Playing catch-up is something this site tries to avoid at all costs, but sometimes it’s necessary. Or at least it’s just what happens. But I think there’s something to at least being on record with something even if it seems like you’re super late with getting up to speed. I am over-explaining.
Anyway, today’s story has a dual purpose. For one, it’s to shed more light on a really awesome band that certainly defies the parameters of metal and, as a result, comes up with something awesome that could find audiences beyond the extreme listeners. Second, it’s to get to work covering releases from Svart Records, who we haven’t touched upon yet but, with an infusion of new releases from them in my inbox (all of which are quite varied and really engaging in their own right), they’re definitely going to be a part of the mix going forward.
So, even though I’m a few months behind on this, let’s talk about the incredible new self-titled album by Jess and the Ancient Ones, a Finnish occult rock band that might find favor with fans of groups such as Jex Thoth, Blood Ceremony, and The Devil’s Blood. There are seven people behind this majestic rock, and every moment of this record oozes with charisma and energy. It’s like a glorious ’70s cult doom record rose from the ashes, reinvented itself, and picked up enough modern traits to make an impact in 2012. And holy shit, Jess. Her pipes are killer, sometimes raspy, always emotive and soaring, and she immediately catapulted toward the top of my list of favorite modern-day vocalists. She just kills everything on this record, and her singing should be deemed a metallic treasure.
The album has the spooky inspiration of having been crafted by various occult experiences the band members have gone through, and from the sounds of things here, they were profoundly impacted by their experiences. Sometimes bands of this ilk can lay it on a little thick with this stuff, damn near reaching the level of self-parody, but Jess and the Ancient Ones never do that. They always come off as serious and solemn, even when they’re smashing the side of your head with rock so delicious, you’ll want to gorge yourself on their offerings. And hey, go for it. No calories, kids.
I did say rock and not metal. There certainly will be an appeal for some metal fans, especially if you’re into the more adventurous, melodic sides of Mercyful Fate, King Diamond, and Iron Maiden (not vocally, as Jess keeps her voice more down to earth than in the stratosphere), but people who need things all brutal all the time will be lost. That’s their fault for being so closed-minded. Does it help that this band recorded in the same studio that produced some of Watain’s music?
“Prayer for Death and Fire” greets listeners with its smoky organs, muscular riffs, and Jess’ driving voice, pushing the song a little bit toward blues territory. “Twilight Witchcraft” has a psychedelic feel and some really strong guitar work, and Jess makes references to “an angel by my side.” Up next is the record’s centerpiece and, in my opinion, the most impressive song on the collection. “Sulfur Giants” is an epic, starting gently with pianos and mysticism, but then the song blows open, with NWOBHM fire, incredible energy, and Jess’ most powerful hooks on the entire album. When she cries, “Oh, I wish I’d never been born,” you genuinely feel her sorrow and frustration. “Ghost Riders” brings things back to a more traditional setting, with sun-drenched guitars, cool keys, and a doom/prog rock pace that drives you through the whole cut. “13th Breath of the Zodiac” is truly witchy and melodic, and it could be a radio hit if it got some airplay, while “The Devil (in G-minor)” is a total curveball. The song has Western American style, like it was dreamt up after a bar fight, and at times they resemble the band Murder By Death. It all wraps with the second epic “Come Crimson Death,” an amazing, huge power ballad that wrings every last drop of their souls on the ground, with heart-wrenching vocals, a kitchen-sink assault of everything the band does well, and melodies that just stick to you. It’s a fantastic finish to a startling album.
Jess and the Ancient Ones may just seem like the latest addition to the current wave of occult-friendly bands, but they’re so much more than that. They transcend the darkness and creepiness the other bands boast with a charm and accessibility the other groups don’t have in this amount. This is a highly recommended album, one you may find yourself having a tough time putting back on the shelf.
For more on the band, go here: http://www.jessandtheancientones.com/
To buy the album, go here: http://www.svartrecords.com/shoppe/
For more on the label, go here: http://www.svartrecords.com/