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Hexed – Pagans Rising Award winner

Hexed
Pagans Rising
by Dave "That Metal Guy" Campbell at 19 July 2022, 6:20 AM

The Swedish Symphonic Progressive Metal band is back with their second album “Pagans Rising”. Along with the powerful lead vocals of Tina Gunnarsson, this theme album definitely has great songwriting mixed with strong choruses and male growl. It´s a perfect blend of spellbinding guitar melodies, chugging riffs, dark symphonic orchestrations and progressive elements. It has been written with inspiration and history of Sweden’s witch-hunting hysteria in the late 17th century. Behind the unique sound of this masterpiece is the talented mixing/mastering engineer Ronnie Björnström. This release is a much heavier and darker version of HEXED. The album contains ten tracks.

“Pagans Rising” is the first cut. From the start, the roaring and commanding vocals of Tina Gunnarsson are vibrant and in your face. She could cut through several layers of pure steel with her voice. The music is rich, full dark, brooding, and full of symphonics. The might and power of the sound is very evident, and when Tina reaches the upper ranges, glass shatters. “Resurrection” is another strong piece that features flowing melodies that are as dark as the deep ocean, and are turned up to 11 in the chorus. The background is full of other elements that compliments the main sound, and the band is off to a raucous start. “Stigma Diaboli” begins with backing vocals and keyboard notes that lead to a murky and energetic riff. The shadowy, overcast music plays very well with the tender clean vocals. Tina seems to have a never-ending well that she can dig into when the music calls for dramatics.

“Repentance” is the act of atoning for one’s sins. But don’t look to half-hearted apologies here…indeed, the subject roars back and fights against the unfair judgement of her and her peers. You can hear her scream, “I AM NOT A WITCH” at the top of her lungs. “Stellan’s harsh vocals accentuate this feeling. “Incantation” is a spell used to conjure the dead. In this case, the subject uses the spell as last ditch effort to free herself from the dungeon where she awaits a deadly trial for her life. The music is full of desperate and longing qualities, and you can feel her final effort to free herself in any way she can. “Prophecy” is, as expected, a darker and more vital song with plenty of foreshadowing. The harsh vocals are tenacious and durable, and the push-and-pull between them and the clean vocals is one thing among many that the band is very good at. “Symphony of Tragedy” chronicles the calamity of the entire trials. You can feel the subjects trying to plea one final time to their captors that they are innocent, but they turn a blind ear towards them.

“Blasphemy” is a dark and moody song where the heresy is hung out for all to see. The music is heavy and aggressive but not without comfortless melodies. The harsh vocals are what you remember most in this song, and fire comes from the depths. “Dark Storm” is the final warning of what is to come. “Paralyzing fear” is one thing that Tina calls it. The storm is on the horizon, and what has been put into motion from the Gods (or lack thereof) cannot be stopped. “Moorfield” closes the tale. I’m not sure where the reference is from, but the tale end bloody. Tina reaches deep for the vocal performance to end all, with a heavy, burdensome quality that will forever couple you with the subject matter. Stellan’s closing harsh vocals cast the final blow.

I love a good story as part of a listening experience, and the tale they tell is both vivid and interwoven into the music so very well. The tale comes to life in the music, and draws you into the subject matter so easily. Both vocalists are outstanding at their trade, and the music can be dark, clouded and cold at times, but never without wondrous melodies in support. HEXED have done it again, with a standout album that shows the world the unforgiving and fierce songwriting team that they are.

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 9
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Pagans Rising
2. Resurrection
3. Stigma Diaboli
4. Repentance
5. Incantation
6. Prophecy
7. Symphony of Tragedy
8. Blasphemy
9. Dark Storm
10. Moorfield
Lineup:
Daniel Håkansson – Bass
Stellan Gunnarsson – Guitars, Vocals
Tina Gunnarsson – Vocals
David Nyman - Guitars
Patrick Wahlberg - Drums
Record Label: ViciSolum Productions
     


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Edited 02 December 2022
 

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