Guest Column: Three Bands You May Not Know But Should By Heaven And Hell Records Owner Jeremy Golden

Guest Column

We’ve reached out to our metal and hard rock brethren across the land, asking that they contribute prose to our recent series of guest columns. We ran a recent series on Five Albums That Will Change You, and the response was overwhelming.

The new topic is Three Bands You May Not Know About But Should, and we asked that each guest writer jot down a brief description of what makes each band worthy of our attention. Today, we continue this ongoing series with an entry from Jeremy Golden, the owner of Heaven and Hell Records.

I would like to open with sharing my gratitude with Gun Shy for these opportunities; they are much appreciated and fun to do. As with all the columns Gun Shy tosses out they really getting me thinking about bands and albums that I may not have really focused on in a long time. Believe it or not some of these questions are not that easy and take a little thought. So while deciding on three bands for this column, I wondered “what are they asking for — current bands, older bands..?” So I decided to go with three U.S. bands from three different decades, two of which are no longer bands, and one that is still current.

I’ll open with the current and active of the three which is a band from Wisconsin in the early to mid- 2000s under the name Totem but later changed it to Jex Thoth in 2007. They released an EP under the previous moniker on I Hate Records. After the name change a split with Pagan Alter was released. In 2008 their first full-length ‘Jex Thoth’ was released and followed by a re-release of the Totem EP under the Jex Thoth name. In 2010 another EP was released titled Witness.

I cannot remember how I discovered this band but the first listen to them instantly grabbed me. It conjured up a perfect blend of Witchfinder General and Mandy Morton and The Springuns; matter of fact the first time my girlfriend heard it she thought it was the Springuns who were an English folk band from the early 70s. The influence of bands like Sabbath and Pentagram is obviously there, and it is not a stretch to guess that Jessica Thoth worships at the altar of Jinx Dawson and Coven. And like Coven I believe that many years from now this material will be rediscovered and find a wider audience. Oddly there seems to be this current trend with late 60s and 70s type proto-metal, and occultic doom type stuff like Ghost and Blood Ceremony, yet Jex don’t seem ever even get a small mention in that company. I can only guess it is due to being on a small label or either they will not compromise their geniuses to be recognized and I can certainly respect that.

There is something eerie and uncomfortable about the raw occultic doom of this band. Perhaps it is the mystery around them and the fact that not much is known. Whatever it might be it seems natural and rural. Even Queen Jinx herself seemed like she was trying too hard and made Coven out to look like a Halloween gimmick; there is something about Jex Thoth and Jessica that is both haunting and alluring.

The next band much like Jex Thoth was rather unknown in their time; they would gain a cult following years later when the 500 pressing of their From the Fjörds album would begin to fetch prices as high as $500 from collectors around the world. I am sure the members (Fred Melillo, Raymond Frigon, Kevin Nugent) had no idea that their little band would ever become so well known — well in some capacity anyway.

The band was formed in New Haven, Connecticut in 1978 and released their one and only album the following year on Empire Records. Legend were epic metal long before the term came about.

As the NWOBHM was taking off with bands like Angel Witch, Samson, and Maiden America had its own breed of underground heavy metal bands like Legend and Manilla Road. Unfortunately the press covered what was coming out of Britain so heavily that these bands were looked right over and it would be years until they would get any type of recognition. Thanks to the internet and collectors these bands have finally found their audience. However unlike Manilla Road who is enjoying a lot of recent and well overdue, and much deserved attention- for other bands like Legend it was far too late. However bands like Slough Feg will keep Legend’s name alive when they do things like record a cover of “The Wizard’s Vengeance” for their 1998 Twilight of the Idols album.

The From the Fjorns album has never been properly re-issued and probably never will be, but it has been bootlegged a few time. The sound quality is never that good but this album is one of the rarest gems out there so you really can’t complain. Just try to imagine a cross of early Rush (when they weren’t painfully boring) and Cirith Ungol and there you go, one of the great unheard hard rock/heavy metal albums from America. Several labels want to re-issue this and many fans want to see it happen but the odds are slim that it will ever happen. From what I understand one of the members doesn’t care to see it happen, Kevin Nugent died in 1983, and one is in league with Jesus and I guess Jesus doesn’t want to see it happen. It is really and truly sad that this band and album will forever stay virtually unknown.

The third band I will mention may be even more difficult to hunt down than Legend. I myself do not know much at all about them and there appears to be nothing on the internet about them either.

I find out about The Western Virus from one of its former member Nick Wells while helping the independent film director with his soon to be released film “Metal Messiah: Born Again Sage.” He told me a bit about a band he was in while living in Nevada and sent me a couple of CDs. With the first listen of these I was blown away and immediately had to spin them a second time. My only thought was “Why the hell did this not catch on with the masses?” Then again it is too “different” for most people, and I’m sure it was in the 1990s as well, a decade that prided itself on being “alternative.”

The Western Virus is not heavy metal or really rock, yet it is an amalgam of everything popular western music has to offer and that is what sets it apart from anything else. There is a major R&B influence and a lot of jazz, but sort of delivered by a 90s goth rock type band I guess. A lot of stuff comes to mind while listening to it like Chris Connelly, Alien Sex Fiend, and The Legendary Pink Dots, style that doesn’t come close to describing this. And unlike the bands mention TWV is very, very catchy- the tongue-in-cheek dark humor about subjects like necrophilia only seem to add.

The group only released a couple of albums; Dancing On Datura will probably be the easiest to find and still that may be difficult. But if you are an eclectic music lover you might want to try and dig this one up.

Ok that’s it for now, cartoons and cereal call to me.

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