This Occult Rock fad —given wings by the recent success of bands like The Devil’s Blood, Ghost, and Blood Ceremony— generally produces hit-or-miss, love-it-or-hate-it results. From this spectator’s standpoint, it doesn’t seem all that difficult to slap a group like this together. Sure you need a frontperson who can flat-out belt, but once that’s in the bag all it takes is a basic 4/4 drummer and a couple guitarists capable of microwaving the right Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, and Mercyful Fate licks. Throw in a couple ’70s Porn moustaches, some crushed velvet attire, maybe an ankh necklace or two, couple skulls, couple candles, drag your dad’s Hammond organ out of the garage… BAM! You got your Occult Rock band starter kit right there. Needless to say, only the cream will rise to the top, and in the case of Jess and the Ancient Ones, I just don’t hear it. I’m guessing they heard The Devil’s Blood, backtracked a little, did their Coven homework and said, “fuck it, we can do this shit.” Or maybe they’ve been around forever. Don’t know, don’t care. The bottom line is their sound lacks authenticity. Lifting riffs and solos from every ’70s Hard Rock act known to man isn’t enough. There is no passion, no conviction, no emotion, no sincerity, and virtually no replay value. I find the biggest detractor to be the vocals of Jess Whatever-the-fuck-her-last-name-is. She does have undeniable talent. She has soul, she has range, she has hold, I’m sure she’d hold her own just fine as an American Idol contestant, but she sounds too much like an R&B/Gospel singer gone rogue. And perhaps not quite rogue enough, as even when wailing dark lyrics like, “black angel by my side / the Devil I see / the Devil I know,” she has me nowhere near convinced. Despite the strutting Journey hook, sprawling 12-minute epic “Sulfur Giants” is probably the closest thing to a highlight found here. But even that woeful standout chorus of “oooohh, I wish I’d never been born…” seems a little tongue-in-cheek. Whether Jess is a real witch or not is irrelevant. It’s this album that fails to cast a spell.
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