In a week when we’re talking about classic, sometimes elegant heavy metal releases that feel like magical folk tales and historical battle retellings bombarding our listening, it seems like the right time to get ugly and talk about something perverse and rotten and completely bathing in filth. Trust me, we’ll get back to the majestic tomorrow, but today we’ll cake our faces with coal soot.
If you’re in a miserable mood where you just feel like burning everything in the world, you could do yourself many favors listening to Philadelphia-based black metal shadows Hexer, a group that plays no live shows (though they’re booked for 2014’s Gilead Fest!, offers no promo photos, and seems content to live in the corner of the darkest, dankest basement, seeking to jump out at you like an agitated spider. The band’s music sounds like what it would if you took the concept of music, somehow formed it into a tangible object, and put it through an industrial fan blade. Then once you were done, you set the fan on fire because, why the fuck not? Their fusion of black metal, punk, and thrash is infernal and completely buried in filth, yet it maintains an inviting edge. Melodies pull you in, make you feel comfortable for a moment, then shake you upside down until the contents of your stomach appear on the floor.
Hexer is comprised of three people, that being guitarist/bassist Phlegethon, vocalist Ansgar, and guitarist/drum programmer Lazarus, who also holds a primary role with fellow black metal warriors Mutilation Rites. I won’t totally give him up here since we aren’t exposing identities of the other two (and we don’t know anyway), but a little research will get you your answer. Together, they make metal that could not be rougher around the edges, with sounds that harken back to the second wave of black metal when it was the utmost compliment for your band to sound as non-produced and raw as possible, and vibes that could give you the chills and cause you to keep looking over your shoulder. This sounds like a demonic nightmare seen and heard through cellophane, and as ugly and foreboding as it is through its 36-minute running time, you just can’t look away. It’s too good, too suffocatingly beautiful that you can’t help but stay on for the whole ride, even if your psyche is telling you that might not be the best decision for you. Just give in and let out your inner hell.
What you hear on this band’s self-titled debut LP (wisely released by Gilead Media, who have a knack for unearthing gems like these) is a compilation of two cassette releases they put out in 2011, remastered by Adam Tucker with morbid new artwork by Ansgar. Thankfully, the underground chaos was kept in tact, there was no effort made to make these songs sound more polished, and the utter hellish vibe was allowed to remain, with Hexer sounding like they’re ready to take up arms against humanity and smear the blood across the night.
The six tracks aren’t given names other than Roman numerals. And considering this LP is put together from the tracks of the two cassettes, I goes in front of the track names from the first release; II before those from the second. So, “I:I” kicks off the record with a melodic buzzsaw fury, with riffs sounding like they’re a product of both punk and black metal (I hear some early Nachtmytium in this). The vocals are maniacal and frenzied, sounding like a demon on the loose, and spindling guitar lines and bubbling menace end the track in smoke. “I:II” is thrashy and dizzying, with razor-sharp lead guitar lines totally buried in noise, and Ansgar’s vocals riding along with the bloody stomping and galloping that the band serves us generously. “I:III” caps the first half, feeling like a static-drenched nightmare, with Ansgar howling annihilation and hell with her inhuman shrieks that rise along the band’s insanely catchy riffs.
The second half opens with … you guess it, “II:I.” Again, melody surges up, giving you the idea that they like to put an extra-infectious edge on their metallic pestilence, and there are parts of the song that are damn near danceable. That’s right. But you’ll get hurt doing that because you’ll have to go too hard and too viciously, so just sink into the riffs that taste like raw meat dipped in sugar. And violence. “II:II” opens with a riff that sounds kind of similar to guitar work found elsewhere on the record, but then it gives way to abject terror and abrasive vocals, scorching lead work, and an absolute drubbing that’ll leave you exhausted. But save room for “II:III,” a song with some serious crunch and a threatening demeanor, like you’re looking into the eyes of someone whose primary goal is malice. The vocals remain harsh as fuck, though there are moments where they smooth up just a bit. As the song reaches its conclusion, the band adds some new colors and textures to this hell-borne blaze, letting the record burn off with apparitions of the world ending and humanity suffering playing out in front of you.
It’s scary that you could walk past the members of Hexer on the street, and you wouldn’t know the chaos and tumult behind their eyes. They see you destroying yourself and the world around you, and they’re here to add gas to the fire and mock you as you burn. This mysterious band has a world of promise, absolutely crushes in the most animalistic way, and hopefully can conquer the planet before it eats itself.
For more on the band, go here: http://hexer.bandcamp.com/
To buy the album, go here: http://www.gileadmedia.net/store/
For more on the label, go here: http://www.gileadmedia.net/