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“…solitude’s refrain makes a mask of Cain…”
I gained interest in Jex Thoth after reading a little something equating singer Jex to Coven songstress Jinx Dawson as well as steady allusions to the band’s ‘60s/’70s throwback sound (furthered by another review lurking here somewhere), so I found this split sitting around the internet and decided to give it a home, and old stalwarts Pagan Altar unexpectedly squatting on side two only put an added sparkle in my eye.
Can’t speak for the rest of the self-titled album that this particular song heaves to its end, but here the main throwback menace is a pretty grimy panorama of overindulged, noisy, hallucinogenic fuzz guitar that snarls, coils, and wawawakawawabawakas angrily from some lost night of the early ‘70s, warbling around mostly low-cut, behemoth power chords that drum forth slowly and repetitively, and it’s really no surprise things are doom(ed) style-wise. Thick and boomy is the production, wonderful for a genre with an often mirrored description.
Now, if there is some line connecting Jex with Jinx, it’s a roundabout dotted one. Jex is more contemporary, less mystical, and, how should I say, flatter than Dawson, a singer who’s gifted with a witch-toned, Grace Slick-studied vibrato, but in all fairness if some reviewer hadn’t already thrown the two in the same smoldering ring of fire, I wouldn’t have even singed my eyebrows looking there. The comparison is just off, so within her own world Jex isn’t bad, but only mildly stirs up anything quite emotive.
The intro of bongos and bouzouki (I’m assuming - hey, if you’ve got a guy who has the instrument and can play it…) is a nice touch, a possible extension of retro impression to us out of towners, though in many cultures I’m sure they’re still much in use today, so for someone living in, say, Greece, something like this may not seem too left field.
Said to have been the band’s second studio recording, Pagan Altar's "Walking in the Dark” is more traditional and low key, a ‘76 entity updated to a sound/time eclipse somewhere between Cathedral’s The Carnival Bizarre and Supernatural Birth Machine with a more venerable mix. A fairly strong song, Terry Jones’ nasal chirruping alone give off more vintage vibe than Thoth’s side, nothing’s forced, and when pushed up against its conventionally unrushed rhythms and near-squawky solos, it’s easy to hear the antiquated quartet are just doing what comes natural. I mean, some of these guys were, y’know, alive and in their late teens the first time this song came chugging around the mountain.
Once you’ve heard it, “Walking in the Dark” you’ll find isn’t doom, at least not what most fans expect today when two o’s snuggle between a ‘d’ and an ‘m’, and stoner rock, even though it’s a branding I’ve never jumped for joy over, is a more suitable shot in this thing’s arm. Comparably, Pagan Altar prove you don’t need a force feeding of jangly and freakish beyond-hippie psychedelia to make one’s head rush back a couple decades.
I would still give Thoth’s full-lengther a chance, though.
Signed by Jex.
“..my spirit’s on the floor, I have no resistance…”