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With a plethora of new album releases offered up for review each week, it's literally impossible to check out each and every one. As such, Jess and the Ancient Ones debut, just nine months ago, completely passed me by. After hearing their new EP, 'Astral Sabbat', I've been cursing myself for missing said release as their latest music is rather spectacular. One reason for this is that it's something a little different amidst a myriad of generic metal bands who see fit to regurgitate and rehash the same old formulas. Well, in one sense, based on the three tracks here, two original compositions and a cover of Shocking Blue's 'Long and Lonesome Road', JATAO are not particularly a metal band at all albeit affiliated to a metal label. Rather their modus operandi seems geared towards a pastiche of late-60s/early-70s psychedelic rock and prog but with their own innovative spin. And not just the music but everything about this exciting new Finnish outfit is geared towards this period. The band name, for example... so many acts from the sixties seemed to be 'somebody and the somebodies'. The production too - it's retro through and through as the Finns have appropriated traits characteristic of sixties' production techniques such as the reverberation effect popularised with surf rock. The fuzz distortion of the guitars and retro keyboard sounds are equally reminiscent of such. And take a look at the album cover art as well - now that irrefutably epitomises late-sixties psychedelia! JATAO's choice to cover Shocking Blue (for those not in the know, they were a late-60s/early-70s Dutch band best known for the song 'Venus') is not as surprising as the press blurb would have you believe as it's more or less a straight copy of the original and offers an insight into the Finns' retro influences within their own compositions. With the title track and lengthy 14+ minutes closer, there are hints of a Black Widow inspiration too, particularly with the use of occult-themed lyrics over such retro sounds, but melodies and compositional flows are a lot fresher than their stylistic underpinnings. One of JATAO's major strengths, though, lies with Jess herself as this woman's voice has power, expression and range in equal measure and elevates the pastiched elements of the band's general sound into something rather special. There's a very mesmerising quality to her voice that adds to, and enhances, the psychedelic qualities of the music. When I find myself hitting play again and again as the EP's 24 minutes playing time elapses each time, then JATO must be doing something right. I'm certainly addicted. Loaded with skilfully pastiched retro-psychedelic charms, 'Astral Sabbat' is an ironically refreshing listen.
Svart Records
Review by Mark Holmes
22nd Feb 2013
1) Astral Sabbat
2) Long and Lonesome Road
3) More than Living
"Loaded with skilfully pastiched retro-psychedelic charms, 'Astral Sabbat' is an ironically refreshing listen."