I’m not the world’s biggest folk music fan, I always found it a genre that was a little weightless and airy for my tastes, but when I saw Hexvessel come up for review I decided to challenge my own prejudices and give it another shot. It also helped that I saw they’re signed to the excellent Finnish Svart Records who have Kaleidobolt, Callisto and Acid King on their roster, so this helped to incentivise me further.
Hexvessel were formed in 2009 by Mat McNerney (of many varied and numerous projects including Beastmilk and Grave Pleasures) when he relocated to Finland. The band is also made up of Kimmo Helén – piano, keys, viola, violin, trumpet, backing vocals, Jukka Rämänen – drums, percussion, bass guitar, Jesse Heikkinen – lead, acoustic & 12-string guitars, backing vocals and Ville Hakonen – bass. Kindred is their fifth and latest effort to date, following up from last year’s All Tree. The band are described as psychedelic forest folk and the artwork by Thomas Hooper and Richey Beckett certainly reflects this. The juxtaposition of the earthly artwork and album title Kindred suggests that the band have an affinity with the forest and all things nature related.
The album starts with Billion Year Old Being and at over 7 minutes is the longest track on the album. It’s a lovely mix of King Crimson style prog-rock and hippy psychedelic folk that reminded me of defunct US group Feathers (who were signed to Devendra Banhart and Andy Cabic’s Gnomonsong label) and is the perfect start to the album. Demian follows with a latter-day Dead Meadow meets Jethro Tull feel, I was half expecting Ian Anderson to break out the flute at one point, there is also some nice blues playing to be had as well.
[Billion Year Old Being is] a lovely mix of King Crimson style prog-rock and hippy psychedelic folk that reminded me of defunct US group Feathers…and is the perfect start to the album…
Next up is a cover of avant-garde outfit Coil’s Fire Of The Mind with some gorgeous violin added in for good measure, this wouldn’t be out of place on any of Swans’ output circa 1988-1992. Bog Bodies has a dark Lynchian feel with muted trumpet and noir jazz influence, right up my street in other words. At a minute and a half, Sir Leceat Lux is a short instrumental of shimmering guitar and sets us up nicely for Phaedra. Instrumentally this track recalls Miles Davis’ Sketches Of Spain era combined with Nick Cave style vocal melodrama and is nicely bookended by, yet another short acoustic guitar led instrumental called Family.
Kindred Moon is possibly the track I cared least for on the album. I found it a disjointed listen and the repeated refrain of the track title quickly grew tiresome and irritating. Magical & Damned with lush strings has a modern day Opeth feel, that is if Opeth went down more of a folk route. Final track Joy Of Sacrifice begins with some lovely vocal harmonies, a delicately strummed guitar and yet more lush strings.
The album was mastered by John Davis who has worked with The Killers, Led Zeppelin and Lana Del Rey so a professional job was expected, and which it achieves. The promo notes accompanying the album makes a bold claim that ‘Kindred sees Hexvessel re-forge their eclectic melting cauldron or ‘vessel’ of sound into a potent ‘hex’ of spell-binding songcraft’ and to an extent I would agree with this statement.
This isn’t an album that will suddenly convert me into a passionate follower of folk music, a genre which up to now I have been largely indifferent to, however it did make for a captivating and interesting listen at the very least.
Scribed by: Reza Mills