Man, I really miss Alchemist. Much like Anacrusis, Alchemist were so far ahead of the curve with their heady blend of progressive melodies, Killing Joke-inspired riffs, and the raspy growls and otherworldly banshee shrieks of guitarist Adam Agius. The amount of times I spun Organasm and Spritech can’t even be measured, and when word got out in 2010 that the band dissolved after the sheer heft of 2007’s underrated Tripsis, yours truly was crushed. Wasting no time, Agius plucked members of Alarum and Aeon of Horus to form spiritual successor The Levitation Hex, and while their 2012 self-titled debut displayed a natural growth from the otherworldly soundscapes of Agius’ old band, Cohesion takes that progression out even further with some intriguing, albeit mixed, results.
Cohesion starts off promising with “Disrate,” leading off with a driving kick-beat and an opening riff that reminds me of classic Judas Priest. Agius and bassist Mark Palfreyman (Alarum) share vocal dutes, with Palfreyman relying more on a hardcore shout, complimenting Agius’ gruff vocals. Right off the bat, the band’s use of synthesizers has been scaled back significantly, making the guitars carry more of the atmosphere while further distancing themselves from Alchemist‘s trademark watery shimmer. Thankfully, both Agius and Scott Young (Alarum) do a great job building tension with angular Killing Joke melodies layered over some heavy riffs, building a track teeming with urgency and aggression. Not a bad way to kick off an album.
There are some moments that recall the trippy-yet-driving chemistry of Alchemist while successfully growing into new directions. “Amygdala” begins peacefully, but by the end the atmospherics combined with some of the heaviest riffs on Cohesion turn it into one of the album’s more thundering numbers. “Hipokritikill,” besides possessing one of the worst song titles I’ve seen in a long time, features an intriguing lead about halfway in, building tension and atmosphere. Drummer Ben Hocking (Aeon of Horus) puts in a beastly performance during the chorus of “Sleeping Synapse,” making it one of the album’s heavier tracks. Hell, even Agius’ banshee screams from his Alchemist days reappear in album standout “The Things Time Can’t Mend,” making a sideways nod while moving forward with a new-found sense of aggression. It’s during these moments where Cohesion shines brightest, marrying a celebrated past with a heavy, exciting future.
However, there are a few things holding Cohesion down. Chief among those would be the need to self-edit. “The Things Time Can’t Mend” is a great track, but goes on for far too long. The second half of the album (save for “Hipokritikill”) doesn’t hook as well as the explosive first half of the album, and that’s critical because even though the album is only 45 minutes long, you want to keep the listener engaged the whole time the album is playing. Soundwise, the album sounds incredible, with Palfreyman’s overdriven bass tone cutting through the sharp guitars like a knife, and the drums hitting with the proper amount of heft. When the keyboards do come in, they’re thankfully just accent points and not carrying the song on its own.
While Cohesion may not make as big a dent as Organasm or Spiritech for me, it does keep me intrigued as to where the band is heading, as the aggressive moments on here take their psychedelic sound even further than Alchemist ever did. The Levitation Hex is still a young band, but given the pedigree of its members, there’s a lot of promise displayed here. It will be exciting to see what these guys are capable of brewing together in the future.