Hungry Lights is an experimental music project founded by singer-songwriter, musician, multi-instrumentalist, comedian, and actor Justin Bonitz that focuses on telling stories through concept albums.
On November 15, 2016 Justin released the sequel to The Awry Ascent, which he titled, "Heavy Is The Crown." It is album/book two of the From Windfall To Hell series.
On December 31, 2017 Justin released "Three Gods & Me". This is the third album in the From Windfall To Hell series.
Justin has announced that "Mudoo Ra" will be the official title for the fourth addition, but that he has no plans of releasing it in 2018.
The Origin of Hungry Lights Edit
Hungry Lights was originally under the name and concept of a several different projects. The first was called, "Blind Can't Follow." Blind Can't Follow started off as a four-man-band, in 2008 with Justin as the lead vocals, lead guitar, and song-writer. In 2009, they released an eight track, live-performance, non-concept demo titled, "Everything That Exists." Justin claims that a friend of his listened to the demo, thought it was a concept album, and so Justin turned it into one. Such was the birth of Justin's love for using music as a medium to tell stories.
In 2010, Blind Can't Follow changed their band name to "amnÆon," and released a fourteen track revised demo of "Everything That Exists," which contained reworked versions of some of the same songs, as well as several new ones. In this demo, we saw the creation of the side-character "Arilayah" as well as the infamous "Fothcrah," who at the time was merely a man—not the mythical sea beast she is today. In 2012, the band tweaked their name to "amnæon," and released another thirteen track demo titled, "Aorta Borealis" which was essentially a third draft of the same demo/concept from 2009.
With purchases of new recording technology, Justin decided to go solo and become a studio musician. He changed the project name to "amnaeon," and in 2013, he released a fourteen track demo titled, "Aorta Borealis IV." Shockingly this was the fourth revision of the same songs Justin had been working with since 2008, but the story had been overhauled into an eight part series titled, "The Mourn." More characters were added to the lore, and the lyrics became extremely literal and straight-forward because Justin realized how hard it was to follow the story in his previous drafts.
Over the next year and a half, Justin released three more drafts titled, "The Proamates III," "Wolfpit Drive V," and "General Reem II," all of which had prior origins that will be mentioned later. Reversing back a few years, "The Proamates III" was originally an eight track, unreleased/incomplete amnÆon demo from 2011 that was titled, "Evolution At Its Finest Hour." This demo introduced the characters, "Prite" and "Prill" who would later become the main characters of Justin's baby, "From Windfall To Hell."
His third amnaeon demo, "Wolfpit Drive V" was originally an experimental/industrial solo/side-project he started in 2009 just titled, "Wolfpit Drive," with the album name "Emulsion." This was the first time Justin started to experiment with rapping instead of mere singing/screaming. Justin says he started this project in 2009, but never publicly released anything until 2011, and never finished it. "Emulsion" is the origin of the characters "Reflaugh," "Artorn," and "Bladth'heirtra." As amnaeon's 2013 version expanded the world/concept, the characters "Krayle" and "Chance" were brought to life.
Tracing back a bit more, in 2011, Justin started working on a thirteen track rap demo called, "As The Crow Flies" under the rapper name "General Reem." The project was never finished. Justin says he just wanted to take a break from metal music for a little while, and he was really enjoying the rapping he was doing on Wolfpit Drive's "Emulsion," so he wanted to go further with it. "As The Crow Flies" would eventually evolve into amnaeon's "General Reem II."
In early 2012, Justin had started working on an electronica/dubstep EP titled, "At Rest" under the project name, "Drudgework," but Justin said he dropped the project because he found it far too tedious. Mid 2012, he also started an acoustic/djent demo titled, "Umfrant" under the name, "Mt. Krell." This incomplete demo is the origin of the characters "Flinter" and "Umfrant." The reason that none of these projects were ever completed was because by the end of 2012, Justin was in a pickle. He had five different projects to work on, and he did not know which to work on first. He says that this is where things got complicated because he decided to take all five projects (progressive metal, experimental/industrial, rap, electronica, and acoustic/djent) and fuse them into one big project. He merged the sounds, created a blanket concept for everything, tied certain characters/story-lines together, and he went to work. Little did Justin know, this merging of projects was the seed for the "From Windfall To Hell" series as well as the beginning of Justin's unique musical sound.
Early 2013, Justin decided to call his entire series, "The Mourn," which was essentially a huge, complex, out of order, interconnected, sci-fi/fantasy story that was ridiculously hard to follow. Justin said he thought it would be a great idea to smash the stories/concepts of all the project demos together and make them one thing, and that in hindsight, it was greedy and retarded. In March 2013 "Aorta Borealis IV" was released followed quickly by the prequel "The Proamates III" in June 2013, which was followed by the sequel "Wolfpit Drive V" in October 2013. In June 2014, "General Reem II" was released, which was a prequel to "The Proamates III." Justin said he added the numbers to the titles because things were being released out of story order so that they could stay true to the chronological order of when the music itself was spawned.
With these four demos came the loose creation of a side-character named, "Atah'xia" as well as some of the essential geography that Justin still uses in "From Windfall To Hell" such as "Eai'rtra," "Mort'mydrea," "Narrahk," "Ik'theves," "The Delunicate Shrine," "Sartjha," and "Jjkahmba." With these demos also came the creation of the bird race Justin uses in "From Windfall To Hell" called the "aftar'ahk," the faceless mountain trolls called the "oakrum," and the stone sentinels he calls the "drudgework."
As amnaeon, Justin had amassed a large following on YouTube. Most of it came from covering songs by other artists, comedic skits, cameos in videos across YouTube, and winning Jared Dines' first vocal contest with his entry titled, "Ghost Feet." Between 2013 and 2014, Justin managed to release four full length demos and was working on his fifth demo, "Mt. Krell I," which was going to be the prequel to "General Reem II," when he suddenly announced he would be remastering all four demos again because he felt that they were lyrically and compositionally inadequate to what he was currently working on. Many fans were concerned that the songs would not be as good as the originals, but Justin disclosed that he had been revising and recreating a lot of his songs since 2006... and that the fans had technically never heard the "originals." The YouTube channel Hungry Demos is proof of this, as Justin uploaded demos dating back to 2002 and 2006 where listeners can clearly hear the skeletons of songs that were revised, refined, and featured across his four amnaeon demos.
While he originally had plans to make a total of eight albums in his amnaeon story, in April/May 2015, Justin uploaded a very emotional video to his YouTube channel where he disclosed that with all his fans demanding content from him, he felt like a dancing monkey. He was angry that people were not even giving his originals a chance, but instead wanted to watch him sing whatever covers they asked of him. He said it was not a matter of whether or not people liked his music, the numbers showed that they were not even bothering to click on the videos at all. His subscribers were completely ignoring his music. To prove it, he mentioned how he went as far as to upload a video of him singing one of his own songs, but with the sarcastic title, "Somathur Baund - For Miles Down (vocal cover)." The video got over twenty thousand views, which was twenty times more than any of his other originals... just because he put "vocal cover" in the title. It made Justin furious. He stated that his subscribers were not even real fans. They did not appreciate his true passion at all. He felt used, betrayed, objectified, and he was done. Soon after, he left all social media, deleted his YouTube channel, Soundcloud, Facebook page/account, Twitter, Instagram, Bandcamp, and he took what he could of his music with him.
Before he vanished, he left one final post, paraphrasing:
"I just cannot handle it anymore. I steered my channel in the wrong direction, and I need to start over. Please understand that I am not quitting music. Think of this as a tactical retreat. I will be back. Just search for 'Hungry Lights." - Justin Bonitz
In June 2015, a YouTube video under the account "Hungry Lights" appeared. In the video, Justin apologized for offending anybody with his final video as amnaeon, but that he did not apologize for the things he said. He disclosed that he was finding himself. He was unhappy with who he had become, the image he was portraying, and he said that he felt lost. He revealed that he had started working on his new album/project, but did not know when it would be finished, just that it would be a completely new experience with a totally new concept behind it.
In the video, Justin also asked the viewers not to subscribe to his channel unless they were interested in watching his content. There would be no covers, no comedy, just his music. This was the only video on the channel for a long while, then it mysteriously disappeared, and in its place came an acoustic performance of a track titled, "An Outset In The Sea."
The Awry Ascent Era Edit
Main Article: The Awry Ascent
In July/August 2015, Justin returned to YouTube and was extremely high-spirited. He had obtained a severe distaste for the ego, which became the root and core of his new story and his songwriting. He constantly and strongly encouraged others to find themselves and to stop being products of society. From his basement, he would often host live streams where he would grab a mic and sing over the instrumentals for his new album, sing covers, get excessively drunk with his friend "Jay," and occasionally would preach about happiness and how to beat depression. He still had no presence on social media, so these "basement streams" were the only way he interacted with his fans, and the regulars in the live streams became the first core fan-base of Hungry Lights.
On these basement streams, Justin would often talk about how much he disliked his old work. It became a huge chip on his shoulder. It really bothered him when people talked about it and made comparisons, and for a while, even a mention of the word "amnaeon" was enough to send him off on a wild rant. He stressed that the more they listened to his old work, the harder it would be to adjust to his new work because they would form biased, emotional attachments to the old work which would lead to comparing and judging what was "better" instead of just listening to Hungry Lights as its own, new thing. It visibly frustrated him, but he continued onward as he passionately preached, which would leave a lot of his fans feeling empowered as they slowly began to let go and join him in his new era.
Around early September 2015, Justin introduced fans to his new main character "Prill." This new and improved version of Prill was a human fisherman who was in his mid twenties with gray hair. Justin wanted something more relate-able as a protagonist, and the concept of his new story involved a simple fisherman who thought his life was alright until his wife, Prite accidentally got pregnant. Determined to give his wife and unborn child a better life than he had, he goes out to seek a great fortune by deciding to hunt a dangerous, mythical sea-creature named Fothcrah. The quest would be the catalyst for Prill's downward spiral into madness that would be expanded and told through five albums/books.
Justin expressed that although he scrapped his old project, he did not erase everything. He was building a whole new world from the old, broken pieces of the previous world. He said that not everything about his old project was bad, mostly just the lyrics, album covers, and mixes. He said that the first album was going to be a bit slow since it was the beginning of a brand new tale, but that it would quickly pick up once more content was released. He seemed very focused on having a good story with a strong message and lovable characters. He still wanted the music to be more than just music... but this time, he did not so much want it to be an "escape," but an "awakening."
On October 9, 2015, via a video on YouTube, Justin announced the release date for his debut album "The Awry Ascent" along with a high-quality preview of the album. on October 15, 2015, Justin performed a very emotional, full album release stream that left a lot of fans in tears, and then finally... "The Awry Ascent" was released on Bandcamp. Soon after, it was also released via stream on YouTube and Soundcloud, then a few months later, it was uploaded to iTunes, Spotify and many other big music distribution sites.
The novelization of The Awry Ascent was slated to be released sometime in 2017... but as of November 2018, Justin said he is currently editing the eleventh draft, that the novel will be between 300-500 pages in length, and that it will give a much more detailed, third-person narrative of Prill's tale while also popping into some of the other characters' heads.
The Awry Ascent is Book 1 of the Hungry Lights story From Windfall To Hell.
Heavy Is The Crown Era Edit
Main Article: Heavy Is The Crown
On December 28, 2015, Justin announced that the title of his second album would be "Heavy Is The Crown, "and he released a track-list of the songs that would be featured on it. Soon after, he slowly began his return back to social media as he made a Facebook account under a fake name which eventually became, "Prill Tel'vallo" (the full of name of his fictional character). Justin released several pictures of himself dressed as Prill, and fans began drawing and creating fan-art of the character. It was awesome.
On January 12, 2016, Justin began to release the "vocal videos" for The Awry Ascent which were composed of him dressed as Prill doing real-time vocal performances over the instrumentals of each song. These videos, tutorials on how to play his songs on guitar, and the full albums were the only videos that Justin had chosen to leave up on his Hungry Lights channel at the time.
On February 1, 2016, it was revealed that Justin had won the "most creative entry" for another Jared Dines contest with his song titled, "Trespasser." It featured Justin singing in Jamaican patois, doing an acoustic guitar solo, and drumming, all while wearing a french maid dress and a wig. The video was uploaded to Jared's channel, and it allowed older fans who did not know Justin had returned to once again reunite with him and enjoy his new material.
On February 15, 2016, Justin created two new YouTube channels, "Hungry Covers" and "Hungry Demos." On Hungry Covers, he uploaded some of his old, full-band covers, then began releasing new ones. He expressed that he did not mind doing vocal covers as long as they were on a separate channel, that way his originals would not get buried under mountains of covers like last time. On Hungry Demos, he uploaded demo after demo of unreleased material from 2002-2014. After a few months, Justin again removed the 2013-2014 amnaeon demos from YouTube because fans were over-indulging in them. He said he would release them again once all of his Hungry Lights music had been completed, that way fans could not obsess over his old work and continue to ignore his new work, then he announced that he would officially be naming the Hungry Lights series "From Windfall To Hell."
During this era, instead of the typical basement stream, Justin would often stream from his room while he worked on his second album. He let the fans see how much effort went into each song as he showed himself programming the drums, the orchestra, various guitar parts, and eventually vocals. He however did not leave the streams uploaded, and if he did, he would remove them after a couple weeks. He said that the reason he did this was because he wanted the streams to be more special. He wanted to encourage people to be involved during the streams instead of just saying, "I can watch this later." If they missed it, they missed it.
Eventually, the big day came where Justin began streaming a live, basement performance of "The Awry Ascent," but in his full Prill attire. Much suspense took place at the end of the stream as everything went black, the last song faded out, silence took over, and then the intro to the much anticipated "Heavy Is The Crown" began to play. His fans went ballistic over the intro "Aphotic Currents 2," and seemed absolutely thrilled with the sequel. Just said that it would probably be released around the same time of year as "The Awry Ascent," and over the next couple months he continued to hype up the album through various streams.
At the end of October 2016, Justin announced that the first draft of the novelization of "The Awry Ascent" was completed, and he asked for serious volunteers who would be interested in reading it, helping with typos, plot-holes, and tying loose-ends. He did not give out much more information about it.
On November 15, 2016, Justin again started off a basement stream with The Awry Ascent, then went immediately into Heavy Is The Crown. He looked exhausted, and then towards the end of Heavy Is The Crown, one of his fans ungratefully insulted his performance by saying, "I can't wait for this shitty stream to be over so I can buy the album." While it was more of a backhanded compliment, Justin became very angry. He stopped the music and disappeared upstairs for quite a few minutes, leaving the fans to wonder what was going on. Eventually, he came back down and continued the performance, but with the lights off and with his back to the audience. He sounded extremely distraught, and during the final song, he destroyed the railing of his staircase with a baseball bat, finished the song, left without saying a word, then released the album on Bandcamp and YouTube. A few weeks later it was released on iTunes, Spotify, and all the other music distribution sites. He is very sensitive about his art :(
Heavy Is The Crown is Book 2 of the Hungry Lights story From Windfall To Hell.
Three Gods & Me Era Edit
Main Article: Three Gods & Me
So far, this era has been very different. Justin has only done two full acoustic streams of his third album, but they were both very "quiet." He announced the album would be titled, "Three Gods & Me," revealed the track-list, but has talked very little about it. Towards the end of 2016, Justin fully returned to social media with a new Facebook account using his real name, made a Twitter, and an Instagram account. Despite being more open and available on social media, he had chosen to work in the shadows. Every once in a while, he would drop an update on his progress with the album and the novel for "The Awry Ascent," but he was not letting the fans hear or see much.
In January 2017, Justin moved to a new apartment. He was very distraught about it at first because this meant the end of the basement streams, but it also meant he would not be able to sing/scream until he built a soundproof vocal booth. He tried to stream from his computer on one or two occasions, but he was visibly bummed out that he could not use his full vocal potential for fear of getting noise complaints. After many months, his vocal booth was finally completed, and with a window on one side so that he could put his webcam on the other, he decided to celebrate with a stream. Because of this new method, he was able to sing directly into his condenser mic while playing the music from his computer which allowed a much higher-quality experience than the past two years's basement streams.
On May 11, 2017, Justin began releasing the vocal videos for "Heavy Is The Crown". He chose a new angle, new lighting, and made several additions/revisions to Prill's wardrobe to make the character more interactive. As usual, fans showed a bit of hesitation at first, then eventually grew accustomed to the changes.
On December 29, 2017, Justin uploaded an announcement video revealing the release date for the new album to be released on New Years Eve. In addition to this, he included a short teaser for the tracks and revealed the track list.
Three Gods & Me is Book 3 of the Hungry Lights story From Windfall To Hell.
Mudoo Ra Era Edit
Main Article: Mudoo Ra
Many, many months even before the release of "Three Gods & Me," possibly before July 2017, Justin announced that the fourth Hungry Lights album would be named, "Mudoo Ra," but did not tell anybody what it meant, just that the setting would be on a tropical island. On July 15, 2018, Justin released an incomplete track list for the album revealing six working titles, but the rest were all still TBA. Aside from playing two acoustic versions in a stream back in January 2017, Justin has not really given any other info about this album yet.
January 5, 2018, Justin announced that he was officially the front-man for a Pennsylvania hardcore/nu metal band called "Tallah" which featured Max Portnoy (son of the legendary Mike Portnoy) on drums. Tallah played their first show on January 7, 2018, and since then has been playing a couple shows a month, toured the mid western U.S.A in May 2018, and toured the mid west, south, and north east in August 2018. In May, Tallah dropped a single titled, "Placenta" with a full music video which was received well by the fans, then they released a five track EP titled, "No One Should Read This" in August.
It would appear that Tallah has taken over the majority of Justin's time this year. In July 2018, he also announced that he had gotten a boyfriend named Quinton, so we can assume that Justin was probably prioritizing his relationship over working on anything involving "Mudoo Ra." In October 2018, Justin announced that he had dumped Quinton, and that while he would still try to get his book out this year, he sadly had zero plans to release the fourth Hungry Lights album in 2018.
Musical Style & Influences Edit
Justin Bonitz is known for blending multiple styles of music, and bringing in influence ranging from various types of progressive metal all the way to styles of hip-hop, alternative rock, folk music and more. Because of this, Justin does not believe in genre labels. While he understands the usefulness, he finds them limiting, and thinks that music should just be listened to and appreciated, rather than categorized and fought over.
"Putting a label on yourself is like creating walls of limitation, and as artists, we should not have any limitation whatsoever. When you label your sound, people expect that certain sound from you, and when people expect a certain sound, and you (the artist) does not deliver, they may be let down, and that is harmful to your growth as a struggling musician. Music should not be placed inside of a folder and categorized. It should be free." -Justin Bonitz
In an attempt to break free from the archaic barriers, and rebel against the human nature of labeling, Justin calls his Hungry Lights material "other," as he likes to experiment with a vast plethora of sounds from numerous cultures. This has become the Hungry Lights Sound.
On different occasions Justin has named several bands that have highly influenced his musical sound. Here are some of the bands/artists who continuously are brought up:
- Small The Joy/Fuel
- 3 Doors Down
- "Disney Villain Music"
- Days Of The New
- Fair To Midland
- The Mayan Factor
- Rise Against
- Tommy Lee Sparta
- Lamb Of God
- Edwin Mccain
- Breed 77
- Iron Maiden
- Tyler, The Creator
- Avenged Sevenfold
- All That Remains
He says that all of these bands/artists have songs that have struck a certain "sound" that he has spent years trying to replicate and refine. While his musical taste spans a very broad spectrum of genres, he is very picky about which specific songs he enjoys. It just has to have that "sound" which often his ideal mix of rock, metal, grunge, acoustic, and rap, that is often (but not always) backed by a powerful orchestrated soundtrack.