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Totem > Totem > Reviews
Totem - Totem

Gloomy, but glorious.. - 83%

Wudustan, July 24th, 2009

First observation is that this EP is much darker than the previous Jex Thoth/Totem releases. Over the 20 minutes, or so, of the running time, the mood and tone of the music shifts further and further from a rhythmic, pounding doom metal into an oozing mass of bass and eerie organ. This effect can be simulated by leaning over a pan of very hot water and putting a towel over your head and the pan… bring on the doom sweats.

But listening to this record is by no means hard, or straining, or sweaty. Just because the tone is heavy and the tracks are swimming in strange and avant-garde instrument work, doesn’t mean that you’ll come out at the other end tired, or bored and reach for some Axxis. Jex’s vocals are still as intrusive as ever and are this EP’s gem. There’s no denying her vocal power as every syllable is harmoniously driven home in true style; yet- so subtly- the wonderful sound guides you by the hand through the ominous turbulence of the latter tracks.

There is something missing though; all this darkness came at a price. For all the guitar and bass wonders, there is a lack of base ingenuity and the tracks seem to strangely repeat themselves. The acrobatic sound from the album has been eroded away by the search for a more tar-like feel and the end product is 3 tracks that sound like they started off exactly the same but evolved on different continents.

To wrap it up: it’s a good release. If you enjoyed anything these guys did previously, you won’t be too disappointed by this new offering. It’s a generous helping of Jex Thoth and it leaves you wanting seconds, but a bit of salt and pepper might’ve been nice.

Malevolently elegant - 84%

Nahsil, August 23rd, 2008

Totem, now known as Jex Thoth, play a mesh of reverb-laden stoner metal and hooky traditional doom, with an additional dose of '70s hard rock. This EP is their best offering in my opinion, trumping the Jex Thoth full-length by leaps and bounds. Totem contains female vocallist Jex and crew's heaviest, most psychedelic, most inspired, and undoubtedly their most sinister material. Everything revolves around primal sludge riffs and the haunting, ethereal singing of one of the best songstresses in metal. Jex Thoth's self-titled is not immune to occassional progressive pitfalls, in which I think the band does not shine, but Totem is far more coherent; it's obvious to me that these three songs have purpose. There's no trace of meandering or plodding along in the songwriting process for the sake of creating something outside the bounds of duration-friendly radio rock, despite the lengthyness of the last track, "Tauti", which is defined not only by memorable vocal lines but a ridiculous seven-minute guitar solo drenched in feedback.

No way, folks, this is hazy stripped down riff-based doooooooooom in the vein of The Wizar'd and old Saint Vitus. Those who enjoy their doom sans gimmicks and ill-conceived progressive tendencies that dilute more than refine are sure to find as much to enjoy on this EP as I have. Keys are utilized, but they're more Hammond organ than synth blasturbation. I would rate this EP higher if it wasn't for the latter section of "Kagemni", which is guilty of boring vocals sung in monotone. That may seem like nitpicking, but there's only twenty minutes of music here, so every second is important to the final product. Other than that segment, Jex Thoth seems to be a unique vocallist with a fine sense of restraint and an ear for spine-tingling melody. Pop singers such as Anette Olzon could learn from Jex Thoth's strong example; Totem is female fronted metal with a focus on metal, not cleavage or cheerful Top 40 sensibilities. As far as I'm concerned, Jex should be front and center showing other aspiring female artists how it's done.

Lauren Harris? HA!