Released: 2012, Pulverised
Hexen is one of those bands that not immediately musically connect with me. I’ve had the album for quite some time, many months and despite several listens it wasn’t exciting me. However, I felt deep down there was something there that I wanted to a good chance before writing a review, or skipping it altogether. It had all the initial indicators of being very cool; a good band name, an awesome album cover, good production but it took time to warm up to this album. Then finally just last week it really captured my ear.
Hexen is an American progressive thrash band. Progressive thrash is hard to do well, but Hexen do it well. They have a sound that is hard to capture, maybe a bit like some European counter-parts such as Coroner, Mekong Delta (with the classical influence) so some other cool lesser-known bands like Heads Or Tales or Rosicrucian perhaps. Their sound is a clean-burning European sound despite the quartet being from Los Angeles. BEING AND NOTHINGNESS is their second album and the band has made the jump from a small label to the esteemed Pulverised label and added a new guitarist in the form of Artak Tavaratsyan.
Hexen is a very cool band and the new album reminds me of a quote by Dream Theater. I think it was LaBrie who said, “We are too Prog for the Metal guys and too Metal for the Prog guys” (or something similar.) I think the same applied initially to me for Hexen. BEING AND NOTHINGNESS sounded too Thrash for my Prog side but too Progressive for my thrash side. However, repeated listens make me realize that these guys have actually hit a really sweet spot that is hard to define and even harder to perfect. Bottom line: I’m really starting to love this record. It’s just the right length the nine songs run about 53 minutes and no self-respecting Prog influenced album would be with an epic song to finish the album and in this case that song is ‘Nocturne’ the 14-minute monster closer.
The vocals of Andre Hartoonian and really gruff, almost deathlike in places but his enunciation is clear enough to make out the intelligent, existential lyrics. This is where the Prog side comes through, no thrashing songs about ‘Mosh ‘til Death’ and the like! Hexen is more about the ‘Macrocosm’, the ‘Indefinite Archetype’ and the ‘Stream Of Unconsciousness’. The songs are very dense, lots and lots of lyrics in these heavy, heavy songs. The pace is relentless although an occasional hint of acoustic guitar is intermingled.
I guess it better late than never so I’d encourage you to check out this high-quality challenging, intelligent band that thrashes with the best of them. BEING AND NOTHINGNESS could be the dark horse of the year.