Author: Jan Jakobsen
Band: Jess and the Ancient Ones
Album: Second Psychedelic Coming: The Aquarius Tapes
Label: Svart Records
I remember when I first started getting into psychedelic and occult rock a couple of years back. I first checked out Ghost, The Devil’s Blood and Graveyard and I loved all of them. The next bands were Blood Ceremony, Hexvessel and Jess and the Ancient Ones. I fell in love with all of these bands because there was a both a highly interesting atmosphere about them and the music was also catchy. Jess and the Ancient Ones in particular caught my attention by using mostly the same formula as one of my favorite bands, The Devil’s Blood. I remember reading an interview with Selim Lemouchi of The Devil’s Blood about the time I was getting into them and he didn’t exactly hide his disapproval of them, solely because he thought Jess and the Ancient Ones basically stole their formula. I’m not going to argue with that because he is mostly correct. They both use female vocals that are in the front of the music, using hard-rock inspired riffs with an occult feel to it. The major difference is perhaps that Jess and the Ancient Ones has a bigger focus on the psychedelic element and this is especially easy to notice on the newest addition to their discography, Second Psychedelic Coming: The Aquarius Tapes.
On this new album though, more of the hard-rock elements have passed away with more focus on adding other elements in the mix. There are more blues, jazz and folk influences on this full-length than I’ve ever heard from the Finnish psych-mix. Fear not though, there are still some hard-rock bangers on here, especially the opening track Samhain and Wolves in my Head. Both featuring a more aggressive style of guitar play compared to the rest of the album and I’d say they are more rooted in post-punk than hard-rock.
The highpoint of the album is by far and away the last track though. Goodbye to Virgin Grounds Forever is a 22-minute-long epic and is the type of track that every psychedelic or progressive band dreams of writing. Within these 22 minutes we get all the ingredients needed for a psychedelic masterpiece. Soul-filled vocals, Pink Floyd-esque guitar slicks, flutes that enhance the sound and atmosphere drastically and last but not least groove laden drum work. In addition to all of these fantastic ingredients, Jess and the Ancient Ones manages to shift the sound of the track around quite a few times making it a truly hypnotic experience. I can’t quite decide if it’s a shame that the last track basically captures all of my attention in an hour long album, but the track is just that much better than the rest of the album and that’s not taking anything away from the first 8 tracks of the LP. My hype-meter was already running pretty high when they released the first single In Levitating Secret Dreams and on my first play through it stayed on about the same level until I reached the final stage, Goodbye to Virgin Grounds Forever. And it truly feels like a final stage before entering a heaven filled with LSD and mushrooms.
I’m actually really struggling to give a rating to this. On one hand I absolutely adore it, on the other I can’t help but feel a bit let down compared to their debut which stands as one of my all-time favorite albums within the genre. If you feel a bit bored throughout the first couple of tracks I understand it, but I urge you to follow through just so you get the full psychedelic experience.
- Jan Jakobsen