ALBUM REVIEW: Jess And The Ancient Ones – Vertigo

For the most part, the fourth album from Jess And The Ancient Ones continues down the low-key approach to Occult Rock that was established on 2017’s The Horse And Other Weird Tales. Just about every song on Vertigo (Svart Records) is driven by a short length, an upbeat structure, and extensive layers of psychedelic instrumentation. Aside from the eleven minutes of the closing ‘Strange Earth Illusion,’ the first two albums’ more drawn-out runtimes seem to be a thing of the past.

But while the previous album uses these elements for a more restrained sound, the songs on Vertigo go for the opposite. Jess And The Ancient Ones has never been a heavy or aggressive band, but this could very well be their most intense outing to date. Songs like ‘Summer Tripping Man’ carry extra urgency with their driving rhythms while the choruses on ‘World Paranormal’ and ‘Talking Board’ are full of jubilant bombast. ‘Strange Earth Illusion’ seems to be the only real exception to the rule with its dreamlike textures and meandering pace, but even that squeezes in the occasional pep to its step.

Through it all, the band’s signature quirks are presented in full vibrant color. The emphasis on such pulsating rhythms makes for more impactful performances than past albums with the drums consistently hard, the guitars having a more noticeable snarl, and the vocals at their most manic. Fortunately, the keyboards retain their established presence and reinforce a disorienting atmosphere along with the occasional backing vocals and other layers.

Overall, Vertigo sees Jess And The Ancient Ones bringing a punchier side of their distinct Heavy Psych sound. While I prefer the first two albums for their more varied songwriting, this album features some of their strongest performances. The more upbeat songwriting could also make for a more accessible introduction for newer listeners, particularly those who like their Occult Rock with extra gumption. At the very least, it’s a far more inviting listen than its morosely gray album cover would suggest.

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7 / 10