I am a huge believer in the power of therapy or finding an outlet to release some aggression or pent-up frustration, as long as it’s in a helpful, positive setting. We can’t be expected to handle everything perfectly all the time, so finding something productive to address that madness can go a long way toward keeping up and our endeavors healthy.
For Thomas Corpse, guitarist and songwriter for Jess and the Ancient Ones, his form of dealing with frustrations with his main band was to create another outlet The Exploding Eyes Orchestra for him to sink in the creativity welling up inside of him. And wouldn’t you know it, he invited his JATAO members to play in his new project, which resulted in 14 songs broken up over two really good, really different records. The second portion “II” is about to land in our hands, and it’s another killer collection, with the band not veering too far from their normal path in JATAO but doing so a little less flamboyantly and sounding a little more grounded. This is decidedly NOT a JATAO record, even if the band members sound familiar (especially singer Jess, who has some of the most powerful pipes in all heavy music), as they explore other aspects of their strange personalities.
“Those of Us Left” opens with feedback and synth waves before keys blip, and a solemn dose of rock is unleashed. Jess’ singing is a little raspier and deeper, and she commands on the chorus, calling, “Never let the white boat sail.” The track gets moodier, as sax streams in, and then it just fades away. “Belladonna” is tremendous, as it pushes into the shadows with dark organs and Jess wondering, “Are you the one that dies with me?” The chorus is swelling and hearty, and it’s buried in a bed of organs. “Harmain” has a sea chanty feel as mandolin is plucked, and Jess sings in another language. The track is folkish with beautiful orchestration, and it dissolves into the air on the waves of clean guitar lines. “The Things You Do” unleashes keys, with a faster groove, horns pumping, and the band getting about as close to JATAO terrain as they do on either volumes. “You will never leave here, you can never turn back,” Jess warns amid fiery play and a raucous finish.
“The Birch and the Sparrow” washes in, feeling sorrowful, as Jess sings, “I lost my way somehow.” The pain is palpable and builds along with the song, as the ballad puts a stranglehold on your emotions, swelling later when Jess vows, “I’ll fly to you when this night is through.” “Go Go Johnny Do” sounds like it might be upbeat from its title, but it’s a dark, warm rocker about violence and revenge. “Come on, kill them all, let the bullets rain,” Jess commands, as she’s backed by jangly guitars and a noirish atmosphere that’s intoxicating. “Love Eternal” draws the record closed, a 10:16 epic that stirs with strings and keys, as an angelic haze is created that hangs over the entire song. The track is dream-inducing and numbing, as Jess’ words sink into your bloodstream, and the song rests in the clouds, soaring and washing away.
So, this is the end of the road for The Exploding Eyes Orchestra as JATAO powers on into the future, the total focus of Corpse and his fellow bandmates. That’s great to hear, as they’re an absolute favorite of mine, but I’m also a little sad to see this band go. “II” is a great parting gift, a powerful, charming collection of psychedelic heaviness that grows on you every time you go for a journey within it.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/The-Exploding-Eyes-Orchestra-1375153479399278/
To buy the album, go here: https://www.svartrecords.com/shop/
For more on the label, go here: https://www.svartrecords.com/