Danish band Hexis have been torturing the masses since back in 2010. Up until now, their tales of atheism and abstract thought have been dished out via a bunch of demo’s, EP’s and splits with the likes of French post-metallers As We Draw, Russian atmospheric, post-hardcore band Euglena and Danish post-black metallers Redwood Hill. Now, as the new year kicks into full swing, Hexis have finally grabbed the demon by the horns and they’re all set to deliver their first full-length consisting of 13 stripped down abominations that bring to mind the harrowing events of an exorcism. You could write off Hexis as a bunch of ‘angry teens’ in their furious determination to deliver their caustic mix of hardcore, scuzz-rock and doomy black metal. Or, like myself, you can be intrigued as to how Hexis combine these abrasive musical streams, creating an art-form that focusses on message over music.
The album kicks off with “Faciem,” consisting mostly of escalating, unsettling interference and chanting overlaying a drawn out, somber guitar riff that takes possession of your mind in the same way that Abalam takes possession of his lustful human host. You’re in luck though, instead of death being your only escape, Hexis have followed Fukpig’s lead and along with the majority of the album, they’ve kept the track to well under three minutes. “Tenebris” (originally off the Hexis/Redwood Hill split from 2013) picks up right where “Faciem” ends off, offering a deeper insight into the dark world Hexis are trying to open you up to. Filip Andersen has an oddly monotonous vocal style that sits somewhere between a rasping, throaty chant and an ugly, whispered shriek with a similar hardcore edge to Celeste. You don’t get the full intensity of his bludgeoning ministrations until you hit the back end of the album – “Exhausit,” “Immolabant” and “Neglexerunt” have a sharper production edge that really seems to make the vocals pop!
Instrumentally Hexis have a dense wall of sound, abrasiveness that brings to mind a stab at Early Graves, Goner. The front end of Abalam comes across as though each of the tracks forms a part of the greater concept. Each of these ‘micro-songs’ are packed with dramatic and jarring shifts, pummelling you with frightening velocity in one instance and moments later strangling you with their thick claustrophobic atmosphere – the intense speed upfront almost makes the doom seem doomier when it eventually arrives. The title track (a two and a half minute instrumental epic by micro-song standards) shows, without the mask of vocals, the band’s use of scuzz or noise-rock fuzzy guitar and screechy feedback elements that combined with black metal beratings delivers an abrasive cacophony that does it’s damnedest to envelope you in its dirty, repulsive shroud [I call it a New York Jets jersey — Steel “Bitter Fan” Druhm].
My biggest complaint when it comes to Abalam is that outside of tempo shifts, there’s a distinct lack of diversity across the album, and when I put Abalam up against say an album like Animale(s) by Celeste, a band that employs similar black metal and hardcore elements, Abalam falls short of my expectations. The tracks flow on from one to the next in a very similar, formulaic fashion with a disappointing creative restraint that makes it difficult to find individual stand-out moments in each track and just like so, the listening experience becomes overly taxing.
The production on Abalam has similarities to the clearer production style used by Celeste on Animale(s). That said, there are definite inconsistencies with the intensity of the vocal levels that left me enjoying the back end of the album more than the front end. This is a worthy first release by a fairly young band and I’m looking forward to them growing more adventurous on future releases! [And learning how to use a camera too. — Steel Druhm].