posted on 5/2010 By:
Vocals--they’ve killed many a metal album over the years. Other times we’re willing to make peace with them only because the music is so killer. But a great voice, only that actually makes an album, now those are in short supply. Maybe it’s just the recent loss of Ronnie James Dio that has me focused on the white buffalo vocalist, and he’s of course at the top of that list along with a small peer group. Jessica (Jex) Thoth isn’t likely to punch her ticket to that VIP lounge, but I do place her with the likes of Mike Scalzi (Slough Feg, Hammers of Misfortune), Nemtheanga (Primordial), and other singers that aren’t necessarily universally loved, but have strong voices full of character, voices you either don’t care for or absolutely adore. Simply put, Thoth could make a lot of songs sound good. Fortunately, she’s working with material that is not only high quality, but also designed to get the most out of her talents.
Witness is a stop-gap EP following the band’s ’08 self titled full-length—they also released a killer EP under the name Totem which has recently been re-pressed under the Jex Thoth banner—and it offers two originals and a cover from the obscure Slapp Happy. And at fifteen minutes, it leaves you wanting more. Fans of the debut will sink their teeth into this set of like-minded tunes, as the band continues to play up the psychedelic rock element at the expense of their doomier roots. I still prefer the heavier, more metal approach of the Totem EP, but I can’t deny the strength of the newer material.
It’s more of the same hazy retro, born-too-late rock that impressed so many last time around. These two originals are pretty consistently down-tempo, although the band occasionally puts the hammer down, usually during instrumental sections. This is a bit of a dilemma, because good things happen when the tempo picks up, but the slower material allows Thoth’s vocals more breathing room and accentuates her timbre and nuances. There are often two (or more) vocal tracks to provide depth and harmony. Again the Hammond organ plays a key role in the band’s mystical ethos. Also returning is the cover art of the multi-talented Albert Witchfinder of Reverend Bizarre and Spritus Mortis, among others, who has also done work for fellow I Hate act Fall of the Idols. And the band’s penchant for off-the-beaten-track covers continues: last time they paid tribute to Bobb Trimble’s "When the Raven Calls," and this time around they offer up “Mr. Rainbow,” a rendition of a 1973 track from avant-garde pop/rock act Slapp Happy’s Acnalbasac Noom record. The material suits Jex Thoth’s style, and therefore the track fits in very well with the rest of the EP. (Perhaps a little too well, in fact, as it’s yet a third down-tempo track.) A bit more variety would serve the album well, but that’s the only criticism I can muster for Witness, another strong showing from Jex Thoth.
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