Hex A.D. – Funeral Tango for Gods & Men Review

Much like a first love, a first review will always hold a special place in your heart. I popped my AMG cherry on Hex A.D.’s cheeky 2018 offering, Netherworld Triumphant. While dad-metal isn’t usually my thing, the confident and eclectic blend of influences the band served up, ranging from Cathedral to Sabbath, may not have been original, but it sure was a lot of fun. 2020’s follow-up, Astrotongue in the Electric Garden, dialed up the sex references even further, doubled down on the psychedelia, and signposted a band on the cusp of something great. When Funeral Tango for Gods and Men (FTfGaM) dropped, I took one look at the zany cover and figured this was it: these Norwegians were ready to ascend.

For someone who’s only been allowed access to the AMG headquarters for three years, it’s unusual to be on a third review for the same band. I get worried when artists pump out new material so quickly. In the case of Hex A.D., the band used the lock-down imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic to begin planning new music almost as soon as Astrotongue in the Electric Garden dropped. But while the cover of their latest collection promises more zaniness, it’s a far grittier and more somber record than its predecessors. Guitarist and lead singer Rick Hagan has stated that FTfGaM is a more personal and melancholic album for him, and the music reflects this. Gone are the more improvisational, psychedelic moments that made Astrotongue in the Electric Garden so eccentric and interesting. In their stead, we have mid-paced, doomy, hard rock, slathered in regret and sadness. While this probably reflects the miserable time many of us went through during the pandemic, it unfortunately deviates away from Hex A.D.’s core strengths.

Fundamentally, FTfGaM suffers from an identity crisis. What made previous albums interesting was the sheer eclecticism on display. Sure, Hex A.D. was borrowing generously from other, more established acts, but they did it with verve, panache and—most importantly—fun. FTfGaM has lost much of the fun, jettisoned nearly all the weirdness, and created songs that barely move out of mid-paced doom tempo. The results are plodders that advance with all the momentum and surprise of a sedated caterpillar through treacle. “Got the Devil by the Tail” and “One Day of Wrath, Another Gesture of Faith” both crawl on for more than eight minutes each without any discernible tempo change or sense of urgency. The anger and sadness that pervade the tracks stand in contrast to the fuzzed-out production. The album is like listening to a long, slow, angry rant by a stoned neighbor. You can decide for yourself how much fun that sounds.

On the plus side, these are experienced musicians who are more than capable of conjuring riffs out of nowhere. Mags Johansen’s mellotron is as delightful as ever, and adds an additional dimension to many of the tracks. When the band deviates from the plod, things get interesting; whether the lighter, cleaner sound of “Hell Hath No Fury” or the dense heaviness of “All the Rage,” there is more than enough subtlety exhibited in the former, and crunch and bite in the latter, to demonstrate the talent Hex A.D. possesses. Unfortunately, these songs are in the minority and occur towards the back-end, when attention has usually wandered.

I was really rooting for FTfGaM. Astrotongue nearly got an honorable mention on my year-end list last year, and I thought the band were going to lean into the psychedelic to make something special. Sadly, this was not to be. The latest album is thick, heavy and plodding, without the fun or the weirdness that made previous efforts so interesting. Without these elements, the derivative nature of the music really stands out, and the band’s identity is completely lost. This is a pity because I still believe Hex A.D. have something special in them. But angry, mid-paced doom is not it. Hardcore fans may find something here, but the rest of us will be hoping for more weirdness next time. I never thought I’d write this, but Hex A.D. needs less tango and more tongue.

Rating: 1.5/5.0
DR: 10 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Fresh Tea
Websites: hex-ad.com/ | facebook.com/hex.a.d
Releases Worldwide: October 22nd, 2021

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