Album Review: Jess and the Ancient Ones – “Second Psychedelic Coming: the Aquarius Tapes”

Jess and the Ancient Ones - Second Psychedelic Coming the Aquarius Tapes

On Second Psychedelic Coming: the Aquarius Tapes, Jess and the Ancient Ones evolves their sound from a traditional metal blend to occultflavored acid rock. There are touches of surf, blues, acoustic and even jam band influences, but it’s the way the band combines these influences that makes this album so much more than simply retro. Sure, it sounds as though it came from an alternate-universe’s summer of love where cults and evil ruled the headlines, but rest assured: there’s enough of a gypsy spirit to keep things lighthearted.

The band’s self-titled debut was an excellently conceived throwback to the NWOBHM movement, but their subsequent output started the transformation to psychedelia that hits its peak on this second full length. The new album’s opener, “Samhain,” recalls their earlier single, “Castaneda,” with surf rock-esque levels of reverb and a catchy, soulful performance from vocalist Jess. Within minutes, it’s clear the shift in musical direction was the right move for the band. It seems they were destined for this particular sound.

But Second Psychedelic Coming is still the band’s first album to showcase this new direction, so experimentation remains a noticeable component of the final product. After a slew of acid drenched tracks, we suddenly happen upon the desert rock of “In Levitating Secret Dreams.” The spaghetti western patterns and warm, yet crunchy percussion conjure up images of wild west gunfight scenes. This trip outside the boundaries is what keeps a song like this and the album as a whole — sounding fresh and exciting from the first spin to the tenth.

The fantastic production is hard to miss. It’s crisp, yet has just enough background noise to sound as though it was recorded in analog, allowing the occasional hiss or pop. Whether intentional or not, this gives the album an age far beyond its years. Jess’ smoky, powerful vocals back this up, carrying immense weight with each note. The best example of this is the epic, 22-minute closer, “Goodbye to Virgin Grounds Forever.” Jess pushes her vocals to their absolute limits, delivering hushed passages and belted, multi-note runs alike with passion and immense power. Epic length songs can make or break an album but this one offers plenty of surprises and manages to never go stale.

Second Psychedelic Coming takes old ideas, makes them new again, and simply owns them — affirming Jess and the Ancient Ones’ ability to stand out from the retro crowd. The album greatly rewards multiple spins, and satisfies throughout each and every one. This is truly an outstanding album full of adventurous songwriting that simply cannot be missed. 

-Josh


Second Psychedelic Coming: the Aquarius Tapes will be available December 11 on Svart Records. For more information on Jess and the Ancient Ones visit their Facebook page.


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