Review: Hazemaze ‘Blinded By The Wicked’
The last two years have been frankly weird, and I think we could all do with some more certainties in our lives. I always find it reassuring to think of all those things that you can rely on happening: the little nobbles in the middle of a CD jewel case that holds the CD in place breaking in the post; the council never collecting my recycling bin on the alternating week that they’re supposed to; Olivia Colman appearing in any film that so much as mentions England. On the positive side of the coin, I’m glad to be able to list Hazemaze regularly releasing quality music in their own inimitable style as one of life’s better predictable events.
For those of you unfamiliar with the band, I’m sure some context is in order. Hazemaze are a three-piece from Strängnäs (which Google Maps tells me is a small town not far from Stockholm) who released their debut Self-Titled LP as recently as 2018. I only found out about that retrospectively (and by the bye, would strongly recommend checking it out) after coming across the band’s excellent second album, Hymns Of The Damned, which was jointly released by Ripple Music and Cursed Tongue Records. For this, their third record, Hazemaze have teamed up with kingpins Heavy Psych Sounds.
Now, given the list of awesome record labels the band have been associated with, you could probably make a fairly accurate guess as to what flavour of heavy rock they dabble in, but seeing as I’m here I may as well just tell you: Hazemaze deliver the Sabbath worship with a healthy respect for the masters and none of the campy schlock or retro affectation that seems so popular these days. Instead, you can be certain of getting more than your fair share of riffs, delivered with minimal mucking about and a suitably sinister vibe.
I guess Church of Misery sort of makes sense as a point of reference – they don’t sound overly similar, but both bands seem to have a knack for going all the way back to the wellspring of heavy rock from the early 70s and making it sound like their own. Perhaps just as relevant: whereas across Hymns To The Damned Hazemaze delivered a series of songs about murderers, on Blinded By The Wicked they’ve moved their attention onto cult leaders.
I think this preamble is in serious danger of just becoming a ramble, so let’s start with what’s good about Blinded By The Wicked. Well, the first thing that jumped out to me is how nice the production on this record is. There’s minimal use of overdubs, so what you get is guitar, bass, and drums in perfect balance with the very occasional use of keys. I wouldn’t say that it sounds exactly vintage, but it sounds completely natural and strikes the perfect balance between grit and clarity.
if you’re in the mood for some classic Swedish stoner-doom (and let’s be honest, who isn’t?) then I’d suggest Hazemaze as your next port of call…
The second thing that jumps out is the confusingly named album opener In The Night Of The Light, For The Dark as it’s as good a track as you’re going to hear all year. It’s got that guitar tone that always reminds me of Into The Void absolutely nailed and, despite being heavier than something suitably heavy for this simile to work, manages to really swing rather than plod. If you can marry an awesome guitar tone with an awesome groove you’re surely onto a winner. At the risk of providing a deeply unhelpful comparison, it really reminds me of WTGB by Japanese stoner legends Eternal Elysium.
Ethereal Disillusion is another corker – a quiet/loud workout about the Heaven’s Gate cult with an epic chorus, an equally epic bassline, and a really sweet guitar solo. Album closer Malevolent Inveigler is another track that really stands out, beginning with a strange, off-kilter riff before the band locks into another irresistible groove. The track goes through a range of different sections, every one of which demands you nod your head along as you’re treated to a smörgåsbord of righteous guitar and bass interplay.
If I had a criticism, it’s that there isn’t a great deal of variety across Blinded By The Wicked, either in terms of pace and tone. Apart from the short Planet Caravan-esque interlude Sectatores Et Principes, there’s plenty of mid-tempo grooving, but not a huge amount of anything else. Where the songs are as good as those I’ve described above, it doesn’t really matter, but there are places in the album where I find my attention wanders. There’s nothing wrong with the songs like Divine Harlotry and Ceremonial Aspersion, they just don’t reach the heights of some others.
Still, if you’re in the mood for some classic Swedish stoner-doom (and let’s be honest, who isn’t?) then I’d suggest Hazemaze as your next port of call.
Label: Heavy Psych Sounds
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram
Scribed by: Liam Blanc