Kuopio, Finland’s Jess and the Ancient ones came out strong in 2012, picking up where The Devil’s Blood left off with a shimmering debut album of psych noir and driving metal guitars. Despite the growing popularity and attention drawn to similar bands like Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats, Blood Ceremony, Purson, The Oath and Lucifer (covered in Kaleidoscopes & Grimoires: Psych Noir), they have been somewhat under the radar. However, they’ve been fairly prolific, not only releasing EPs (Astral Sabbat, 2013 and Castaneda, 2014) that demonstrate a rapid artistic growth, five members of the band recorded two albums worth of songs written by lead guitarist Thomas Corpse as The Exploding Eyes Orchestra, earning respect from anyone paying attention. The second will be out next year.
On the unwieldy titled Second Psychedelic Coming: The Aquarius Tapes, the band find themselves in an exploratory mood, leaving behind the harder-edged NWOBHM riffs and digging into jazz and psych prog along the lines of Soft Machine, Jethro Tull and Caravan while flexing their musical muscles earned from their five years of playing together. Surf rock, western cinema, blues, gospel/soul and West Coast hippie spiritualism with a sinister edge of cults and the occult have also become woven into their sound. B-movie dialog clips and surf noir kick off the album on “Samhain,” a direct continuation of “Castaneda.” “In Levitating Secret Dreams” focuses on catchy chorus and song structure that should be a crowd-pleaser, while “Crossroad Lightning” has them starting with a gospel/blues vocal melody, and stretching out a Middle Eastern vibe into a mesmerizing jam. “Goatia Of Love” adds layers of organs and horns until it reaches a carnival like climax. Jess’ vocals are more accomplished than ever, more nuanced with a greater range. At this point, the album could end at 43:21 and be deemed a complete success. But yet to come is their massive closer, the 22:35 long epic, “Goodbye To Virgin Grounds Forever.” There is a gradual build-up, but the arrangement is kept fairly simple, aiming more for emotional effectiveness than showing off prog chops. By the time the initial haunting melody is reprised in the final couple minutes, it’s like a cloudy memory of a long lost past.
While there are plenty of immediate hooks and riffs, the album digs deep and unfolds gradually with repeated listens. Take your time with it, turn on the lavalamp and pick up what these heavy Finns are putting down.