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Hex A.D. - Netherworld Triumphant Award winner

Hex A.D.
Netherworld Triumphant
by Chris Hawkins at 15 October 2018, 5:45 PM

Rick Hagan fronts HEX A.D., a band that despite being a bitch to type, kicks a lot of ass from Norway, successfully marrying the best of Doom and Classic Prog.  There is simply no better adjective than epic to describe the band’s sound, though regal and impactful could also be used.  “Netherworld Triumphant” is the band’s third full length despite sounding like they have been jamming since 1969.  Evidently Magnus Johansen, the band’s keyboardist, has done some work with DEEP PURPLE legend Jon Lord.  The elder’s band set the precedent for what would become Heavy Metal with giant Hammond organ chords.  A few of the band members evidently did extensive touring with Blaze Bayley, Paul Di’Anno, and Ripper Owens for that experience shows throughout this album both in tone and execution.  If anyone remembers AGENTS OF OBLIVION, the project featuring Dax Riggs among others following ACID BATH, this material has a similar vibe.  Fans of the above along with BLACK SABBATH, classic KING CRIMSON, PINK FLOYD, please do read on.

The introductory track, “Himmelskare,” features a remarkable piano piece deeply rooted in Classical music, specifically from the nobly expressive Romantic Period.  “Skeleton Key, Skeleton Hand,” the following track, shows the band playing at their heaviest, an abrasive groove-rooted approach to minor key-oriented material such as CANDLEMASS.  The third track, “Netherworld Triumphant Pt. I” is similar.  With a verse riff that rocks along like DEEP PURPLE classics, the main riff could fit onto any album from DOWN’s discography.  The album successfully becomes more immersive the deeper one falls down the rabbit hole. “Boars on Spears,” has a beginning riff almost identical to the opening heavy riff on W.A.S.P.'s “The Titanic Overture,” and it is repeated further along.  A more mellow song is realized as it rolls along smoothly shaping the sound fully with melodic jazz chords.  It could actually be considered a ballad or better put, epic, in which the singer bears a strong vocal resemblance to Mike Patton.  The guitar harmonies in the last couple of minutes show strikingly innovative approaches and show a mature band, capable of writing top-shelf album material.  It bears a feeling similar to dreamy classics by THE CURE, the best of KILLING JOKE, and even the very best PINK FLOYD material.

The seventh and final track, “Ladders to Fire,” is the penultimate climax of this convincing collection of musical narrative.  There truly is a path followed similar to what English class taught for proper composition.  It begins with a slow, Doom part, drowning in vibrato and later joined by the kind of hanging harmonies that made David Gilmour famous.  The Hammond organ of course gives a more vintage sound, but the verse section contains a more Progressive approach to Doom with simple lead chords over a singer whose vocal delivery exudes the reticent amount of gusto which propelled David Bowie, Ian Gillan, and even Ozzy to timelessly classic status.  It is truly refreshing hearing the amount of energy and personality with which the vocals cleanly provide.  The chorus opens up with a gargantuan feel that breaks into a spacey, trippy part.  At the eight-minute mark, one is effectively met with the rich feeling of discovery while casually visiting other planets and galaxies.  The song has now taken a role that could perhaps be labeled Avant Garde.  The heavy guitar does make its return and, in its spotlight, delivers a cleverly put-together solo that, like all the great ones, introduces the listener taking them somewhere else before returning to a previously visited part.  The amount of creative energy put into this album could be argued for, in light of being over-descriptive.

Thanks to the internet, Metal fans across the globe are more united than ever.  Hopefully, those looking to escape the trends will be thus introduced to this band.  Their music works on so many levels.  First, instrumentally, everything is pristine.  Each musician is a professional.  While this is technically guitar-led, there is a plethora of keyboards to help further shape the music.  It wouldn’t be a stretch to see this in the most discriminating Doom fan’s playlist or, rattling around in the glove box of your dad’s truck, as it constantly smashes and exchanges blows with ta\[es such as BLACK SABBATH, BLACK OAK ARKANSAS, and HAWKWIND. Regretfully, I haven’t heard the band’s earlier stuff.  What can be said is that the band is rich in ideas floating from space and down into the depth of Doom.  The material sounds absolutely classic, an effective, litmus test for potential fans.  “Netherworld Triumphant” excels in quality able to coax die-hard and also garner new fans.  If they could only play the States…Regardless, my many friends in Metal and more, I whole-heartedly recommend this album among the greats of 2018 thus far.

 Songwriting:  9
Originality:  9
Memorability:  9
Production:  8

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Himmelskare
2. Skeleton Key
3. Netherworld Triumphant Pt. I
4. Netherworld Triumphant Pt. II
5. WarChild
6. Boars on Spears
7. Ladders to Fire
Lineup:
Rick Hagan – Vocals, Guitars
Magnus Johansen - Keyboards
Matt Hagan – Drums
'Arry Gogstad– Bass
Record Label: Fresh Tea Records
     


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Edited 17 November 2018
 

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