October 4, 2011

Jex Thoth - Jex Thoth

The music of Jex Thoth is a gateway between the past and the present, taking the sounds of the 60s and 70s into the contemporary music world, and managing to not come across as utterly derivative. Reciting tales of paganism and the occult, Jex Thoth is an immersive experience, absorbing the listener into its embrace with its invitingly warm production and aesthetically inoffensive tones. It is an album that nullifies the significance of genre boundaries, having arguably only one foot in the realm of heavy metal as envisioned by the likes of Black Sabbath and Pentagram, the other falling somewhere in the midst of the various subgenres of rock that were largely contemporary with the aforementioned. It is the progressive and acid folk oriented rock inspirations that separate this band from the vast traditional doom metal explosion currently on hand, stylistically speaking, and that ultimately make this a rewarding listen, even aesthetically, with the hazy and thin production battling against the crushing guitar tone and the rich sound of the organ. It is a refreshingly unrefined work that nonetheless reveals a power and depth no longer reached in this style of music today.

This is music that is constructed upon its impact on the emotions, and on sentimentality, generated by the sweeping shifts in mood, awakening the senses through its various expressive channels. It ranges from the dismal to the sublime, the one being instrumental to the construction of the other. It is both melancholic and energetic; all at once sifting between airy psychedelic passages, revolving around swirling melodies amidst a cornucopia of buoyant instruments: the flute and the synthesizer, the piano and the organ, and even bongos. At other instances, it is bursting with prototypically Sabbathian power chords, utilized sparingly, yet effectively. Especially in the Equinox Suite is found the dreamily quixotic aura that is the strength and grace of Jex Thoth’s music.  Blissfully ignorant of the troubles of the outside world and entirely indulgent within its own sphere of musical therapy, Jex Thoth is an idyllic utopia nonetheless filled with horrors and dangers, yet never at the sacrifice of the sensation of utter tranquility.

The most distinctive element of the band is, of course, the vocals of Jex Thoth, not unsurprising given the name of the band. She takes on an iconic role, becoming larger than the music itself, almost as the living embodiment of the spirit of the band. She is Jex Thoth, the person and the ideal, the music pulsing with the divine energies of the concepts by which the music is driven. The various images of her in occult garb, replete with dark, deep-set and glaring eyes, or as the “Warrior Woman,” perpetuate the enigmatic and mystical quality about her, as does the band’s evident wish to leave their lyrics unpublished, citing the cause as the lyrics being too personal in nature. Not to overstate the obvious symbolic gesture of the band’s frontwoman, Jex Thoth is also a highly invigorating and soulful singer, bleeding every ounce of passion into her vocal performance with a genuine sense of sincerity that resonates with every note. She is to Jex Thoth what Tania Duarte is to Reino Ermitaño, perhaps even more so. It is a struggle not to fall into typical clichés when referring to energetic and passionate frontwomen, referring to them as perhaps sirens or other similarly enchanting mythical depictions of women, and indeed this is often encouraged by the bands themselves through visual and other means. After all, a band statement regarding their change of name from Totem to Jex Thoth cited that they were “dropping all Totemic facades in favor of our greater goal...to animate the divine through our muse and avatar as she exists here and now::::: JEX THOTH!” Nonetheless, what can be said purely in plain speech is that she provides a captivating and utterly convincing demonstration that works in sync with the rest of the band flawlessly.

There is, after all, a ‘rest of the band,’ and one that deserves to be acclaimed. Grim Jim, evidently the brother of Jex Thoth (better known to their families as James and Jessica Toth), is the main protagonist behind the scenes, and shares guitar duties with newer recruit Silas Paine in addition to recording the bass and synthesizer. Paine in addition plays the flute and bouzouki, “a member of the 'long neck lute' family”, while Johnny Dee plays the various percussive instruments, leaving Zodiac to orchestrate the arrangements for keyboard and organ. In addition to simply being very solid musically, the band as a whole does a remarkable job of incorporating the aforementioned ‘non-standard’ instruments in an unobtrusive fashion, much to the benefit of what is surely their primary target audience, namely traditional doom metal fans who most likely don’t have a great measure of exposure to the outside influences that the band injects into their sound.

All that need be said of these outside influences is the project Wooden Wand, featuring the Toths and Zodiac, a band admittedly a bit out of my element, but exhibiting the primary traits of the aforementioned progressive, psychedelic, and acid folk rock genres that bleed their way into Jex Thoth’s sound, made most obvious of course by the Bobb Trimble cover of “When the Raven Calls,” a song that hardly feels out of place on the rest of the album. A special mention should also be given to the striking album cover drawn by Albert Witchfinder, formerly of Reverend Bizarre, now fronting Spiritus Mortis. It is a vivid image of the utopian and carefree atmosphere that belies the sinister undercurrent that pervades the entirety of the work. There is much more to be said for the symbology of artwork alone, but it can be left at the evident fact that it is an immaculate visual representation of the band’s music: dreamy, fanciful, mystical, spirited, innocent, and naïve, yet cognizant, dangerous, deceptive, elusive, and powerful.

3 comments:

  1. Jex and "Grim Jim" were married, but are now divorced. He is not in the band anymore, and neither is most of the original lineup.

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