Jess and the Ancient Ones jolt with vintage horrors, psyche escapism on bewitching ‘Vertigo’

I haven’t harped on this one in a while, but we all realize it’s possible to play metal and heavy music and still maintain a vibe of fun and escapism, right? The whole metal genre used to be that way practically until everyone started taking things too seriously, but it’s definitely doable to inject your music with a spirit that isn’t looking to make you feel down.

Finnish psyche rock band Jess and the Ancient Ones have made a career of jettisoning listeners back decades and decades ago to when horror was mostly black and white and just as fun as it was scary. On their latest album “Vertigo,” their fourth overall and one that maintains some of the dark vibes first encountered on 2017’s “The Horse and Other Weird Tales.” The band—enigmatic vocalist Jess, guitarist Thomas Corpse, bassist Fast Jake, keyboardist/organist Abraham, drummer Yussuf—unleashes eight tracks that lather you occult tales, weird vibes, and magickal strangeness that’s infectious and drives you into the darkest region of your mind and the world itself. Jess is the star of the band, as she’s an alluring force, but Abraham really emerges as a force here as his work is the glue that holds it all together.

“Burning of the Velvet Fires” has a strong 1960s vibe that chills you right to your core, feeling spooky as the keys melt. The playing kicks up as the chorus gets under your skin, the organs swell, and catchy, smoky vibes get bigger and stranger as the track burns off. “World Paranormal” delivers driving keys and a cool tempo, feeling punchy and fun as hell. The tempo swings up and takes over with a simple chorus that’s easy to call back and Jess vowing, “We want to believe,” as the track rushes to an end. “Talking Board” simmers in properly witchy keys and hand claps as the playing mesmerizes. Guitars burn as Jess calls, “Spirit board, I live through you,” channeling otherworldly forces as deranged laughs chill, and strange guitar work cuts through and elevates your temperature. “Love Zombi” basks in murky synth and bluesy smoke that burst right into you. The tempo is exciting, the chorus is direct and infectious, and then the vibe shifts to deep darkness. The playing spirals in the shadows as Jess howls back the title, and the track burns off.

“Summer Tripping Man” is a sugary one and a quick burst as the keys push, and the playing is faster than what preceded it. Guitars drive as the vocals push hard, the keys hypnotize, and the track whips out of the room before you know what happened. “What’s on Your Mind” has breezier vocals that soar and another great chorus, which is no shock at all. The pace picks up the intensity as the synth gets lush, and the playing boils. “Is this the end?” Jess wonders as the keys mar, and the track slips off into the night.  “Born to Kill” is grittier and meaner as Jess jabs, “Swan song, baby, one more fucking time,” leading into a sticky chorus. The whole thing is sinister and dangerous, like a killer is behind you, with everything ending in an electronics surge. “Strange Earth Illusion” is the closer, running 11:35 and swimming in dark keys and plodding guitars. “All alone in this world of vertigo,” Jess calls as the atmosphere opens, and the keys pump. Things get punchier as the playing toys with you using a start/stop attack until everything washes into strange choral sections and trippy trickling. Warm guitars wash over, the singing digs deep and gets soulful, and everything disappears into the nearest void.

Jess and the Ancient Ones long have been a personal favorite, and “Vertigo” continues their run of strong records that feel like they’ve come here from another era and plane of existence. These songs are a blast of fun, full of strange evil and roaming darkness, getting inside you and converting you to their own spirit world. This record will fall right into the hearts of anyone who has followed this band and hopefully find even more converts along the way.

For more on the band, go here:

To buy the album, go here:

For more on the label, go here: