To understand why I’m in a funk over this, you gotta understand why the original was such a piece of genius. Two hippy tramps sing the hymns of the Process Church of the Final Judgement as psychedelic rock songs sounds awful on paper, but through the shamaesque presence of Jex Thoth (whose vocal gesticulations and total and utter ownership of any stage make her immune to criticism) and the deadly serious and barren musicianship behind her whychhampton lilt helped make the whole thing one of the best albums of that year. Now they’re back, and by ‘they’ I mean Dave Nuss, Jex Thoth has been substituted with Jamie Myers of Wolves in the Throne Room. Nobody could replace Jex, ever (‘cept maybe that sweet sweet lay-dee from Deap Vally, although don’t think she could carry off When the Raven Calls) but Jamie Myers doesn’t even seem to be trying. Her vocals are revoltingly Hollywood, which when she’s singing about Satan and Christ uniting, doesn’t sound right. The balance is shattered, the balance struck so finely by Jex Thoth and Dave Nuss on their first record between parody and glorification of a religious cult that had dubious connections to Manson (yes, that one) without lapsing into either; now it is both. To render these religious hymns with such loving pleasant melody belies their sinister lyrics and the whole album ends up being an advert for the Process Church, similarly the sugar-sweetness over supposedly religious songs places this in the horrifyingly large and petrifyingly popular Christo-rock genre, between myself and which I cannot put enough continents. To understand what’s wrong with the new one you’ve gotta dig what made Restored to One such a heavy proposition. Restored to One was a massive success and a genuine square-jolter, and the Miltonic grandeur of the lyrics was matched by Jex Thoth’s Katyusha splashdown delivery and the sparse desert of the music left more space to fill with pantheistic terror. If y’ can just conceive for a mo’ of Ozzy, or, or, the Garn, or Adam Black Savage or Adam Richardson actually singing, in a clear enunciation and action of the beliefs that define and motivate their every action “Lord Satan our souls inspire, with gift of love our new desire”… that tremor of genuine hysteric religious terror is not false, nor is it incorrect, it indicates only that you are still breathing. Restored to One owned that creeping Lovecraftian paradigm-shifting fear, that Wicker Man face-to-face contact with something you cannot, and will not, understand; it owned it so much it could take out a mortgage on it. It successfully built a life-size and photographically accurate portrayal of the churches full of faintly disturbed people who genuinely sing these hymns, like Sleep’s Dopesmoker was chock-loaded with the kind of full-blown quasi-religious nonsense that starts genuine religions (‘Creedsmen roll out across a dying dawn’), Sabbath Assembly was a notch more powerful because it was the sort of full-blown quasi-religious nonsense that was a genuine religion. The new one is none of these things. The new album is lazier, flabbier, with none of the undercurrent of fear, of real pantheistic trembling inspired not sonically but spiritually through the power of Jex Thoth’s vocals. The new album plays like the chart-hopeful version of the original song. The x-factor version of Restored to One, the instrumentation is more delicate, clearly studio’d, the power of the original rested on the sparse instrumentation, like a small cult choir that could never have built the electric guitars, the multi-tracked recording, keyboards, all sorta shit like that that’s slathered over the top of this record. It’s a miserable and total failure.
|Sabbath Assembly, no Jex no deal.|
That’s until y’ get to the preacher bullshit parts, which aren’t even singing, it’s pure Coven without any of the faux-black mass bullshit joy of that record, or the rose-tinted nostalgia-specs; a pathetic preacher which horribly sticks out of the disk, when Restored to One never needed to stoop to such pathetic parodic filth. It’s endlessly empty; even the moments where it accidentally harks back to the quality of Restored to One, Jamie Myers doesn’t come close to Jex Thoth, at its worst, it’s the sunshine pop-version of Process Church hymns and glorifies religious Mansonite scum while also laughing at them. Restored to One (my copy at least, bought at a Sabbath Assembly show, which was great, natch) is pure white; the booklet is white, the CD is white, the case is white. The new one comes in a beautifully presented booklet package in pure black, and that I think signifies its utter valuelessness. Ye Are Gods sounds like an alternative version of Restored to One that slipped out of a pan-dimensional gateway from an alternate earth where Marty McFly never invented rock and roll and the government never disallowed acid ‘cept now it’s vended by Starbucks equivalents and everyone is fulla bad acid and has to bore themselves constantly to keep from filling with murder frenzy. Ye Are Gods not only sounds like the product of people who didn’t make Restored to One, it sounds like the product of someone who didn’t even listen to Restored to One.
Written under duress by Steven.
Post script – after careful rumination on this utter piece of dry-wank, and Restored to One’s genius brilliance, I’ve been thinking this review was inevitable. For the longest time I believed that Restored to One was going to be a one off, a single record, a single tour (which I caught and was awesome, natch) because singing psychedelic hymns, even if they brought back Jex for this album and pulled at that same medieval peasant awestruck horror chord, it mighta just started to get dull. While they ring their bell with admirable gusto, I can’t help feeling it’s a bell that was only meant to be rung once. Maybe the idea is poisoned. Maybe, Dave Nuss and Jamie Myers, you oughta just have left it alone. Jex news is good news though and a European tour for her mountain-rubblers Jex Thoth this year points to a revival of the best band before sliced bread. Huzzah!