Jacula was formed in 1966 by Satanist Anthony Bartoccetti and his wife Doris Norton. Their 1969 album 'In Cauda Semper Stat Venenum' is the most evil music that the world had ever known at the time of its release. That is, until a certain Brummy blues band stormed the world months later.
But regardless of its true origins 'In Cauda Semper Stat Venenum' is an amazing album. In 1969 this album wouldn't have fit in anywhere. Church organ, played by Charles Tiring is the lead instrument, followed by thunderous timpani (played by Norton), with the occasional spoken/whispered vocal laced throughout. The album features 6 inverted hymns and insists on being listened to by candle light. This is dark ambient music before there was a concept of such a thing. While the infant prog scene of the day seemed to be focused on some of the more fanciful applications of the hippie ideal, Jacula were provocative, unapologetic occultists. One thing's for certain, this isn't pop music, but is it even prog?
|Anthony Bartoccetti [Image Source]|
'Tardo Pede in Magiam Versus' is very much a product of its time. It's certainly progressive. At times the album transposes the spookier organ works of J.S. Bach onto a Fairport Convention album. However great that idea looks on (e-) paper, it sounds even better in practice (see "U.F.D.E.M."). Doris Norton's singing voice is deep, rich and powerful, her spoken word passages sound desperate and pleading, whenever possible she leads group chants. Much of the album however is devoted to organ solos. There are jazzier / loungier / dreamier parts of the record however, such as "Jacula Valzer" which belies any proto-metal leanings. In spite of that, much of the record is steeped in eerie moods, but falls somewhat flat when compared to its predecessor.
The beautiful and talented Doris Norton would eventually go on to become an early electronic music pioneer in the 1980s, actually working in IBM's research lab to create music. It's very much "robot music", not entirely unlike Kraftwerk. In hindsight, her fast moving electronic compositions might sound "retro futurist" to modern ears. They are not without their charms.