The Finnish Folk-Rockers return just over a year later with the follow-up to All Tree.
Prog rock has been a pillar of the metal community for ages. Bands wanting to replicate the magic and success of groups like PINK FLOYD are innumerable, but groups who have succeeded and in their own right became icons themselves are few and far between. More often than not, the chaotic elements in play that make prog rock such a wild ride make or break the composition. Classical instruments galore, the strangest time-signature changes at seemingly inopportune moments, and a plethora of stylistic traits carve a panorama out of the bad trip, and tell a story that is more fever dream than romance and fantasy. Today's dream is taken from the creative minds in HEXVESSEL, who have emerged once more from the studio with their sixth offering, known only as Kindred.
Creeping in through the fog like a mystery novel, Billion Year Old Being stops playing to your more delicate side almost immediately, stomping away a 70's inspired entrance that sings the title in a chant not unlike what one would hear in the halls of a haunted chapel. A constant return to form echoes in the back as guitar and bass dance to separate soundtracks. As the rhythm crawls through one measure to the next, a bass-line steps out of pace, speaking low and bold about this album's ability to direct your attention everywhere at once and nowhere in particular. Near the five-minute marker, a soft melodic interlude takes the hands of listeners, ushering them towards an acoustic entrance to the second track.
Another note that takes from the noir, Demian is a ballad for those whose paradise is lost, singing an allegory that sits halfway between heaven and hell — not a bad place to be if you like the blues. It's minimal and moving, the slightest urging of a solo lead guitar coming out to wail in its upper register unevenly throughout the tune. It's the kind of Sabbath-esque goodness that will hook any lover of the original formula, and fans of the original Iommi sound will feel right at home on this one.
Tracks like Fire of the Mind exist to remind audiences that the folk draw of this band are alive and well. A lonely set of classical strings hum melancholic amidst a twinkling set of modern ones, crafting a song that could've come straight from WITCHCRAFT's Firewood album. It's suppressed and soft-spirited, calling back to the albums and anthems people listen to when they have to remind themselves that they too are alive, and aching. Born of the same primal energy that inspires artists to pursue the ancient and forgotten, this track takes a glimpse into the baroque and examines it for its modern appeal. It's just as poignant today.
Bog Bodies is stunning. In every essence of the word, this track fits like a glove into the world it was born for: gloomy, emotionally raw, and lurching through the sludge of isolation and lack of purpose. Soulful vocals tackle an almost GRAVEYARD-like tune, taking a muted trumpet along for the added noir appeal. It's like being in a Bukowski novel, trapped in impossible situations and stuck in a world of one's own design. It feels hopeless, and absurd, and it just works.
Eight tracks in, listeners will come across a track known as Kindred Moon. The mechanical feeling and staggered sounds of a confused percussive backdrop contain a loose and uneasy few measures. Vocal solos give way to a chorus in the round that folds harmony in on itself in a compressed form that is catchy and soothing, and yet eternally unsettling. It's like a lullaby for those doomed to perish, in a world made old again. It's another prime example of the folk-heavy elements that make this band stand out; the classic rock that drives them takes psychedelic influence by the hand and uses it to twist a beautiful chorus into a slow knife that shuts the doors to itself in the same manner they opened — coldly.
Kindred is a messy monster. It shares their combined knowledge of prog history by throwing a little of everything that has ever made the genre so damn intoxicating. However, it does so much across the board that this reviewer oftentimes ran back to the tracklisting to keep track of where the album was. Much like Dark Side of the Moon, it's a spiderweb of overlapping melodies and rhythms that sometimes take on a life of their own, and if audiences aren't paying attention, it's not difficult to become lost and overwhelmed by the depth of it all halfway through. There is so much at-play and so many things to hear and experience, making HEXVESSEL stand head and shoulders above their competition. They're creating music that evolves from beginning to end, but there's just no end in sight.
FFO: Opeth, Witchcraft, Jess and the Ancient Ones, By the Spirits, Graveyard
Kindred sets sail for the heavens on April 17th via Svart Records. Get your copy HERE.