In the world of occult rock, which is a relatively small playground, there aren’t many names that are bigger than Jess And The Ancient Ones. Always unique, never anything less than astounding, and always completely ‘out there’. Well, they’re back!!! The new album Vertigo is released on May 21st, and it doesn’t disappoint, that’s for sure. Picking up from 2017s The Horse And Other Weird Tales, Vertigo sees them showing no signs of fatigue, or anything less than a completely kick ass romp, due to any unnamable viruses which have swept the world.
As for the band themselves, if you are already a fan, you will know just how extra ordinary they are, but to those of you who are unaware, Jess And The Ancient Ones have been exciting us since 2010, with their spellbinding brand of occult rock. Part psychedelic, part prog, and one hundred percent completely engaging. They slot very predominantly into a genre that also houses some other like-minded bands, who you may have heard of. Most notably are Mount Salem, Psychedelic Witchcraft, and Blood Ceremony, who share some common themes, and are similar on the grounds that they’re all female fronted, retro psychedelic entities. They all utilise the love of those rich 60s sounds which invoke all manner of a dark and deadly subject matter indeed.
For me though, its Finland’s Jess And The Ancient One’s who truly capture the spirit the best. I’ve been a fan for a good few years now, so getting the opportunity to review their latest release was a complete must. I’ve gone into this without any hesitation that it would be superb, and I’ve been rewarded with an experience that I can happily shout from the rooftops about. It everything, and more, from what I wanted.
Right from the opening bars of the albums first track, Burning Of The Velvet Fires, its instantly creepy. The 60s spook fest kicks off, with all of the trademark JATAO ingredients. The eclectic psychedelia is there in spades, and with its crazy synth wizardry, it’s absolutely other worldly. It’s like stepping back in time, but given a modern twist, to keep us grounded in the now. It feels like a somewhat spiritual experience, maybe even ritualistic. There’s some kind of psychedelic voodoo witchcraft going on here, its instantly infectious, so beware, it may well take your soul.
World Paranormal elevates the groundwork, and right from those hypnotic keys on the opening, there’s something really ‘Scooby Doo’ going on here. As always, Jess is completely spellbinding, and her singing here is sublime, it’s as infectious as it is accessible. I could happily spend all day listening to Jess sing, she’s an absolute phenomenon vocally. It’s not just Jess that stands out though, every part is played so expertly, that it really is a treasure to behold.
As much as it has a good time spooky feel to it, there’s also a dark intensity that can’t be ignored…
Track three, Talking Board comes gift wrapped with some ‘The Exorcist’ soundbites, and when you hear the name ‘Captain Howdy’, if that doesn’t give you shivers down your spine, there must be something wrong with you. Obviously, the subject matter for this one is Ouija Boards, but would you expect anything less from JATAO? Its super spooky, and I’m pretty sure this is the soundtrack that even Rob Zombie has when he sleeps at night. As much as it has a good time spooky feel to it, there’s also a dark intensity that can’t be ignored.
Love Zombi and Born To Kill both jump out at me. Love Zombi catches me for its horror sci-fi intro, and funky, 70s feel. That rumbling bass, and fast paced, vibrant tune, really steps things up a notch. Born To Kill offers something different too, and it’s the first time this emerges on Vertigo. The overdrive guitar fuzz, over high-octane drum and synth, really does something special indeed. Of course, Jess is there, and is on top form, at various points actively wailing like a banshee.
The biggest surprise for me, is album closer Strange Earth Illusion. Right from the opening bars, this is a more sultry, slow burner of a track. It oozes sensuality, and as Jess swaggers in, it’s an absolute joy to behold. Of course, this is JATAO, so it slowly introduces those trademark elements they do so well, and as it progresses, it becomes far darker. It builds and builds, into a vibrant overdrive, before dropping off, and as the final third kicks in, it’s replaced with a more ambient passage, and one final chance to show Jess in all her glory.
At no point is there a lull in this album, from start, right through to its finish, its one hundred percent engaging. The guitar work is incredible, the synths are as creepy as they are vibrant, and the backline is an absolute powerhouse. I can’t say anything beyond this album is sublime, and if you really want something that’s as unique and weird as it is heavy, then this is the album you need to hunt down the minute its released.
Scribed by: Lee Beamish