Julian Cope’s Album of the Month
AOTM #103, December 2008ce
Released 2008 on I Hate Records
- Nothing Left to Die (5.10)
- Obsidian Night (2.43)
- Separated at Birth (3.21)
- Son of Yule (4.09)
- Equinox Suite (15.07)
- The Poison Pit
- Thawing Magus
- Invocation Part 1
- The Damned & the Divine
- When the Raven Calls (3.56)
- Stone Evil (6.12)
As a Beautiful Princess crosses a Bridge under which Four Great Trolls are performing Doom Metal…
Both fuelled & be-fouled by lo-fi post-C90 amp buzzing Heathen Doomplod-from-ye-Hayloft, but propelled & sung into being by a bona fide Rock Goddess anchored in those glorious traditions laid down according to A. Düül’s Renate Knaup, J. Airplane’s Grace Slick, or S. Rose’s Annissette by way of Heart’s Ann Wilson, the Music and Vocalizing of this remarkable Jex Thoth quintet is nothing less than a divine emanation of all things great in postwar Western Humanity’s return to its Heathen roots, the band’s music being a Supreme Sludge-trudge of the MASTER OF REALITY ‘Into the Void’ persuasion, as though created and performed by four enormous Yeti Trolls of Northern Denmark’s icy Skaggerak coast, moreover, these be four Bobby Liebling-class Warrior Trolls from atop whose muddy 59-Caddy tailfinned oxcart parcel-shelf some bewitching & be-daisied Fjordal Priestess declaims in perfectly clear tones her most recent Visions & extraordinarily high hopes for the Future to her spellbound surrounding agrarian population, who – seeing her pass by their field systems looking so resplendent and so well protected – rest briefly upon their hoes, temporarily free from the drudgery of everyday; they gaze out across the drystone walling, their near-suffocated minds inhaling, though only momentarily, but still for long enough nevertheless to have, in that micro-millisecond, imagined Complete Resuscitation and Rescue from their (hopefully only current) predicament. Ho-hum.
Rural as fuck, and Heathen as a Cunt and thrice as mysterious, Jex Thoth’s is a strange ministry. I imagine this quintet’s audience dwelling in scattered & out-of-the-way homesteads, rarely coming together as a community, and so obliging this itinerant quintet to spread their barbarian information out to their congregation by any means necessary; for their music contains few highs or lows of the Urban variety, and replaces obvious hooks with insidious melodies that emerge then take over our melting plastic minds. Not for Jex Thoth the Metallic K.O. Instead, their Very Rudimentary but extremely evocative and primal sound is circular, beating-the-bounds, ever-returning to earlier themes, pummelling their audience not with a single punch to the head but through a series of muffled and hazy blows to the lower torso… a war of attrition. It’s as though the music of Jex Thoth is designed to be heard only in brief snatches as though the musicians had been expected to hawk it from farm to farm, day after day, month after month, their hoary themes gradually… ever so gradually intoxicating their recipients for want of any other tunes to be had in the neighbourhood. But, while it’s good work for the Trolls when they can get it, it’s damned peculiar that such a divine chanteuse should have chosen – of her own free will – to hook up with such a gang of ne’er-do-wells. What’s all this about? Well, like the aforementched Rock Goddesses of Yore, Jex Thoth singer Jessica – despite the crystal clarity of her voice – appears, both in spirit, lyrical persuasion, and goggle-eyed worldview to share far more in common with the grave loitering Ozzy, the Promethean Arthur Brown, the First Nation Shaman Todd Clark, the Gods’ antagonist Peter Hammill and six-feet-under Courtesy Uncle Bobby L., than with any contemporary female singers of note, except the timeless & UnDead Nico herself of course. That Jessica could be possessed of such a fabulous larynx and yet still wish to run with such muckrakers as 7-foot-tall bassist Grim Jim, one-armed drummer Johnny Dee, one-eyed doom keyboardmeister Zodiac and one-fingered axe wielder Silas Paine, would be the strong and fiery evidence that she’s a Natural through’n’through, a star-crossed child of Freyja and Loki, were it not for the fact that this singer once yodelled for the strange folk ensemble Wooden Wand. Ah, so there’s clearly more than just Need here, theirs has an Intellectual undercurrent, a separate agenda.
And, while this simple morsel of info immediately places the music of Jex Thoth into the category of ‘Former Undergrounders Going Metal in a Knowing Stylee’, so does the evidence of Zodiac Mountain’s Clay Ruby at the production helm confirm that all in Jex Thoth’s Thorean Wedding party bag is not quite as it seems. Which hips us to the evidence that yet more Enlightened Seekers have broken through that same megalithic façade that Svipdag/Odin discovered back in the 8th Century, and have consciously chosen to descend Into The Void in order to Rodger Bain their former Paul Rothschild Sensibilities. Stranger still, the most striking element of this entire project is the almost inept Proto-Chancer nature of the musicians involved. Kids, these dudes ain’t cleverly playing down, this is plainly all they’re capable of. And, like the early LPs from bands such as the Stooges, Blue Cheer, Tiger B. Smith and UFO, this gives Jex Thoth’s sound a hefty & wonderfully ‘Too Overdubbed’ sound that truly smoked ma pole right down to the cheroot! And always so entirely rural and unroofed. Indeed, the closest that Jex Thoth get to sounding remotely Urban is on their excellent cover of Bobb Trimble’s apocalyptic ‘When the Raven Calls’, written back in the ‘80s by everybody’s favourite Most Promising Canuckian Who Never Sustained It, but the original versh is far transcended herein by the vast early Curved Air wah-riffery and Jessica’s Uber ominous Gracie c.CROWN OF CREATION vocal delivery (‘Lather’ meets ‘Greasy Heart’, anyone?). Elsewhere, this remarkable ensemble defines its parameters tightly at all times, mainly strutting down that same Hard Rock Highway as St. Vitus, Pentagram, Flower Travellin’ Band, Sabbath and the like, but never averse to corralling some of that old avant rock as presented by outsiders such as late Fugs and/or Prague’s Plastic People of the Universe. Indeed, an important note should be made of the manner in which this album’s enormous and multi-parted final track “Equinox Suite’ portentously commences with a huge Krautrockian theme in the style of the Plastic People of the Universe-meets-the Todd Clark’s ‘New Gods’-period, before settling into a bizarre Caledonian melody as played by peak period Van Der Graaf Generator (the scything fuzz guitar echoing VDGG’s Jaxon saxophone). Kids, in the manner of its rough garage recording, this is almost the underground folk of Alex Harvey’s 1969 ‘Roman Wall Blues’, though wedded to that same kind of classic Scotch ‘Auld Lang Syne’-style folk melody in the same manner that Armand Schoebroeuk employed for his own hugely Gothick version on the I CAME TO VISIT BUT DECIDED TO STAY L.P. Hey, and get that mawkish mewling lead guitar spewing out of Jex Thoth’s speakers! Guitarist Silas Paine is one confident motherfucker, daring to unearth such lost underclasses of Hard Rock Feeling in the same manner as berserk axe-wielding Homicidal Schmaltzmeisters such as Amon Düül 2’s John Weinzerl and Flower’s Hideo Ishemi. Stranger still, ‘Son of Yule’ emerges from its typically Thothian and shambling Pentagram/Sabbath gait into an unlikely Patti Smithian take on ‘Electrical Funeral’, only to descend once again into the earlier riff, but this time informed by a Jon Lord c.FIREBALL doom organ accompaniment, as low church & fundamentalist as that of Reverend Bizarre. Like the original Alice Cooper quintet1, Jex Thoth is – at least superficially – a democratic ensemble that relies on each musical element as much as the next in order to achieve its slushy, wayward brilliance. But it’s that knowing element, no doubt injected by producer Clay Ruby, that constantly re-positions the band and makes its utterings so useful to us. Where next for Jex Thoth? Well, with their well oiled arsenal of Amon Düülisms at the ready, I could well imagine this band rendering superb cover versions of Savage Rose’s emotionally shattering ‘A Trial in Your Native Town’ and Ozzy’s ‘Revelation Mother Earth’ at some point in their career. And, if that comment is nothing more than wishful thinking on my part, you can at least imagine from that comment how highly I have come to regard this wonderful new record. Better still, as the magnificent gatefold artwork was rendered by Reverend Bizarre’s own vocal legend Albert Witchfinder, we have further evidence that this quintet is currently Sat In The Lap of the Motherfucker!
- I’m talking, of course, about the Alice Cooper quintet in which singer Vince Furnier was barely 1/5th of the drive & talent beside songwriter guitarist Michael Bruce and Messrs Dunaway and Smith, surely the least fêted but greatest Krautrock-styled rhythm section in Hard Rock.