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Hexvessel – When We Are Death

When We Are Death
by Erika Kuenstler at 28 January 2016, 12:42 PM

In a scene where genre descriptions get more incomprehensible and murky by the year, it never ceases to amaze me how unparalleled some of the band descriptions are; most recently, I stumbled across HEXVESSEL, a band that is labelled as “Psychedelic Forest Folk Metal” from Finland. And that's not the extent of the convolution: There's multiculturalism, and then there's their front-man Mat McNerney, perhaps better known as the vocalist of BEASTMILK and former vocalist of DØDHEIMSGARD.  Whilst being British and having lived in Norway, he is now fronting this Finnish band, giving the album an interesting twist. With their new third full-length album “When We Are Death” due to be released at the end of this month, we step through a portal into a parallel universe circa the 1960s when Psychedelic was the golden standard, and shrooms and acid were almost part of a staple diet.

The album art already gives us a small prelude of what is to come: beauty entwined with malice, light interlaced in death, nature mingling with malevolence, and where colour seeps into the void. Incorporating haunting passages alongside psychedelic sections, 10 songs coalesce to form an web of sepulchre beauty that transports your very soul to a simpler time. Right off the bat with the macabrely titled "Transparent Eyeball", the past comes in swinging, leading us through nature-themed songs like "Earth Over Us" to more sublime and ethereal pieces like "Cosmic Truth". However, with moodier pieces like that, there is a fine line between being ensnaring and becoming background noise: If you aren't able to fully submerse yourself in the music, you'll soon find yourself bored. However, the upbeat organ-driven pace of "When I'm Dead" does well in recapturing waning interest, throwing in unexpected twists. This stands in stark contrast to the dream-like soundscapes woven into "Mirror Boy". "Drugged Up On The Universe" unsurprisingly has a trippier texture to it, whilst "Teeth Of The Mountain" shows that HEXVESSEL have the art of simplicity and minimalism down to a T. "Green Gold" carries on in this slow vein, with a lugubrious cascade of notes conjuring up images of a surreal love story. And just as the slow tempo starts to wear a bit thin, "Mushroom Spirit Doors" ushers in a quirky upbeat song, before closer "Hunter's Prayer" lulls you with its hypnotic melodies. But be warned: this is an album that needs your full and undivided attention to properly get ensconced in it.

Overall, this is a real throw-back to the glory days of the 60s where Woodstock was THE place to be. With “When We Are Death”, HEXVESSEL certainly are part of the retro-revival currently shaping the music scene, featuring the likes of UNCLE ACID & THE DEADBEATS, BLUES PILLS, and THE VINTAGE CARAVAN. Whilst this certainly won't be everyone's cup of tea, for the nostalgics among you, this is an album that will provide a delightful transport back in time.

3 Star Rating

1. Transparent Eyeball
2. Earth Over Us
3. Cosmic Truth
4. When I'm Dead
5. Mirror Boy
6. Drugged Up On The Universe
7. Teeth Of The Mountain
8. Green Gold
9. Mushroom Spirit Doors
10. Hunter's Prayer
Mat McNerney – Lead Vocals, Guitar
Marja Konttinen – Vocals, Percussion
Jukka Rämänen – Drums
Simo Kuosmanen - Lead Guitar
Niini Rossi - Bass Guitar
Kimmo Helén – Keys, Trumpet, Violin
Record Label: Century Media Records


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