All things old become new again.

—Harley King

The above statement holds much truth for metal. Our beloved musical genre is ever-obsessed with looking backward for inspiration1. We’ve been battered by rethrash since the early aughts, and the whole trve metal thing is an invasive, difficult to eradicate species. Death metal is now (always) looking back to its primordial roots, and basements across the world have countless Vardans, cranking out lo-fi black metal with unquenchable Transilvanian hunger. The “occult rock” phenomenon is yet another time capsule blasting backward to poach the treasures of the distant past. Avatarium went from retro doom to 60s rock in the span of 3 albums, and over their own 3 album run, Jess and the Ancient Ones took the yellow submarine from occult 70s rock/metal to what they’ve become on The Horse and Other Weird Tales – tripped out 60s hippie rock with nary a metal influence to be found. A shorter trip to be sure, but no less regressive, The Horse is loaded with nods to The Doors and Jefferson Airplane, but manages to retain much of the band’s off-kilter personality. But does the lava lamp still burn?

Thankfully, it does. Despite a more permanent relocation to the era of flower power, cults and free love, Jess and the Ancient Ones still deliver high-octane music with plenty of weird quirks and enigmatic charm. Opener “Death is the Doors” is an amusingly titled number loaded as it is with nods to The Doors and their organ-cetric style. Imagine that classic band at their peak with Janis Joplin replacing Jim Morrison and you should get an idea of what to expect. Cuts like “Shining” and “Your Exploding Heads” rock hard but stay safely within the confines of the 60s sound. The writing is tight yet adventurous, with short 2-3 minute songs, but music running all over the place in the allotted time.

The Horse has 2 longer tracks where the band gets to explore their psychedelic ideations more fully. “You and Eyes” delivers a codswallop of emotion and power courtesy of a knockout performance from Jess. She takes us from smoky, sultry cabaret singing to unhinged, Janis Joplin on acid and Red Bull outbursts, blowing listener’s minds and showcasing the band’s playful inventiveness. Add some outstanding keyboards and beautiful guitar-work and you have a real doozy of a tune. 8-minute album closer “Anyway the Minds Flow” is a more edgy, volatile ride, with constantly shifting moods and emotions, but it works, benefiting from the uneasy marriage of melody and lunacy. This is Sybil-core and it definitely keeps one on their toes.

Downsides? Though there isn’t a weak track present, some of the songs are too brief, amounting to mere interludes. Also, the prevalent and oddball samples can become a distraction. Considering the album’s 35 minute length, time is of the essence and the extraneous fluff takes up space better left for the music. Sound-wise the biggest issue is the over-prominence of the keyboards in the mix. Though things are generally well balanced, Keys tend to dwarf and drown out the guitar when the music get busy.

As with the previous albums, Jess and her rich, diverse vocals are the main attraction. The lady can belt and belt she does. She manages to sound plausibly stuck in the 60s, but the sheer power of her voice sometimes elevates the music back toward modern day metal aesthetics. After Jess comes the flood (of keyboards). The keys often function in the “lead guitar” role and there are a lot of organ noodles and fills here. At times this can become too much of a good thing. Sole guitarist, Thomas Corpse is an understated team player, but he has a knack for nuanced and interesting grooves and leads, playing off the keys with lively riff patterns. His solo-work can be quite emotive, and I wish there was more opportunities for him to cut loose.

The Horse and Other Weird Tales isn’t quite as wondrous as Second Psychedelic Coming, and it’s definitely more lost in the past than ever, but the band retains their unique charm, vibrancy and writing chops. If you enjoy what Avatarium is currently doing, you’ll likely enjoy this as well. The 60s may not be coming back, but if that’s where you left your heart, mind or wallet, Jess and the Ancient Ones will be there to help you find them. Come for the rock, stay for the white rabbit.


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 10 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Svart Records
Websites: jessandtheancientones.bandcamp.comfacebook.com/jessandtheancientones
Releases Worldwide: December 1st, 2017

Show 1 footnote

  1. Or as Doc Fisting once colorfully described it, “crawling up its own ass.”
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  • Vega Magnus

    Thirty-five minutes? Damn modern bands and their bloated digitally distributed records. Editing, dammit!

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      Strangely enough for a 35 minutes recording, one of Steel Druhm’s main complaints was that there was too much fluff to be cut.

  • Brutalist_Receptacle

    HEH. “ORGAN CENTRIC.” HEH.

  • Nukenado

    It’s absolutely criminal that there are no new age religions available as JatAO merch.

    • basenjibrian

      Like The Pricess Church (Sabbath Assembly).

      • Nukenado

        Yep.

        • basenjibrian

          I love S.A. i even think the wacky theology makes more sense than Christianity. Lol

          • Nukenado

            The theology is based off Christianity though.

          • basenjibrian

            Of course. Many of the weirder cults and sects are! :) Except Scientology. Xenu is pretty out there.

  • The Akerstache

    I was going to make a vague insult about how much this poseur shit blows and how this site has abandoned it’s trveness completely, but dammit this is really good. I can’t believe you, making me listen to some disgusting non-metal, and like it! How can I be trve now, when Angry Metal Guy is doing their best to make me enjoy other music too?

    • Poser!

    • I know you comment is a joke but to be trve you must appreciate all music, as long as it is good. Then, it is trve in its heart.

      • Javier Merino Ortiz

        Posers leave the hall

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    Kronos’ Law of Increasing Hippietude strikes again!

    • Nukenado

      The question is, how much more hippie can one go?

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        You have to take it one day at a time. One day without taking a shower at a time, that is. But you can’t over do it because you risk turning from hippie to hobo.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    Janis Joplin on acid? Wasn’t she on acid already?

  • Javier McDrifter

    “If you enjoy what Avatarium is currently doing…”

    * Door shuts *

    • Nukenado

      This is way more energetic than Avatarium’s current work.
      It’s more in the vein of “The Starless Sleep” and a bit of goth rock and Sigh added for good measure.

  • Yolo Swaggins

    Extremely unrelated; but since the month of the holidays is fast approaching; I’d suggest you check out thenightyouleft’s “A Death Metal Christmas” on bandcamp. It’s a pretty entertaining listen from start to finish (at only 7 minutes!). Alternatively; it’s on YouTube on Kmac2021’s YouTube channel (he’s the artist). Honestly the most entertaining Christmas music I’ve heard in years.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      A Death Metal Christmas? Isn’t that what Deicide is for?

  • Eli Valcik

    Eli approves

  • Alex Jackson

    Too long, too short – GODDAMMIT DRUHM WHAT DO YOU WANT???

  • Riddler Green

    You made a little typo around the end of the last paragraph, where you say “but if that’s where you left you heart, mind or wallet” probably meaning ‘your’ instead of ‘you’.

    Awesome review as always.

  • Thatguy

    Meh.

    • Panagiotis Krokidas

      My man.

      Meh**2

  • I dislike Avatarium, but love this. Second Psychedelic Coming was and is brilliant and got better the more I listened to it. The embedded track is great.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    I’m up for another ride in the Finnish mystery van. Nice review mr Druhm though I would say these guys hit different buttons than Avatarium. I’m also pleased that their hitting those buttons for only 35 minutes. I wish more bands would put out tighter albums.

  • The Unicorn

    Wow. How did this band slip by my sensors? This, and their back catalogue – are fucking KILLER. Thank you Steely!

    • My pleasure, pink unicorn guy.

    • Norpal Nordickson

      “More than Living” from their EP Astral Sabbat is pretty much one of the best songs ever written.

  • First of all, great us of “codswallop”. I think that’s the first time I’ve seen that in a review.

    The embedded track has me on my third time through. It’s almost too brief but I guess in this age of short attention spans that’s not a problem. For me, personally, I never have been bothered by obnoxiously long tracks even when they become repetitive. However, I definitely understand criticism of such song writing.

    I don’t dislike the mix at all but I’ve only heard the one song. On my speakers, the guitars, bass and keys are all almost identical in volume (the guitars seem to be panned in the left speaker and keys in the left with the bass in the center) and I love it. This is what I want more of! It’s why I liked the mix of “Infestissumam” so much even if the master made it too fucking loud (it’s also what pisses me off about that album, the mix is exactly what I want and the mastering is shit, WTF assholes!)

    FINALLY, how about the wah wah on the bass at 1:23 in the song? Fucking bad ass.

    I will definitely be throwing money at this band. Thank you Steel for introducing me to this!

    • Mephisto

      You bother to make obnoxiously long comments…😉 (Hope this doesn’t fall in the ‘being a dick’ category…)

      • I guess it depends if you’re trying to be a dick, which the wink would imply you are not.

        I think I more often write a simple short and/or goofy comment, mocking a band photo, cringing over a vocal performance, or (and this one is probably the most common) lamenting the absence of bass. However, if I am compelled to do so, I will write more. Additionally, I don’t think 13 sentences should be considered obnoxiously long. If it is, then that really points to humanities far too short attention spans.

  • As an aside, it’s interesting that [I think] the guitarist is the member whose face is obscured in the band photo.

  • Ralph Plug

    Ooh, there’s a new album out? Managed to miss the news, thanks! Quite enjoyed the first two records by this band.

  • Death

    Why are you reviewing non-metal bands?

    • Norpal Nordickson

      It’s Angry Metal Guy, not Angry Metal Reviews

  • lennymccall

    I’m a huge fan of this band and was excited for this release. The first single really underwhelmed me tho. Have to wait and hear some more to get a better handle on this one.

  • Innit Bartender

    Groovy! I need more of this.

  • Panagiotis Krokidas

    What am I suppose to do this? I mean, it’s cute music. It is… funny and archaic.

    Is this music being reviewed because 70s obsession is a trend in metal circles the last years? Does any from the metal community really spin this music and like it? Are people outside metal circles -the people who should actually listen to this- listening to this? Why 70’s obsessed indie-rockers have they own codes separating them from 70s metallers, rockers, popsters?

    So many questions. Only one answer is true and relevant: this is not metal!

    P.S. In a another note: stylistically is nice and warm sounding. But composition-wise, nothing grasped my attention up to 5th song, so I stopped it.