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Tuesday 26 September 2023

Reviews: Hexvessel, Brian Setzer, Grymheart, Helve (Reviews By Rick Eaglestone, Matt Bladen, James Jackson & Jeremy Silverman)

Hexvessel - Polar Veil (Svart Records) [Rick Eaglestone]

Finland’s Hexvessel return with their sixth album, Polar Veil

Opener The Tundra Is Awake serves a great reintroduction with its hedonistic blend of splitting genres before Older Than The Gods sweeps in with it deliriously intoxicating soundscapes and features guest vocals from Bolzer’s Okoi Thierry Jones. Follow up Listen To The River is woefully down tempo and poetic and features Chelsea Wolfe adding a great depth and dynamic which is then complimented by “Cabin In Montana” which has some nice atmospheric black metal guitar parts.

Highlight track Eternal Meadow is delivered at a frenzied pace with a combination of vocals and spoken word entwining throughout, Crepuscular Creatures has some wonderfully echoing gothic undertones and really showcases the musicianship and encapsulates the overall aesthetic wonderfully. Ring is completely mesmerizing and doom laden which matching dual vocals really catches the atmosphere and although other videos have been the released, the one for this is certainly the most cinematic.

Polar Veil concludes on a maniacal scale as Homeward Polar Spirit stitches together creativity and chaos whilst throwing out one last occult fuelled creation into the ears and hearts of the listener. A cold natured visualization. 7/10

Brian Setzer - The Devil Always Collects (Surfdig Records) [Matt Bladen]

Sans Orchestra, Cat free and ripping out Echoplexed Gretsch rockabilly riffs. Brian Setzer goes back to his roots with The Devil Always Collects, firing off hip shaking old school rock n roll, it's meaner and leaner thanks Gotta Have Rumble, lyrics based around relationships and love, either warranted or unwarranted. Setzer's searing twangy guitar is out against chugging train rhythms, focussing this album around the idea of trio (which he will take on tour), Setzer's return from a long break with renewed vigour heard all over this album.

What rockabilly got to do with a rock/metal blog I hear you cry!? Well Setzer was a friend of Lemmy and formed HeadCat with him so Setzer very much deserves to be included in this blog. This album shows that in droves as it really rocks, the guitar work is really good. The only small issue I have is that when Setzer songs on the numbers such as the spooky The Living Dead and Girl On The Billboard, he's sound alike Weird Al and then I just couldn't unhear it. But that's a personal thing, if you want a throwback party record, then The Devil Always Collects will be a regular play. 7/10

Grymheart - Hellish Hunt (Scarlet Records) [James Jackson]

 According to the iTunes classification of Grymheart they’re a death/black band yet upon first listen, there’s much more of a power metal feel to it, vocally it’s more in keeping with Black Metal, that “screech” that is intrinsically sown into the black metal genre but musically, this is far more symphonic and polished, certainly not recorded in a Norwegian forest on a rusty tin can. 

A very “Folksy” intro opens this album from the Hungarian band which segues into the first song, Hellbent Horde is a frenetically paced track which doesn’t let up, it’s a power metal song through and through, symphonic elements accompanying catchy melodies played out on guitar; Ignis Fatuus or Will-o-the-wisp in English, opens with a similar “Folk” inspired theme that kicked off the album and it’s an underlying theme that runs throughout the album, blending in with and most likely inspiring the more melodic elements within each song. 

To Die By The Succubus, My Hellish Hunt, Army From The Graves, all song titles which give you more than enough of a hint that those not too indecipherable death metal vocals tell tales of witches, demons and armies of the undead and such dark creatures. Such themes can at times, feel somewhat comical and “cheesy” but whether it’s the moredeath metal style of the vocals which mask the lyrics or the ability to write a song about demons and soul sucking witches without it sounding like a joke. 

As a genre I’m not a massive fan of power metal, I can take or leave it as there are elements of it that just trigger me in a negative light although I have become partial to Powerwolf over the last few years; but that said there’s plenty to enjoy on this album, musically it ticks enough boxes to keep me interested. 6/10

Helve - To Be Forgotten (Rip Records) [Jeremy Silverman]

To Be Forgotten was interesting to say the least. With only 4 songs one may be inclined to think this is an EP, however with each song being immensely long, it is clear why this a full length.
My first thoughts were that there is a huge juxtaposition between the music and the vocals. After listening to the entire album, I felt as if the music itself was quite relaxing while the vocals were the direct opposite. On one hand, the guitars’ tone is what made this album seem to calm, the clean tone was full and ethereal while the distortion added a layer of gooey fuzz overtop. On the other hand, the vocals were unequivocally brutal. It was a testament to the vocalist for evoking such raw and powerful emotion over something that may seem sedate.
I enjoyed most the interactions between the serene and the harsh. Helve gave this album something that I had not heard a ton of… life. It is clear that this album has had thought put into it, the sounds made were exact even if they were harsh and raw. Strong 7/10.

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