Aleister Crowley: occultist, ceremonial magician, poet, painter, and chess player. The shroud of the occult followed his blackened coat-tails like an obedient dog. Was he really a prophet sent to guide humanity? Was he really a spy working for the British government? Was he really one with the spiritual world or were the drugs he siphoned into himself just a tad too potent? Whatever your view, the stories and philosophies of Crowley and others of his ilk brighten up the dullness of our material lives; their obsessive attraction to the weird and wacky of this world has unearthed a plentiful abundance of material for musicians and writers to utilize. Haxxan — consisting of all the current members of Necrophagia (although the drummer and guitarist have swapped places) — are one such band. With their Aleister Crowley themed album Loch Ness Rising they seek to conjoin the mysterious and magical world of the occult through death metal’s gritty mire. The question is: have Haxxan concocted an incantation powerful enough to rock your socks off?
Aiwass, the non-corporeal overlord of the religion of Thelema, confirmed to me in a dream that Loch Ness Rising is certainly powerful enough to score a reasonably high mark on this esteemed occult website. Loch Ness Rising is a well-constructed death metal album that mixes the best elements of Necrophagia’s more recent horror-themed quirkiness and the no-nonsense proto-death riffing of their late 80s escapades. Merge this with the melodic brightness of Heartwork era Carcass, crunching doomier sections, and the bizarre world of Aleister Crowley and you’re on to a winner. It’s this thematic focus that gives Loch Ness Rising its charm and consistency.
Haxxan play hard and simple. There’s little in the way of complex riff-casting here. Rather, Loch Ness Rising is made up of raw, elemental directness that procures its magic through thick and heavy viciousness. Opener “Loch Ness Rising” consists of grueling mid-paced grooves topped with samples of Crowley reciting cryptic lines of poetry. “Arcanum Arcanorum” continues with mid-paced, Celtic Frost-esque riffing that thunders and rumbles with a force that is intensified by the vitriolic double-layered growls, snarls, and wretches of death-metal vocal-necromancer, Killjoy. The majority of the album consists of these chunky mid-paced riffs, however, they rarely grow stale. When they are forgettable, as at the end of “Babalon,” they don’t linger. Haxxan know not to drag songs out for the sake of dragging songs out. Rare spurts of pace, led by sledgehammer heavy double-bass drumming, arrive precisely at the correct time too. These are very well structured songs.
Transitions into moments of melody and beauty are never far away either. In the second half of “Loch Ness Rising” melodies climb to the starry heights of the afterlife, adding a poignant depth to the heavy horror of the opening parts of the song. Second track “93” also carries a poignant melodic depth, slowing down with melodies thicker than congealed blood. “Chemical Perversions,” leading on from “Disciples of the Silent” with slimy smoothness, re-injects a demoniacal groove and cryptic vitality into Haxxan’s veins; in the closing parts, heavy metal sol0ing and fiendish melodies spin, twist and hook into the skin in such a catchy way that you’ll be humming melodies of misanthropy deep into the night. Traces of the twin-guitar melodicism of mid-90s melo-death can also be clearly heard at points throughout the album, adding a warming diversity to the snarling barbarity spewed forth from Killjoy’s animal-hybrid lungs.
Quirks and eccentricities emerge from the doom and gloom to counteract the militant economy of the drums and guitars. Prominent organ sounds weave through the mix, adding a dramatic playfulness and off-kilter atmosphere to proceedings. Instrumental track “Aiwass,” slotted into the middle of the carnage, is a peculiarly immersive interlude that channels the sounds of ancient civilizations and non-corporeal deities. Similarly, closing instrumental track “The Aethyr” rounds off proceedings well as the album breaks up and dissolves into haunting, disembodied ambiance.
There’s not a lot wrong with Loch Ness Rising. It’s got a thick and heavy production that works. It’s got simple riffs and well-constructed songs. It’s both catchy and brutal, but I’m not sure it’s something that’ll stick with me for a long time and I didn’t experience the goose bumps and shivers that I would have with a great album. Nonetheless, this is well worth your time.