|Genre:||Doom Metal, Death Doom|
|Release Date:||17th of February, 2023|
|Released via||The Crawling Chaos|
|Cover Artwork||Vama Marga|
Where does our mind reside? When regarding developmental patterns of your brain, at what exact spot are we capable to understand mental states in order to anticipate personal or other people’s behavior. When having passed the procession and genesis of this state of mind, it becomes increasingly more difficult to gain access to core memories and influential experiences having taken place during these approximately initial four years. So what does it mean do dive deep into your mind, looking for answers you might not be willing to actually find?
German Black / Death Doom (-ish) duo Hexer were to find out on their latest and third full-length output Abyssal. Hexer is a duo hailing from Essen, Germany. Having served with their debut Cosmic Doom Ritual, the band has undergone extraordinary development already. Ever since the release of their sophomore full-length record The Realm of the Feathered Serpent, I consistently had this band on my scope, since this record massively convinced. On their third full-length, the frame drastically drifts away from the trope of Meso-American otherworldly entities and advances towards the bleak depths of the personal mind. Since the developmental steps between the previously released albums already showed a high potential for progression of their sound, I was eager to find out what Hexer’s third full-length is going to be about.
When entering Abyssal, it only takes a few seconds to find out that a major progression is going to be found already when listening to the overall sound and production of this album. Reconsidering one of the major aspects of Realm of the Feathered Serpent coming from the specific “almost-not-there” overdrive, Hexer chose to blend those in a little stronger on the opener “Katarakt” already. Hence, you are vigorously thrown into the furious outburst that immediately immerses the listener from the first second on. The only thing that instantly reminds you of Hexer is the very characteristic style of the guitar. Apart from that, though, we’re getting damn close to the sound of Old School Death Metal at its early stages – obviously mixed with a tincture that was mysteriously crafted at a forbidden place.
As was present on Cosmic Doom Ritual as well as Realm of the Feathered Serpent, there is again a specific theme that builds the foundation of the entire record. On the aforementioned album, the so-called discovery of the New World on the Americas formed the base of the record. Hence, especially Melvin’s massively convincing drumming as well as the cadences of the guitars overtook this theme and perfectly built a soundscape that captures this sonical sphere. On Abyssus, the narrative is slightly different. Shifting away from the Americas, also cutting off the focus on the external world, the emphasis now lies on the gaze into the inner self of the protagonist. Once again, the underlying groundwork of this concept is not merely on a hypothetical level, yet Hexer manages to integrate strong sonical spheres that implement this soundscape. On “Katarakt” already, as on several following tracks, meditative sequences convey the impression of slowly progressing ever-deeper into the mind of the protagonist. On “Katarakt,” this sequence is built with dreamy high melodies while the drive of the song is still upheld.
On the second track “Bathyskaph” – named after an old term for a deep sea submarine – the strong Death Metal tone of this album is set into the forefront when Marvin’s vocals climb down towards the raspy growling sound of the earliest pioneers of the genre. Apart from that, the riffing seems to soak up a distinctive style of Bolt Thrower for a few moments, which is then again shaken off when entering a following, interluding sequence. Contrary to the more ferocious style of this track, though, the meditative sequence slows the sound down even further than on “Katarakt” thus finishing the track when being taken to a halt.
As on their previous album, Hexer know how to uphold your interest in their songs with versatile interludes, specifically on the guitar. For example, the opening riff of “Sea of Molten Spirits” immediately grasps your attention, progressing from a rather oriental opening sound towards a meditative clean sequence and then crushing right into a fast Death (or Black?) Metal sound. When having arrived at this track you will find out how Hexer play with expectations of genre rules at the latest. As has been mentioned before regarding this album for several times, the classification of this sound turns out to be “difficult.” Easy to explain, though, why this is so difficult when you have a band that cherry-picks their favorite traits of different genres and integrates those into their already quite characteristic personal sound. Why abide with annoying genre rules that only invite gatekeepers to explain the misfortune of your album, when you can (seemingly) easily pick whatever minimal trait you like about several genres and just mix them with your way of playing music as has been practiced on output before? I named this style of music “difficult” myself already when having talked about Hexer’s previous album and I still stick to this term – which is a highly positive term in my opinion when the market is overflooded with repetitive purists bathing in the rules of their genres (nothing bad about simple and straightforward Death Metal, though, don’t get me wrong).
At this spot, when still listening to “Sea of Molten Spirits,” you might wonder – where is the dooooooom? No worries, you will – to a certain extent – be satisfied with the following track “A Torch in the Sky.” This is, in my opinion, one of the most interesting tracks on this album. This interest comes from the fact that this track is the only one on the entire album that does not move within the recipe of what I quickly recall as “the Hexer sound.” This is interesting, since this leads to the fact that, sonically, this is a very salient track that somewhat still hides within the general sound of the album. While “Jaws of Time” is drastically more salient due to the incredible guitar playing, “A Torch in the Sky” seems to subtly mark the “different” track on this album. Not sure if this is interconnected with the narrative of the concept – might be.
Fuck man – this is getting way too long. Nevertheless, I still have some more things to say about this album. What is getting quite obvious, though, when having been into the Realm of the Feathered Serpent is the fact that Melvin’s drumming is much different from the predecessor of Abyssus. While the drumming on ROFS strongly carried the vibe of the Meso-American theme of the album, the quickly evident Death Metal note on this release is also conveyed by the drum patterns. Thus, this is also another aspect that showcases the versatility of the band and implementing themes not only on the lyrical sphere but also sonically with their songwriting.
All of the songs on this album are great – I really have to admit. And I also don’t favor talking about an album song by song, although it might be possible in this case. It is, however, obligatory to talk about the final track “Jaws of Time,” since this track, next to “A Torch in the Sky,” drastically bears a unique style that perfectly delivers the trademark of this album. When there is an ongoing discussion about whether you could attribute the term Death Metal to this album (in my opinion, this only depends on how wide you define this term), I feel as if this track is the furthest away from it. Although the vocals still come very close, especially the guitar once more strays from the path, falling into patterns that rather remind me of representatives such as Birds in Row or other Screamo bands with a strong Metal affinity. This certainly adds a very specific, dreamy character to this track, which is also why it can be highlighted when discussing this album. Although Doom once more prevails on this track, we also get occasional blast beats that some of the listeners might have been waiting for on Realm of the Feathered Serpent already. The rest of this framework still is within what you might expect from downtempo Death Metal – hoarse vocals, slow but groovy drums and certain outbursts.
Although I tried not to talk about each track separately, I eventually seem to have ended up doing so anyway. This pretty much already sums up my feeling towards this album. Again, Hexer are capable of convincing me with their output at a maximum level. I am absolutely late writing about this release, the initial hype was gone already, yet I still entirely fell for this album. I can’t say any more apart from the fact that I hold high regard of the aptitude to evidently progress throughout Hexer’s ongoing discography while having found a unique sound from the debut album on already. It still remains interesting to see what is to come from this duo.