Jess and the Ancient Ones
This is quite the surprise release by this relatively new Finnish seven piece. There's an immediate atmosphere here that's both unique and captivating -- a retro heavy rock psychedelia that doesn't sound quite like anyone else. That said, the Finns obviously pull their musical inspiration from the likes of Iron Maiden, Thin Lizzy and Mercyful Fate as is evident on numerous occasions throughout the album. There's also a slight hint of early Metallica found here and there, although it must be stressed that this isn't a metal album by any stretch. Frontwoman Jess has a great sounding voice, although it seems to lack power in some areas, most likely a result of the vocals being slightly dimmed in the mix. There's a touch of a feminine Patrick Dubar in her voice who, for those of you who don't know, was the extremely underrated vocalist of '90s hard rock band Mindfunk. For the most part this album is upbeat, driving stuff, with incredible musicianship on display -- from the Maiden/Lizzy pummel of "Ghost riders" to the "People are strange" vibe of "Devil (in g minor)" and the subdued Opeth-prog of closer "Come crimson death" -- and almost perfect pacing throughout. It's an exciting body of work with a powerful production that hints at bigger and better to come from these occultists.
- John Norby