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When their self-titled debut came out five years ago, Jex Thoth were but a blip on the musical radar of all but few, despite that record being a slow-burning, deeply beautiful piece of art that continues to enthrall to today. Now, with the release of "Blood Moon Rise" the Wisconsin act should deservedly make more waves with their contemplative and frightfully authentic take on the psychedelic doom rock template that has been winning myself and many others over in recent times.
In Ms. Jessica Thoth, this eponymous act has a vocalist who is quite simply better than all the competition out there. Her enchanting, delicate tones are soaked in mystery and aura and generate astounding depth atop a musical landscape of intelligently constructed Sabbath-ian blues vibes and fuzzy distortion. In many ways the fabric of this piece is as crushing as the likes of Pallbearer, as droning riffs of enormous vivacity meet like converging tectonic plates yet they resonate with the fragility of crystal glass in a warm analogue production that is as spell-binding as any of your legendary bands created in the days before ProTools ruined everything. Take "Into A Sleep" as but an example - gentle lead guitars wail over a saddened organ and jazzy drum rhythms while Thoth sings of lost experiences - it sounds as if it could float on water while being anchored at the waist with seismic doom. In "Keep Your Weeds" Thoth's layered vocals sing passionately, while the main guitar rhythm floats alongside via a heavily reverberating tone and the organ slowly brushes a coating of Pink Floyd-ian atmosphere across all.
A significant droning influence is foretold in "Ehjä" and in moments elsewhere - traditionally doom in tempo yet comprised of long, bass-driven drawn-out riffs and organ chords, these patterns give freedom to Thoth to weave her inimitable signature into the piece. "The Four Of Us Are Dying" disappears too quickly for my liking - just as it feels the song is reaching a crescendo it is over, leading into the stirring cello opening to "Psyar" and its fluctuating rhythm n' blues lead guitar work, perhaps the only flashy moment in a despondent record but done with such skill it finishes the album on a positive tone.
The depth of these tracks is so mesmerising that it seems as if every one is twice as long as it really is; the album's closure brings a chance to reflect on hymns that feel as if a stately cathedral is needed to house them. It does wallow in its leaden weight atmosphere more than the perkier self-titled debut, but "Blood Moon Rise" is a stunning achievement of true artistic ambition that is beyond the scope of what most other bands could even dream of. This deserves great critical acclaim but I get the feeling that is of no interest to Jex Thoth - this is too personal a record for such matters to be of great importance.
Originally written for www.Rockfreaks.net
Some time ago, a bit after Jex Thoth's self-titled album was released, I was complaining to a friend that doom metal bands with female vocalists suck - well, you guessed right - that was before I actually heard Jex Thoth's actual recording. The first second my ears were touched by Jessica Bowen's voice I was mesmerised and all my previous doubt on the matter of female-fronted doom vanished into thin air. However, I have to correct myself - for Jex Thoth is not about doom as you would suppose - it's more of a fairy, folky hardrock messing with the doom from time to time rather then Conan-like sound of tectonic plates collision.
The s/t album from 2008 is a true masterpiece, there's no denying it. Start with the ultra mythical cover artwork and the moment you hear 'Nothing left to die' you know there's no joking here. Wherever you look it upon, it's a great album. It's not a secret for anyone that the best of this band is their lady's astonishing voice. Seriously, I've heard this and that, but nothing matches the mighty vocals and live performances of this woman, she knows perfectly well how to use her tools of the trade.
So, when you have released such a well-received and flawless album, what do you do to top it? I am not sure whether they have topped the s/t with Blood moon rise, but at least it's not bad in any way. The one thing that I think is obvious from the first listen is that it sounds a little more mellow-hearted. You can literally play songs like "Keep your weeds" to grandmother and she would find them enjoyable if she's not a sour granny. On the other hand, there are songs like "The Divide" which stand out like a lot heavier and sour.
I like this album loads, because at one moment it sounds like a sweet forest lullaby, it would make you take a nap around the fallen autumn leaves, smell the pine spruce in the air and walk in peace, at other times it is so much darker, from the lighted forest your enter the dark cave. Blood moon rise somehow managed to find the perfect balance. Not to mention that Jex's voice would easily be mistaken for the one of a forest priestess. Truth is, I am sure that if they exist, they sound like her.
The reason for which I mention the presence of doom metal in Jex Thoth's sophomore are songs like "The four of us are dying" and "Psyar". There are the characteristic grim moments and unlike bands like Jess and the ancient ones, the heaviness is not entirely lost. Also, while there are many fashionable bands these days in the like of Jex, the music here really lives in a world of its own. You just wouldn't mistake this record with the thousands of others female-fronted hardrock bands. Witchcraft's debut reminds me of this in a way, only that the folk influences here are even more massive.
If you loved the previous Jex Thoth, you would find the sophomore at least appealing. There's no need to dig in it with a thousand listens, it's potential is revealed from the very beginning and starts to grow with every listen.
Doom metal is a dark land, often nourished by sorrow and obscure fantasies, Jex Thoth, a member of this world is a fairy with cutesy wings living with her fellow creatures. While bright like a candle in a somber room and spreading some magic powder everywhere, the little fairy got a limited charm and you can, after some effort, see right through her bubbly eyes.
Jex Thoth's sophomore album will please the fans of the first release for sure. I always been a bit ambivalent towards the band, if we can even call them a band, it's all about Jessica Thoth anyway, she changed the whole lineup for "Blood Moon Rise". I guess marrying the guitarist was not a good idea for the long run. For what it is, it's as good as the self titled. What is it though ? It's mum doom, a genre coined by my fellow reviewer Caspian. It's encompassing many of the more trendy influences used by the modern doomsters, be it pejorative or not, it's for you to judge. I guess it's a sister term for "dad rock". The album, more rock than metal, is totally centered around miss Thoth's vocals and that's definitely a good thing since she's deliberately the main asset. It's so vocally centered that it sounds like it was composed by Jessica in her shower and the songs were transposed into the studio afterwards, that's probably why it still smells like shampoo. I have no idea why they still try to play metal though and except the vocals, the music is quite underwhelming. They try to mix the savory elements of psychedelic, they succeed at times such as in Ehjä, probably their best song ever. And I admit the vocals are very damn good, it's still not making this an awesome album, because you know, riffs are important and there's not many actual riffs here. It's all about atmosphere and they certainly know how to create some emotional moments and it works, but it's a bit of a facade for me.
Ok ok, calm down, it's not a bad album by any means and if you like the current occult rock scene, this will definitely please you. I personally like bands like Graveyard, Jess and the Ancient ones or Year of the Goat but these are way way groovier and they have a good cohesion between riffs and atmosphere While they have a good vocal approach, they can grow elsewhere as well. Jex Thoth is encompassing what is trendy in the doom world for the better or the worse. I mean, a big part of the image of the band is their leader, a good looking woman, it seems a bit shallow and it's not something I fully support.
Jessica's vocals are no less than amazing and the production is better than on the debut, more atmospheric and a bit less fuzzy. I still think the riffs could be tighter and heavier though. It's very catchy and accessible and the vocal lines are enjoyable and well written. Nevertheless, I think it's a bit overwhelming at times, it's like if the emotions were so in your face all the time that it becomes redundant. Jex is the focus of course and she fits with her music, she wrote all the album by herself and I think that's showing her limits as a songwriter. While she's talented, it lacks a very good musician/songwriter to go with her vocals. It's a good album because of her vocals and it's not a great one also because of her. The songs are mostly slow and the guitars are often in the background. It's not trying to be heavy and it's succeeding at being a smooth, pleasing album to listen to that will please most psych rock and doom fans who have no problems with a modern appropriation of old stuff. I guess I was expecting something else, something more driven by riffs and I don't really know why but I wasn't able to enjoy the album that much.
Despite my criticisms, Blood Moon Rise is a fine album, If you're looking for some music to study or even make love to, I guess it's an apt choice. I feel it could have more musicality and substance but it's good for what it is nevertheless. It's pretty safe, atmospheric psychedelic doomy rock with a knack for good sexy vocals and pure emotion. If you want Sabbathesque and groovy riffs, look elsewhere, not at the new Black Sabbath though since this has a rotten archaic smell!
Read the review on my blog