Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Hexvessel - "When We Are Death" (Album Review)

By: Doza Hawes

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 29/01/2016
Label: Century Media Records


All in all, the album marks a stark departure from the band's previous offerings, stripping away the atmospheric, acoustic folk instrumentation and eerie choir vocals for a mainly electric guitar-centred rock and surf sensibility.  I definitely recommend giving this album a chance, see what happens when traditional forest dwellers put down their folk instruments, pick up an electric guitar, take some acid, and head to the beach.

“When We Are Death” CD//DD//LP track listing:

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
11. Last Lovers In Hell (bonus track)

The Review:

After years of summoning spirits in the forests of Scandanavia, Hexvessel needed a vacation-- so they went to the beach, or so their latest album implies.

I first discovered Hexvessel whilst browsing the line-up of the legendary Roadburn Festival back in 2012. Described as "enigmatic, spirit-trafficking, Finnish forest-psych weirdos," I had to give them a listen based solely on their description. The music of Hexvessel, which spans 3 albums and a 2-song 7", began as primarily acoustic, atmospheric, and trance-inducing.  Their eerie, captivating sound has held my attention ever since, as I revisit their catalogue quite frequently.

In 2013 they released “Iron Marsh”, which took a slightly new direction, adding electric guitar and some rock elements to their sound, but primarily kept the ethereal quality of their earlier records.
The latest album from Hexvessel, “When We Are Death”, continues the altered trajectory set in their previous record, and goes much further in its electric instrumentation, revealing a band experimenting with new sounds and musical avenues (for them at least), primarily into the realm of surf rock, psychedelia, and alternative pop. The album, as a whole, is much more diverse than their previous offerings, which might be a bit jarring to listeners expecting the transcendent forest spirituality of their previous albums. If you can abandon any expectations you might have, based on their previous recordings, you might be able to get into "When We Are Death."

The opening tracks, “Transparent Eyeball”and “Earth Over Us”, immediately let the listener know that the band is taking a new direction. Centred around the electric guitar, these tightly-constructed psychedelic surf rock songs are upbeat and a far departure from the spirit realm of the forest. Track 3, “Cosmic Truth”, brings us back to the band's acoustic roots, and is a shining gem on this album. Lyrically, it's captivating, and the lilting vocal melodies combine with a melancholy piano drone to create a truly beautifully crafted song. “When I'm Dead” returns to the upbeat psychedelic/surf formula, with an interesting electric slide guitar meandering throughout, and a prog rock-inspired ending. “Mirror Boy” is a minimalist, soothing and stripped down tune, reminiscent of earlier records. “Drugged up on the Universe” sees the band venturing into a harder, yet spacey, perhaps Hawkwind-inspired bad acid trip. “Teeth of the Mountain” is a finely-crafted psychedelic rock song, with a beautiful mellotron overlay.

“Green Gold” continues along the same lines, finding a nice middle ground between the acoustic and electric realms that this album inhabits. “Mushroom Spirit Doors” gives us one last upbeat tune before the album seems to leave the beach and return home to the forest and close the album with the haunting melodies of “Hunter's Prayer”.

All in all, the album marks a stark departure from the band's previous offerings, stripping away the atmospheric, acoustic folk instrumentation and eerie choir vocals for a mainly electric guitar-centred rock and surf sensibility.  I definitely recommend giving this album a chance, see what happens when traditional forest dwellers put down their folk instruments, pick up an electric guitar, take some acid, and head to the beach.

“When We Are Death” is available now


Band info: facebook || bandcamp

1 comment:

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