The Black Heart, London
9th Nov 2013
Psychedelic rock / doom metal band Jex Thoth, currently based in Madison, Wisconsin, have recently been over in the UK touring. Louder Than War’s Sean McGeady caught their London date – and was suitably impressed.
Humbly taking their seats on stage without much of an introduction, it’s not until midway through support act The Death Letter’s opening song that most realise there’s a performance in progress. With warm vocals washed in reverb, acoustic guitar and sparse brushed drums, the trio’s plaintive lounge doom proves compelling, and slowly draws an impressive audience, each of whom stretch to get a glimpse of the seated band. Their songs are concise, but leave a lasting impression. A cover of Tom Waits’ Dirt in the Ground is well received, as are original songs Sleepers, Skin and Waiting For The Light. After finishing their set of charming, woeful folk, The Death Letter leave the stage as modestly as they entered.
The Black Heart is bathed in a regal purple light. A pair of candles burn at stage left. Jex Thoth enter the stage.
Throughout their set eponymous vocalist Jex appears possessed. Caped, cooing and crying from behind her sweat-drenched mane, she’s a captivating presence, channeling equal parts Kate Bush and Catherine Ribeiro. Alongside Witch Mountain’s Uta Plotkin Jex is one of the most accomplished and proficient live vocalists of the doom genre, masterful in her control of timbre.
There’s something very mysterious about Jex. Three songs in she hovers around the candlelit curtains as if in ceremonial reverence before taking the fire in her hand and entering the audience. The crowd parts and encircles her. She stands amongst her dazed and delighted devotees and weaves the flame with one hand whilst gripping the mic with the other. She climbs back to the stage. Quite what she’d set fire to I’m not sure.
In part, it’s this sense of mystery that lends the show such spirit. Jex later moves to the corner again and lowers her palms to the candles, extinguishing each flame. There’s a potency to the sound too. Nothing is lost in the mix. Throughout stand out tracks The Places You Walk, When The Raven Calls and The Four of Us Are Dying Jex’s vocals crest the resonance forged by clear, leaden guitar and deep, distinct bass, while punchy drums fill the gaps between sustained chords. It’s like lava flowing across solid molten rock.
Jex relights the candles as the band return to the stage for their encore. After over an hour of sensual, ritualistic and resolute doom Jex Thoth leave the stage for good. It’s more than a competent performance. The band are strong, but are merely an aid to what was indisputably Jex’s show, and what a show it was.