It is hard to be anything other than impressed by the debut self titled album from Finnish occult rock band Jess And The Ancient Ones. It is an album of immense depth, melodic splendour, and captivating majesty. Though not a release that had an immediate infection it slowly wrapped its skilled and evocative arms around the senses to bring a deep and lingering satisfaction and warmth, whilst its darkened atmospheres and emotive climes enveloped thoughts and emotions fully. It may have taken a couple of focused exposures to be convinced initially but the persuasion was absolute and the reward immense.
Formed in 2010 by guitarists Thomas Corpse and Thomas Fiend, the band was born with the instinct and intent to explore magical realms beyond the mundane. Completed instrumentally by third guitarist Von Stroh, bassist Fast Jake, drummer Yussuf, and Abraham on keyboards, the band take inspirations from the likes of Mercyful Fate, Roky Erickson, Iron Maiden and Abba to infuse their psychedelic rock/metal sounds for fullest effect. As powerful as their sounds are it finds a distinct elevation with the stunning vocals of Jess, her presence and voice stirring up already highly charged sounds with a sure and skilled breath. With lyrics drawn from personal occult experiences of the writers, the septet from Kuopio took no time in making a name and mark for themselves with the band being signed up by Svart Records in 2011. Their debut single 13th Breath of the Zodiac was released that October and sold out quickly with anticipation for a full length offering rising eagerly.
Prayer for Death and Fire is the first conjuration to explore and incite the ear, a superbly crafted composition with smouldering melodies from the keys and guitars surrounded by riffs and rhythms to draw out the deepest lying primal energy. Within a couple of minutes of the song Jess and the bass of Fast Jake steal attention away from the other corners of the song, his riffs rumbling and scowling with a bestial growl whilst Jess from a slow opening soars the landscape of the song with power and elegance.
A strong opening immediately surpassed by the following Twilight Witchcraft. With a psychedelic folk resonance to the creative weave the track is a playful yet sinister tease upon the senses. With a Wickerman feel to it, fanciful warm sounds in flight with a venomous purpose behind their rapture, the song is a masterful dark mistress with siren tendrils wrapping firmly around the body though the excellent guitar artistry and invention pervading every second of the song.
Though only consisting of seven songs the album is vast in mass and atmosphere. Each track has an epic element to them and none more so than the twelve minute Sulfur Giants (Red King). Though the song did not capture the imagination as much as the previous two it is impossible not to be enamoured with the unpredictable expanse of the song and its emotive energy. It also did not feel anywhere near its actual length, a sure sign of the enjoyment involved.
Ghost Riders canters in next, the irresistible grumbling bass groan and flitting guitar melodies making contrasting but obvious companions. There is a familiarity to the track though without a defined source which makes it easy to fall fully into. It also carries an eagerness which is impossible to resist, every element of the song a persuasive pleasure. The keys at times surprisingly reminded of The Stranglers with the near barracuda sound of the bass certainly added an extra depth to the comparison.
The album closing on the trio of 13th Breath of the Zodiac, Devil (in G minor), and Come Crimson Death. The first is an enjoyable pacing across the senses with male vocals making a more substantial companion to Jess than elsewhere, whilst the middle one of the three is a wonderful piano led creature, with a bustling jazzy swagger to it. It is an excellent track that shows the full strength and skill of the band in ability, songwriting, and diverse thought. The final twelve minute gem from its haunting start is a vibrant blend of harmonics, caressing melodies, and provocative imagery, a fitting end to a completely impressive album.
Jess and the Ancient Ones, band and release are musical alchemy at its height and a deeply pleasing pleasure to fall within. Released on CD and vinyl this is one devilment to eagerly lay down before and worship.