REVIEW: HEXVESSEL – “Kindred”
Hexvessel almost foresaw the revival of the popularity of the occult in popular culture (the resurgence is seen in The VVitch, Hereditary, and many other films). Along with Blood Ceremony, Hexvessel was instrumental in bringing the psychedelic folk revival into the fore, especially seen with their debut album ‘Dawnbringer’. The band has tuned the influx of different influences as they released four albums with varying levels of weights on psych rock, acid rock, neofolk, dark folk, and prog on each of their albums. Although the direction of their third album ‘When We Are Death’ did not catch my fancy as much, their return to ‘forest’ folk with ‘All Tree’ definitely did.
‘Kindred’ is Hexvessel’s fifth release and will be coming out on April 17 on Svart Records. For starters, Kindred is a lot darker than its predecessor. It has the aroma of dark nights of the woods, bathed only in the light of the moon. It has an unnerving effect that creeps up amidst calming strings. Some progressive sections can be sonically placed between a possessed Jethro Tull and Opeth’s Heritage. The psych sections build, in a very Hexvessel style, on elements that you might associate with early Black Sabbath or Led Zeppelin.
“Billion Year Old Being” is a solid old school prog rock with occult rock influences, starting off a psych riff like something the band Occultation would make, and slowly moving into the new Opeth territory of 70’s prog worship. “Demian” has the bluesy surfy licks of the old that foreshadows a sinister prospect endangering your life. What follows is an amazing effort to capture the morose and existentialist emotion of “Fire of the Mind”, a track from one of my favorite albums ever ‘The Ape of Naples’ by the legendary experimental group Coil. The violin drives the core melody of it and the percussion here adds a more grounding effect.
“Bog Bodies” sounds like something you would hear on Badalamenti’s Twin Peaks soundtrack, fitting perfectly well with the aesthetic as well. The saxophones bewitch you into following the formless source of the sounds into the black of the forests. After an eerie string interlude, “Phaedra” plods into an ominous flux with no apparent exits, only to be incongruously punctuated by another interlude as if the flux led you to the Other. Here onwards, the folk aspects of Hexvessel slowly bubble upwards. “Kindred Moon” is probably the soberest track on the album, with soothing strings and an easy aura. “Magical & Damned” continues on the alleviating mood, the warm vocal delivery over the tender strings creates a bittersweet and enticing tone. “Joy of Sacrifice” has an underlying peril behind the free-flowing acoustics misleading the listener to a space that facetiously seems safe but is not.
With ‘Kindred’, Hexvessel casts a spell of charming perturbation of the subconscious with how the prog, psych, folk, and dream elements, performing an interplay of sorts for the 39 minutes it lasts. The juxtaposition of nostalgic elements and eccentric Hexvessel-ness causes the blurring of the real-unreal borders. This is definitely a spirited path taken by the band that seems to deliver early fruits, and I’d like to hear more of the prog elements decorating the folk.