Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Hexer: Hexer (2013)

Top Shelf

Earlier this year, Gilead Media introduced me to Fell Voices. The band's Regnum Saturni doesn't seem like anything special--not intellectually, anyway. You can't point to anything and say, "Here, this is why it's so compelling." But for some reason I kept coming back to it again and again. Its tendrils had wormed their way deep into my brain stem.

Well, the label managed to do something very similar with Hexer. Hexer is a remastered compilation of both of the band's 2011 cassette EPs, which were distributed locally in Philadelphia. And once again, I have trouble pointing to anything specific, but I keep coming back.

The comp is three songs from each of the two demos. In the first one, they tend toward speed and riff-mastery. And those riffs! "I:I" should have you convinced. Even though it would seem to be about uncompromising aggression, there is already a masterful sense of dynamics. The pace shifts regularly, or where it doesn't, the rhythm does, and the riffs themselves are never simply a blanket of sixteenth-notes. As it progresses into the second half, their sound gets somewhat moodier and more introspective, but it doesn't lose anything for the change. And, notably, the pacing, evolution, and consistency of the songs play out like an actual album. That is incredibly rare for a comp, but it helps that both EPs were released the same year with the same personnel.

They have a guitar tone that I've heard before in underground black metal, somewhere along the lines of Zwartplaag and Geist, among others. For no apparent reason that tends to be a hallmark of a lot of bands that are pretty good, but not great, but this is the exception. They also have female vocals, but you wouldn't know that if I didn't tell you first.

The Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars

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