I first discovered Finnish psychedelic rock band, Jess and the Ancient Ones when I heard their psychedelic doom drenched cover of the song “Long and Lonesome Road” by Shocking Blue. The heavy riffs that they added and the faster tempo brought a contemporary feel to the song from 1968. Upon hearing their original track “Astral Sabbat” I was hooked on their dark, thundering sound. On their third and most recent album, ‘The Horse and Other Weird Tales‘, due for release on December 1st, pounding organs, wailing vocals, and ominous audio clips lead the way into a mythological world…The sound is reminiscent of 1960’s surf rock and 70’s occult doom, coupled with lead singer Jess’s powerful voice, the album transports you along a psychedelic voyage full of suspense and thrills.
The story begins with the track “Death Is The Doors” which opens with a sinister sound, comparable to the music in black and white horror films. The song begins softly with creeping guitar and vintage audio clips of a man’s voice bearing warnings about drugs, and quickly progresses into a thrilling ascension of rhythmic groove rock. The song continues to build, centered on the steady beat of the guitar and organ, catapulting to the end with dramatic finish. Stand out track on the album, “You and Eyes”, is an amazing song, the kind that gets stuck in your head almost immediately. The seven minutes of the song race by as the listener is thrown into a world of dark imagery where the music begins to race faster in a whirlpool of sounds and emotion. Jess’s vocals are akin to Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane as the music builds to match her tempo. The pounding organs, steady drums, and wild guitar riffs bear a similar sound to Deep Purple, and everything about this album would have fit right in during the height of the underground 70’s rock and metal scene.
“Radio Aquarius” begins with recordings of a discussion on lysergic acid. Jess’s ethereal voice melds seamlessly into the music as she hums and moans over the recordings. There are no lyrics, but they are not missed in this ghostly song. It would be best listened to in a dark room, on a rainy day, with a candle burning. The side effects of acid are discussed; beautiful color, waves, strange hallucinations. Swelling organ music rises against the backdrop of these tales, and it’s hazy, scary, and beautiful.
Song number six, “Return to Hallucinate”, is a grooving, head pounding, rock song. The story opens with audio recordings speaking of reality, illusions, and fear of the world around us. A synthesizer intonates the darkness and suspense of this voyage. As the recordings fade away the music begins to pick up momentum. Jess’s silky voice weaves a tale of a dream world. Hallucinations prevail as reality proves to be abysmal. This song is succinct in delivering both catchy rhythm and thought provoking lyrics.
On “Minotaure”, Jess takes no prisoners as she shrieks against racing organ riffs and thrashing drums. Centered on the mythological beast, the intro features snarling and gruff breath against a backdrop of slowly building guitar. The song quickly shifts, becoming heavy and fast paced. Jess’s vocals continue to build against the heavy, racing music, before crashing swiftly to the end.
The final song “Anyway The Minds Flow”, references J.D. Salinger’s, ‘The Catcher In the Rye’, and includes audio recordings of Mark Chapman, the man who murdered the late Beatle, John Lennon. Mark Chapman has gone on the record stating that ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ inspired him to kill Lennon. Chapman believed Lennon to be a “phony”, with the song “Imagine” having the line about having no possessions while he himself was a wealthy man. This is a complex subject because John Lennon came from a very meager and humble background in a poor part of Liverpool, England, and as a self-made man he understood the fight to better oneself. John Lennon had also been quoted as saying that he supported peace and love because it was something he strived for, not something that was inherent. “Anyway The Minds Flow” discusses the parallels between reality and what is assumed, and the fine line between the truth and misinterpretation. The song is a heavy trip, with the standout lyric being “Filter your mind”…
As a whole, ‘The Horse and Other Weird Tales’, feels cohesive, each song relating to the next, and seems almost conceptual. Similar in this sense to Pink Floyd’s album ‘The Wall‘. The underlying themes seem to be about perception, reality, psychedelic and psychotic imagery, and what it all means and where it ties together. We are all searching for answers, and as musicians and artists, Jess and the Ancient Ones have created a provocative album that is sure to enthrall the listener.
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