PICK OF THE WEEK: Psyche cultists Jess & the Ancient Ones embrace death’s arrival with ‘The Horse…’

Photo by Jarkko Pietarinen

Death is a dark, foreboding thing, the greatest of most of our fears, the portal into the unknown. No one knows what happens once we close our eyes for good, be that an immersion into a new plane of existence or just eternal nothingness. It’s grim, and it’s scary as hell.

Yet, for Jess and the Ancient Ones, death can sound so freeing and joyous. Never has that been more apparent than on their third full-length effort “The Horse and Other Weird Tales,” their second-consecutive record to drop right before the end of a year. On this nine-track, 35-minute new opus, the band gloriously and lavishly celebrates death in its many forms. From seeing it as a way to enter a new realm to exploring some of the Earth’s most captivating killers, the band finds a way to use its revival-style psychedelics sound to lather your mind with thoughts of the end but also invite you to think of it as a release, a way to live again in the beyond. The band—vocalist Jess, guitarist and primary songwriter Thomas Corpse, bassist Fast Jake, drummer Jussuf, and keys/organ player Abraham—sweeps you up in their colorful world, and while most artists who revel in this subject inundate you with brutality, Jess and the Ancient Ones would rather lather you in melody and alluring darkness, hoping to bring you into the arms of the cult.

“Death is the Doors” opens the record with weird organs pulsating and the always-engaging Jess calling, “Death, please come to us.” The psyche wash heads into spirited claps and a weird doom groove as the song fades away. “Shining” sounds like total hippie stuff, in the best possible way, as Jess warns, “She burns for you.” All elements swirl, as the guitars go on a soul journey, and the calls of death intertwined with love give the song a rushing finish. “Your Exploding Heads,” from its title, seems like it would be Cannibal Corpse levels of gory. Instead, it’s insanely catchy as it runs into trippy rock, driving, burly basslines, and a simple chorus designed for lusty callbacks live. “You and Eyes” runs a little over seven minutes, and the first section is a ballad, with keys fluttering, and Jess digging deep into her heart. We’re then off into sunbursts and fog, with Jess wailing, “Have my body! Have my soul!” The song later sinks into synth sweeps and steam, as the words of British philosopher Alan Watts work their way into your brain. The back end brings a group celebration before rounding to the slower, tender parts that introduced the song.

“Radio Aquarius” is a quick instrumental interlude that resets the pace and takes us into “Return to Hallucinate” where the synth sounds like it originated in outer space, and Jess admits, “I never cared for reality, I just want to fly.” The guitars blaze and send smoke, while the massive chorus fills your bones with dark energy. “(Here Comes) the Rainbow Mouth” is a pretty weird one, as the up-tempo playing and the jagged guitars set the stage for the drama and Jess declaring, “She is the rainbow mouth!” The track trances out, while the chorus bends back again, and we’re turned to ash by the fiery end. “Minotaure” begins with snorts and a great beast stamping before delirious keyboards, buzzing bass, and melodies create a tidal wave. Jess sings of the woes of the creature as the band delivers blistering keys and a rollicking path. Closer “Anyway the Minds Flow” centers on John Lennon’s killer Mark David Chapman and his intertwining life that was wrapped up in J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye.” Quotes about him and Chapman’s voice itself flow through this 7:57 song about the troublesome man, as the song feels like a psychedelic dream at times, with Jess howling over the madness,  organs and harpsicord mixing together, and the track feeling pained and ominous simultaneously, bringing the record to a mystifying end.

Jess and the Ancient Ones are more on the outer edges of metal, but they’ve always had a huge place in our hearts, no matter what they create. “The Horse and Other Weird Tales” is another enchanting chapter from this band that was only hand-picked by King Diamond to support his U.S. tour a few years back. This band will take you to dark corners you previously dreaded and leave you feeling renewed, revitalized, and even hungry for your worst fears to come true.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/jessandtheancientones/

To buy the album, go here: https://www.svartrecords.com/shop/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.svartrecords.com/

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