, experimentation with unconventional types of musical storytelling doesn’t pay off. In my opinion, this is not one of those times.

Juzo’s songs are refreshingly original, masterfully crafted, and very personal. The branding and soundscaping of the album are on point. My favorite songs are “SIBYL” and “JEHOVAH.”

ANIMA 01 has no bad songs, and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to hear a cohesive, original project.

Check out ANIMA 01 below and let us know what you think of the project in the comments!