Under The Spell
Released: 2015, Metal Blade
There is always a method to the madness. Metal Blade Records for many years now has been running a very cool Anniversary reissue campaign. They essentially take an album that is celebrating it’s 20th, 25th or 30th anniversary and give it the deluxe treatment. All of these have gorgeous packaging, usually a two or three disc set, often with a DVD and housed in a cool little box. They look awesome and the attention to detail is superb. So far Metal Blade have issued…
(2003) Armored Saint-Symbol Of Salvation
(2004) Voi-Vod-War And Pain
(2005) Fates Warning-Awaken The Guardian
(2006) Flotsam And Jetsam-Doomsday For The Deceiver
(2006) Hallow’s Eve-History Of Terror
(2015) Thrust-Fist Held High
(2106) Hexx-Under The Spell
(2017) Cirith Ungot-Frost And Fire
…and perhaps a few more. Supposedly there is a rare, European-only Sacred Reich box out there as well.
Now we get to the ‘method to the madness’ part. I was wondering why a relatively, unknown and long-defunct band like Hexx would get unearthed out of the crypts, dusted off and get called back into active duty on the Metallic frontlines. Surely, Hexx did not have a huge number of fans the first time around so why do they (or Thrust for that matter) get this special treatment? I can wrap my head around why bands such as Voi-Vod, Armoured Saint, Fates Warning, being candidates for the 3CD box-set reissue campaign. They deserve the reissue treatment because fans still remember those albums, the bands (and respective albums) are influential and the bands are still going. But Hexx? Really? The last thing they put out was an album called MORBID REALITY back in 1991. So why Hexx? Well, they have reformed. They have been doing some gigs and demos of new material. When I learned that, the light bulb went on. Hexx is also back with a new album called WRATH OF THE REAPER slated for a release in September 2107. So the timing is right for Metal Blade to strike and bring out this very cool addition to their reissue campaign. I am so glad they did! Even if the motivation is purely economic it is still a very cool addition.
I know Hexx. I own three of their five releases, but oddly enough I never owned their first two albums, originally released on Shrapnel Records. I don’t think I’ve ever even seen a hard copy on cassette. I don’t think there were ever formally issued on CD. The band changed styles into more a death Metal thing and admittedly they did get the call up to Century Media, but remember...a jump from Shrapnel to Century Media was not a huge step as the young German record label had just started about three years prior and Shrapnel had been going for years. In fact, by industry standards, for Hexx to go from Shrapnel to Century Media was probably a step down if anything. Five years between albums, a big change in style and line-up and a drop to a smaller (still untested label) signaled the end of the band. I just happened to buy the bands later output, (2 EP’s and an album) but never heard the first two albums. Until now.
UNDER THE SPELL, like the other boxes in this series is very well done. A two- disc set with a massive booklet and a bonus DVD. The booklet is called ‘The Hexx Story:The Rise and Fall of a Bay Area Legend’. It is 50 pages long (!) and tells the entire history of the band in tiny print. There are about 80 photos, interviews , it is exhaustive and totally comprehensive. It will tell you everything you want to know about the band. Disc One houses UNDER THE SPELL plus a bonus live rack, two new songs from 2015, and demos tracks. Disc Two houses the NO ESCAPE album plus various more various bonus tracks. Each CD also comes with an 8-10 page booklet with lyrics and so forth. The DVD itself is four and half hours long! The time that went into this labour of love must have been huge. Metal Blade and the band did a phenomenal job on packaging and presentation of this lost gem(s).
This set so massive it would be really hard to review all of it and because this review is already pretty long, I’m going to keep it short. If you are not familiar with Hexx, they changed styles as I mentioned earlier, but in their first incarnations they were classic US Power/Speed Metal like old Vicious Rumours who also used to be on Shrapnel Records in the early days. The 1984 debut NO ESCAPE was very solid. A short album, nine tracks, 30 minutes but it showed what they band had to offer. The band switched singers as Dan Bryant came on board and the whole next album UNDER THE SPELL was stepped up a notch or two as Hexx took it to the next level. More speed, more shred, more Power and all of the wonderful and frantic overplaying characteristic of every band in that era; MARS, Racer X, Surgical Steel, Cacophony, Toxic, Crimson Glory, old Metal Church and so on. What an amazing record. Bryant was a great, intense singer. I now regret never hearing this album 30 years ago, it would have been a personal favourite no doubt, but now have a new album to enjoy. The DVD is a selection of nine shows, most of them clubs shows from 1986-1990 and two newer reunion shows shot at Keep It True in 2014 and HOA in 2015. Again in the interest of time I’m going to pass on an extensive review/analysis of the 4.5 hour DVD.
By this point, you know if you are a Hexx fan who is willing to watch the DVD, read the big book and relive the first two albums. On a quick personal note; thanks to my buddy Evil Dave who got this for me for my birthday. This went under my radar back in 2015 when it came out and now the quest to find original pressings of the cassettes begins! This is no escape because if you grab this boxset you will fall under the spell of Hexx!