Monday, 1 April 2013

Rogue Transmissions - Chains & Jess and The Ancient Ones (album review)


Cover Artwork by Coven Illustration


Not too terribly long ago, I reviewed Chains' self-released 'Of Death' demo album.  It was a dark masterpiece of horror drone which I found to be quite inspiring (read it here).  Now they have returned with a brand new 7" single, "Dancing With My Demons" backed with "Join The Sabbath".  This is their first release on the terrific Svart Records.  Where 'Of Death' was a solo effort by E. Chains, the size of the band has subsequently doubled to include Lord Samhain (Chad Davis) on drums.  For the first time, Chains has expanded their sonic territory into, well ... I'll let the band speak for themselves ...

Chains was born in 2010 as a Hypnotic Drone Doom project in the vein of Sunn O))), Moss, Urfaust with a 70s horror vibe influenced by bands like Death SS and Paul Chain. In 2012 after the release of the first opus ˝OF DEATH˝, Lord Samhain joined the project and became the fulltime Chains drummer. At this point, the music took a retro-evolution and became a hybrid between 80s Italian Dark Doom, Death Rock and 80s Dark Metal. Chains in 2013 Chains will revive the golden 70s-80s Dark Doom style with a spice of alchemic elements with simple and hypnotic riffs.
Excellent stuff.  It seems like everything Chad Davis is involved with is awesome, Chains now joining the ranks and sounding like the spiritual cousin of one of his other recent projects, Witchcoven.  Remember, this is the first time Chains has ventured into structured song territory.

The a-side, "Dancing With My Demons" starts off with some droney atmospherics and a plaintive, almost whiney riff.  No big build-up, the lyrics float in straight-off.  This is the first intelligible vocal performance for this band.  The vocals are unaffected, classic sounding but not necessarily clean, because they are smothered in production ketchup.  Altogether it's a great song, mist-shrouded graveyard vibes with cobwebs and dancing skeletons.

"Join The Sabbath" appears on the b-side but it's my favorite of the two tracks.  A great doom riff with horror embellishments.  The vocals are once more obscured by echo, but again the lyrics are still clear.  The chorus is catchy and driving and the song is perhaps a bit more adventurous in terms of structure.

I have no idea right now whether this single is a precursor to a lengthier work but I look forward to more of it all the same.  My guess is a full-length from these two demented geniuses will be epic in scope and vision with great riffs and haunted soundscapes.  Whether it be drone or this kind of graveyard dwelling doom, Chains always hits that crypt-keeping mood.  A gruesome twosome to keep an eyeball out for.

Rating: 4.5/5

1). Dancing With My Demons (5:02)
2). Join The Sabbath (5:14)
Total Run Time: 10:15

E. Chains - Vocals, Guitar, Bass, Fx
Lord Samhain - Drums

From: Slovenia & United States

Genre: Doom, Sludge, Drone, Horror

Release Date: March 15, 2013

Suggested listening activity for fellow non-stoners: Be careful of what you wish for, and be wary of what you conjure.



Cover Artwork by Adam Burke

It's hard for me to say this because I don't like being critical, but I didn't really like Jess & The Ancient Ones self-titled debut from last year. I liked a couple songs but it just wasn't something that I found myself returning to.  If you, like me, were luke-warm on their album, then do yourself a favor and give this one a listen because JATAO turn up the heat on the follow-up.

Title track "Astral Sabbat" has a winding labrynthine sixties swinging London riff that sounds lifted from some mythical Satanic occultsploitation flick of the era.  Naked ladies lie placidly on altars while black or crimson robed men in goat masks clutch daggers in both hands high overhead.  A pentagram on a high stone wall, gnarly tree or rocky outcrop behind.  This is the best song I've heard from the band.  It's immediately catchy and memorable.

When I got the CD in the mail, I opened her up and checked the inside booklet.  The lyrics for the front and back songs were listed which led me to believe that the middle track "Long And Lonesome Road" was an instrumental.  Nope.  It's a cover of what is probably the best song Shocking Blue ever did.  For those who are only familiar with their disco smash hit "Venus" (I'm your venus, I'm your fire ...), if you like the JATAO version here, do yourself another favor and dig into their back catalogue.  They were so much more than that one song.  I've long been a fan of this song and it's a delight to hear it covered by a modern band.  You ask me it's one of the best songs recorded in the early seventies which proves Jess and her gang have great taste.  The song is given heavy and respectful treatment here.  Well done!

"More Than Living" showcases a more subdued mood with a slight country vibe, more in line with the material from their self-titled album of last year.  A slow and constant builder, the song gets a lift from punctuated organ and lap steel guitar (played by Jani Karhunen).  The song is a nail bomb of dynamics, scattershot ideas fly in all directions, the band never losing the listener's attention for its full 14 minute span.  There's always something going on, something changing, something happening.  The long build up leads to a heavy final third and it's well worth the wait.

Though only 3 songs and some 24 minutes long, 'Astral Sabbat' is an impressive record.  It showcases what the band can accomplish in a limited space, strong and interesting song dynamics, great and interesting riffs that are just a touch different from anything contemporary, great taste and a bevy of musical ideas.  This is a good direction for the band to go in and I for one will be looking forward to their next offering with great interest.

Highlights include: "Astral Sabbat" and "Long And Lonesome Road"

Rating: 4.5/5

1). Astral Sabbath (6:27)
2). Long And Lonesome Road (3:10)
3). More Than Living (14:48)
Total Run Time: 24:23

Jess - Vocals
Thomas Corpse - Lead guitar
Thomas Fiend - Lead guitar & backing vocals
Von Stroh - Rhythm guitar
Fast Jake - Bass guitar
Abraham - Keyboard
Yussuf - Drums & percussion

From: Kuopio, Finland

Genre: Prog, Hard Rock, Doom, Stoner

Release Date: February 22, 2013

Suggested listening activity for fellow non-stoners: Back woods occultic hoe down.

Better Reviews:
Ave Noctum
The Midlands Rocks
Metal Temple

Jess & The Ancient Ones official website


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