Psychedelic Prog-Folk band Hexvessel will release a new album this spring via Svart Records. Kindred is due out on 17th of April 2020, with cover artwork by renowned artists Thomas Hooper and Richey Beckett, which you can see below. A new single will be released on the 24th of January and full album details and pre-orders are coming soon. The bands back-catalog will also be reissued as well. The album promises a darker sound and owing to that, they returned to their original studio in Tampere, Finland, where they recorded their cult classic No Holier Temple, which fused Hexvessel’s folk roots with an occult undercurrent, with the new album mastered by John Davis (Gorillaz/ Led Zeppelin/ Lana Del Rey) in the UK. Hexvessel was formed by English/Irish singer/songwriter Mat McNerney (Beastmilk -now known as Grave Pleasures, The Deathtrip, Carpenter Brut, Me & That Man, Code, Dødheimsgard). Continue reading
The latest act to trot off the impressive Svart Records conveyor belt, Danish quintet Demon Head like to maintain the traditions of Doom. Third full-length Hellfire Ocean Void sees their devotion to Proto and Psych Metal expanded with a little modernity but sticking true to the format, a feat undoubtedly assisted by having legendary producer Flemming Rasmussen at the knob-twiddling helm. Continue reading
One short drumfill. That’s all it takes to bring you back into the Death Rocking world of Mat McNerney (aka Khvost) before Motherblood (Century Media) launches into an uptempo angular, jangly Joy Division-inspired shuffle, and the smile spreads across the lips. Continue reading
Even in this musically idiosyncratic world of genres, sub-genres, tribes, sub-tribes and singleton geniuses, the desire for Finnish psychedelic folk rock may not have been top of your musical shopping list. You should change that forthwith now that Hexvessel’s third album, the striking When We Are Death (Century Media), has arrived for our collective delectation.
Four years ago, their second album, No Holier Temple was a curious and often compelling blend of Woods of Ypres inspired atmospherics, Opeth tinged acoustics and an obvious and deep-seated love of drug influenced 60s and 70s rock, particularly that made by Mr. Jim Morrison and his partners in crime in The Doors.
No Holier Temple was about the trip and the mood; it was inviting and beguiling. By contrast, When We Are Death initially appears as a straightforward folk rock record. Before you jump to a logical conclusion that they have thrown the baby out with the Finnish bathwater, hold your psychedelic horses. The band’s love of psychedelia remains resolutely intact: when you have songs called Drugged Up On the Universe and Mushroom Spirit Doors it is fairly self-evident how the band spend part of their leisure time but there is also a much more deliberate attention to song structure and that oft-ignored discipline of the tune in distinct evidence here. Have a listen, for example to the sparky, keyboard soaked friskiness of When I Am Dead or the smoky jazz backdrop of the reflective and melancholic Mirror Boy and you’ll immediately understand what I’m getting at.
At the heart of this collective endeavour is the vocal prowess of British born Mat McNerney who has a fragility and emotional heft to his voice that does three things particularly well. First: it brings an authenticity to the songs that cuts through with striking immediacy. Second: as narrator, his range is never overbearing nor irritating. Third: he does the best Jim Morrison you’ve heard in ages. Oh and, yes, this is the same Mat from Beastmilk, by the way.
Hexvessel are an intoxicating proposition. They are not, repeat, not, a heavy metal band. Not in the stereotypical sense of the phrase anyway.However, Hexvessel share some of the same qualities and attitude that underscores the metal aesthetic. This is a record is a record of charm and wit and invention. It is a record that is warm and inviting and, being released in the depths of winter, you cannot say any fairer than that. So we won’t.
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It has been said that “the best way to predict the future is to invent it”. While I paraphrase The X-Files, there is nothing quite like an anti-hero with an existential crisis to detail that future in a chilling way. I am talking about singer Mat McNerney. Much was made the last few years of his band Beastmilk being the next great hope in underground music. They certainly acquitted themselves well over a demo, an EP and their full-length, the much-loved Climax (Napalm Records). Many bands have since picked up and jumped on the trend they started, bringing the romantic post-punk/No Wave (look it up) sound and style back in a heavy modern context. Few could do it as well as the masters. Of course such magical things cannot last and as the band gave way to lineup changes, and dissolved. What they mutated into is Grave Pleasures. While their début Dreamcrash has been out for a while in Europe, its proper release comes from Metal Blade on a more appropriate gloomy early November day.
Dreamcrash, in spite of the new players in the band is the spiritual child of Climax in many ways. The album plays with a sense of urgency and a dripping sexual swagger that makes you take notice on repeated listens. It is very consistent track after track and when you first hear it all the way through, it is a very satisfying feeling when you think of the progression from the old band to now. McNerney channels all of his energy to his rubber-voiced range, making some stunning melodic choices and killer phrasing per usual. It helps that his lyrics here are among his most biting, yet sad at the same time. Mat has all the dour charm that the Ian Curtis/Peter Murphy/Adam Ant wanna-bees all wish they had. At the same time his vocals have a deeply fragile psychosis about them, not unlike Roger Waters conveyed at his peak. Something tells me Mat would hate that I reached this comparison, but that is what is in my heart listening back to these tracks.
The music is the real equalizer on this album. Although my own jaw dropped at the thought of Linnea Olson (ex-The Oath) joining the Dreamcrash dream-team, her contribution is only part of the special equation. Juho Vanhanen (Oranssi Pazuzu) was the real difference maker in the writing. Together Olson and Vanhanen crafted beautiful menacing tracks, with layers of riffs and motifs that pop up unexpectedly. Songs like ‘Utopian Scream’, ‘New Hip Moon’, ‘Futureshock’, ‘Crisis’, and ‘Lipstick On Your Tombstone’ play like the soundtrack to the end of the world, or at least the end of your love life. If you were somehow in a group of people who were not ready for the sooth-Sayers’ words to come true about the apocalypse, this music would cut right through you.
In terms of originality, Grave Pleasures are not trying to reinvent themselves or music here, and so over time you do feel a sameness in the songs that takes this down a slight notch. However, in the view of the band re-imagining itself a bit and fulfilling their earlier bands’ glorious promise, they get full marks. Hopefully the apocalypse is everything they ever wanted and more.
We’re five days into Incubate Festival and still shivering from the impressive performances of The Melvins, Girl Band and Shining. Ready to watch some more of our favorite bands and discover another handful of new ones, we once again throw ourselves into the lively heart of the city of Tilburg.
Lumerians opens our Friday night in one of the smaller rooms of the immense theatre of Tilburg. The audience has taken a comfortable seat on the wooden tribune that opposes the stage while the band plays a hypnotizing, spacey post-punk with a light 60’s sound to it. They are dressed up as monks in robes of a shimmering, glittery material and behind them play such fantastic psychedelic visuals that we’re too mesmerized to even think about dancing along.
One big bonus point that comes with having a festival bang in city center is the abundance of good food. Overpriced hamburgers and soggy fries don’t make it on to our menu during Incubate. On our way to Hall of Fame to see Grave Pleasures, we find out that, what previously had been an abandoned industrial park crossed by rusty old train tracks, suddenly houses an atmospherically lit and freely accessible food truck festival. Dinner this weekend: sorted.
When we manage to tear ourselves away from the smell of freshly ground coffee and char-grilled hamburgers, Grave Pleasures, risen from the ashes of Beastmilk, give us a theatrical and captivating performance. Their sound is edgier than before but still has that recognizable apocalyptic feel to it. For a complete change of sound, we head off to Little Devil, where Belgian Associality shows us the fun side of punk with songs about punk granddads and a man who only drinks Jupiler beer.
We’re still singing along to the chorus of the beer song when we arrive at the biggest name of the day: Converge. In a relentlessly loud performance, the hardcore punk legends live up to their name and put down one of the best shows of the week. A few hundred people are stage-diving and dancing in the pit as if their punk credentials depend on it. Frontman Jacob Bannon radiates a contagious energy as he belts out hit after hit. Sweaty and exhausted, we call it a night.
Saturday brings about a problem of an entirely different caliber. With so many different venues with each their own selection of beers on tap, we have a bit of a heavy head on our way to the first name on our list. Finnish K-X-P’s melodic, electronic sound with a definite hint of krautrock wouldn’t feel misplaced in the vaults of an abandoned Berlin power plant. However, the wooden beams, high ceilings and stained glass windows in Dudok, create a beautiful contrast to the industrial noises and ghostly sounds of the band. They put on a captivating show that calms our heads and prepares us well for the rest of the night.
Extase’s small stage and low ceiling sets the perfect vibe for a loud, no nonsense punk band and this is exactly what we get from Priests. Frontwoman Katie Alice Greer has an incredible stage presence. She parades on stage, screaming, singing and roaring in a skintight, giraffe-patterned suit and manages to give the audience a permanent death stare that would make Courtney Love green with envy. Priests gives us precisely what we go to Incubate for: seeing a relatively unknown act for the first time, who absolutely blows the patches off our jackets.
On the final day of the festival we finally have a sunny day and immediately take advantage of it to watch a show in the Muzentuin, a courtyard of the town’s art academy. We watch Surfer Blood play alternative rock with a lovely summer feel to it, before we decide it’s time to dive back into the loudness and head to Hall of Fame where the hardcore punkers from Jesus Police are tearing the stage to shreds. With so many bands playing at the same time, it’s sometimes tough to decide which ones to go and see and we may have been slightly favorable towards Jesus Police because of their name (it was a tough decision to skip Cocaine Piss later on).
Melodic post-rockers The Black Heart Rebellion whip us up into a Seventies progressive rock infused dream as they close the night in a ram packed Little Devil. With the imprint of the happy, sweaty faces of the crowd still in the back of our minds, we dash back to Midi to catch the second half of Wire, who have called upon about twenty guitarists from other bands at the festival to join them on stage. In a haze of perfectly orchestrated noise, they temporarily form The Pink Flag Orchestra and perform their 1977 debut album song ‘Pink Flag’ in a playful and legendary conclusion of the festival.
We cool off outside, still a little high from Wire’s brilliant performance, and convince ourselves that, yes, we still have enough spirit and adrenaline to make it to the after party in Extase. Chief Developer of Incubate Joost Heijthuijsen is one of the DJ’s, so within an hour of arrival we are part of a long conga line and attempt to dance to German schlager music. What a way to end a festival! The next day we hear that Neneh Cherry, who closed the festival in the Muzentuin on Sunday, was apparently part of that conga line and had a great time at the after party. She’s 51 years old and we had to agree she definitely beat us all at being the coolest person at the festival that night.
WORDS BY CÉLINE HUIZER
Grave Pleasures (ex-Beastmilk) have announced the addition of new drummer Uno Bruniusson (ex-In Solitude) and have inked a new recording deal with Sony Music. They will enter the studio in May to begin tracking their new album with producer Tom Dalgety (Royal Blood, Killing Joke), with a tentative September release date. Read the statement here.
Since its controversial rise to prominence, in the early ‘90s black metal has continued to engage and challenge listeners’ preconceptions by mutating into challenging new forms. Acts like Arcturus, Borknagar and Dødheimsgard have pushed the limits of the genre by incorporating techno, opera and folk into the mix but while DHG’s Aldrahn provides the vocals on The Deathtrip’s visceral Deep Drone Master (Svart) that is where the similarity ends. Arising from the ranks of black metal legends Thorns, The Deathtrip is the brainchild of Host (A.K.A. Paul Groundwell of pioneering UK label Peaceville) who has sought to plough a more atavistic and primitive furrow.
Host explains how this elite meeting of minds, lead to one of the genre’s most invigorating debut records. “Kvohst (A.K.A. Mat McNerney, ex <code> Graven Pleasures, Hexvessel, Ex DHG) was going to do vocals for The Deathtrip, but he played some of the instrumental demo songs for Aldrahn, as they were in touch at the time. Aldrahn was really into them and ended up taking over the vocal duties instead. The Snorre [Ruch] connection came about because of Aldrahn’s involvement in Thorns. Aldrahn played Snorre some of the demo songs with his vocals and Snorre loved what he heard and has been a great supporter since. In regard to putting the band together it didn’t make a difference as they weren’t people I knew through Peaceville. The band grew simply from people hearing and liking those old raw demo tracks. It feels like only the music did the talking, and for that I am most grateful. The very origins of The Deathtrip though, go back to around 2003 when I made some songs just for myself to listen to, as I heard barely anything at the time which brought much magic to these ears compared to what came before.”
Founded on hypnotic, repetitive riffs and beats Deep Drone Master, may not be a throwback to the genre’s origin’s but Host maintains that keeping the sound primitive was key to recapturing some of that old magic. “Well I’m sure there was some Burzum and Darkthrone in the early days as far as creating and maintaining a ‘feeling’ goes.” Host agreed. “Some of it was also simply because when programming drum beats I didn’t want to take too much time on that, so I made a primitive pattern, looped it, and made the riffs over the top. As the tracks unfolded I just thought that maintaining that same pace and beat brought a good hypnotic element, so why mess it up for the sake of ‘creative diversity’? It’s about having time to digest the riff and fall into the monotony of the patterns.”
To some Deep Drone Master may sound like a homage to the past but as Host explains the album contains some extremely uncomfortable personal moments:
“The song ‘A Foot In Each Hell’ came about because of somebody’s suicide, but the song isn’t concentrated on or about the act itself. It is more about the fabricated kingdoms we invent to fortify the self and the powers of human control and persuasion.”
“Mostly they deal abouta sentimental relationship between myself and my own subconscious mind. As well as the subconsciousness of humanity.”
Vocalist Aldrahn clarified. “It is the connection between myself and humanity as well as the disconnection. It would be easier to answer for each song, but still it’s emotions and thoughts on paper. Many of these thoughts and feelings are difficult to describe, as they belong to my own perception of time and space an dare thus very personal.”
“Making Me” for example, deals about the complete absence of love, the total isolation from all warmth in life and then becoming it, like wearing it as an entity. A lot of them deal about journeying through the darker aspects of the mind, facing up with all sorts of ugliness inside and then forcing through it until it’s done.”
This all-star Norse/English act also feature the drum work of sometime My Dying Bride and Thine sticksman Dan ‘Storm’ Mullins and bassist Jon T. Wesseltoft. Host clearly valued the input of friends who brought his vision to life! “Well it was great to have Jon involved as he was another person who was a big appreciator of the demo tracks from early on, which he heard from Snorre I think. Bass was non-intrusive, so was sitting underneath nicely, keeping the pulse. It was the same for the drums. The idea was to keep the beat simple and keep it running. No prog rhythms for us thanks! ha-ha!”
The icy minimalistic approach does well to convey a harrowing sense of isolation. Much speculation surrounds the question of if The Deathtrip will continue to function as a studio project or if live ceremonies are on the cards. “I see it as more of a band.” Host cautiously approached. “There will be much more music regardless. We have had some interesting offers but it depends on many things such as DHG’s schedule.”
The clandestine nature of its creation and the pleasantly unexpected re-appearance of DHG to the live circuit this year, it will come as a surprise that a second record from The Deathtrip may not be that far away. “Well I had made quite a lot of songs and they were going perhaps even more trance-like and simplistic, but since then, the new riffs I’ve been making have reverted back a little more towards what was being done on the earlier demo tracks, with a bit more ‘attack’. It’s certainly not just replicating the old style though. There is more depth and feeling to the formation of the riffs. Some songs will need to be re-arranged but there is easily an album’s worth of ideas to focus on.” Host exclaimed. “A new album for this year seems rather optimistic even though I’d originally hoped it might’ve been possible. Will just keep writing, and maybe start some of the recording later in the year, as it is a busy year for Aldrahn anyway.”
WORDS BY ROSS BAKER
Publicist UK are an intriguing combo which see Dave Witte (Discordance Axis, Municipal Waste drummer) joining forces with Revocation bassist Brett Bamberger and team up with Distant Correspondent’s David Obuchowski and former Fresh Kills mouthpiece Zachary Lipez.
It would be natural to expect pounding rhythms and adrenaline fuelled blasts, especially considering the rhythm section. Only that couldn’t be further from the agenda. Instead gothic post-punk is the order of the day, with the spectre of the late 70s looming largely over the two tracks present here. The sound of the band is decidedly British in its choice of influences, reeking of decaying Chameleons and Fields Of The Nephilim records. “I love it when you talk real politics!” Lipez pines like Andrew Eldritch reciting the works of Fredrik Engels.
Original Demo Recordings (Static Tension) is the kind of effort fans of recent death rock troubadours such as Beastmilk may lap up, although Publicist UK are more retrospective in their style and the reverb and treble heavy production; Spiralling melodies are interwoven amongst the effortless performance of Witte, who provides a solid backbone, largely sitting back to support the song. His pulsing sixteenths accenting every nuance of ‘Slow Dancing To This Bitter Earth’ while Lipez repeats the hypnotic mantra of a chorus over jangling riffs to great effect.
They also use the music as a platform to hit out at faux social rebellion. “Wave a red flag and decorate your handbag” snarls Lipez on the latter number, clearly using it to take a swipe at insincere political campaigners who do much complaining but little to change the systems in which they live.
Since this tempting morsel has been delivered, the group have taken up residence on Relapse Records and are working on a full length. Given the murky depths this release mines, it will be interesting to see if they can progress as strongly as they have started.
Babylon Whores are the single most underrated band of all time, and Cold Heaven (Misanthropy, though recently re-released on vinyl by Svart) is the greatest undiscovered gem of all albums, so it is with anticipation most foul that Sleep of Monsters’ debut Produces Reason (Svart) saunters into our musical consciousness, being as it is the new vehicle for the distinctive crushed velvet pipes of Ike Vil, former ‘Whores mainman.
It can often be unfair to compare a new venture to a participants old wares, but when the vocal cords are as instantly recognisable and perception shaping as Vil’s it’s hard not to. Accompanied by songwriter and guitarist Sami Hassinen (Blake) and former members of Waltari and HIM, Produces Reason kicks off with a pair of rockers, as if Ike’s former occult troupe had been polished by the HIM hit machine, ‘Nihil Nihil Nihil’ dark, catchy and understated, with a strong vocal chorus hook.
As the album unveils, the rock element is toned down and replaced by a more gothic, sedate feel, led by Vil’s characteristic delivery and melancholic lines, and flashes of Sisters of Mercy, Beastmilk and even Simple Minds decorate their Gothic rock. ‘Christsonday’ liberally dips its toe into Queensryche’s ‘Eyes Of A Stranger’ and emerges with the guitar motif intact, dropping the familiar lick over their death rock, while ‘Magick Without Tears’, the true closer for this album (additional track ‘I Am The Night, Colour Me Black’ is superfluous and dynamically doesn’t work) kneads in the vocal talents of the “Furies”, a trio of female vocalists whose harmonies proliferate the album at various points, over a Pink Floydian organ-led flick.
Managing to retain the core elements of its participants former endeavours, weaving and celebrating their individual talents and ideosyncracies, Sleep of Monsters have produced a credible dark pop debut, reflecting the pasts of its’ creators, and one that leaves the promise of something even more grandiose and fruitful in their future.