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Astral Sabbat EP

Svart (2013)
Rating: 7.5/10

This three track EP comes from Finnish occult rockers Jess And The Ancient Ones, the sort of combo who evoke images of late 60s psychedelia and 70s prog esoterica. This type of music seems extremely popular at the moment with acts such as Ghost, Bloody Hammers and the lighter Purson plying their trade by conjuring up surreal yet darkly-tinged images amidst carnival-esque soundscapes and spooky jogs.

Astral Sabbat follows on from last year’s self-titled debut which I had mixed emotions about, but if the title track on this platter is anything to go by then Jess and co. have a bright future.

This is very much in the vein of Jefferson Airplane with a sprig of Blue Öyster Cult and just a hint of doom-laden metal – particularly in that go-go chorus where Jess chants like some high priestess of doom as the guitars twang and drums roll all around her like some ethereal ocean of sound. It’s all very mystical, reminding me of some 1970s children’s TV drama (Chocky anyone?).

Fans of the 1960s Dutch fuzz-monsters Shocking Blue – responsible for the classic track ‘Venus’ – will find much to savour in the cover of ‘Long And Lonesome Road’; Jess’ voice perfect when it comes to paying homage to Mariska Veres’ original sultry tones. While the original takes some beating, Jess And The Ancient Ones have this cover down to a tee.

But the band really come alive with the 15-minute epic that is ‘More Than A Living’. The song simmers seemingly forever as a wistful ballad with the seven-piece combo more than happy to cite a variety of influences from Mercyful Fate to Abba in constructing their wall of progressive sound, which one moment drifts between New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, then next finding its feet as some type of sprawling 13th Floor Elevators shimmer.

If you’re a fan of any innovative music that spans the last three decades, then Jess And The Ancient Ones will no doubt offer something for your palate. While this EP is only a hint of what is to come, it also proves that imaginative rock music can come from some of the most unlikeliest places. Finland may not be regarded as a hot-bed of hard rockin’ activity, but Jess and co. have done their country proud with a trio of tracks that play on the taste buds like angel dust in the lava lamp light.

Neil Arnold

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