Blood Moon Rise is a very dark record, and not the type of album that grabs you on first listen. The first time I played it, I was surprised by how smooth everything sounds compared to their earlier efforts. It’s the only word I can use to adequately describe the sound. After a short, moody opening piece, the album starts proper with single ‘The Places You Walk.’ Jex Thoth songs have been described as ‘doom ballads’ in several reviews, and that is definitely the case here. The lyrical subject matters switch between relationships/love back to esoteric occult themes such as the epic closing number ‘Psyar’ (I have no idea what this means without Googling!). So, am I saying that Jex’s lyrics are stereotypically feminine in their themes? Well, yes, I am in a way, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Jex clearly knows what she is singing about, and her voice sounds beautiful and is one of the aspects of the band that benefits most from this album’s superior production. It’s been well mastered, too and sounds clear and warm. These two things are important for a Jex Thoth record for one simple reason: You need to listen to this band on vinyl. I have both the CD and LP versions of their first record and there is no comparison. The vinyl wins every time (if only for the Albert Witchfinder sleeve art).
I have been a fan of Jex Thoth since their self-titled 2008 debut. The first offering was a mixture of low-fi fuzz guitar and psyche jamming, but represented a major leap forward in songwriting and performance from their debut EP, Totem, and second full-length is no different. I have read criticism that the first album suffered from poor musicianship, but I never thought that. This one does sound a lot glossier on first listen, though.The most striking change to the band has to be the complete line-up change they have undergone since those first two releases. Two of the original line-up were married (singer ‘Jex’ and bass/guitarist ‘Grim Jim,’ also of Wooden Wand) and are now separated, which I presume accounts for his departure. To be honest, it doesn’t really matter, as the music is as good, if not better than before.
While I loathe the term ‘female-fronted doom band’ for so many reasons, I will briefly use the term here. While I do hate the term, Jex Thoth stand alongside Witch Mountain as an example of that at its best. Also, listen out for Earth cellist Lori Goldston on the last track.
Since writing this review, I have bought a vinyl copy of the album. Like Jex’s previous work, it sounds twice as good on my turntable as the digital version I reviewed here. If you can afford it, get the LP. It’s worth the extra cash.
Out now on I Hate Records
Copyright © Steve Wilson and The Third Realm, 2014