Review Summary: An old sound in a new light.
Hexvessel have been a long time in the making. For more than a decade, their frontman, Kvohst, has been dabbling in forms of avant-garde black metal. Boasting acts like Dodheimsgard
, Kvohst's very distinct vocals were what set him apart from many other vocalists. He had a unique way of delivering his lyrics, bending the pitch in his voice and experimenting with atmosphere. Contrasting with often fierce black metal, his vocals would stand out as pure, but unsettling. With the black metal element removed, and a lot more freedom, Kvohst and his band release some of their best work to date.
It's not the first time that Kvohst's vocals have been stripped down like this. Hexvessel's debut can attest to that. It was a cramped release, with little room for movement. Instrumentally it resembled a folk album more than a full band. Percussion was minimal at most points, and layering was used sparingly. The only plus side to the album was the fact Kvohst was doing vocals, which at the time seemed more like a gimmick than an endearing attribute. This time around, Hexvessel is just as strong instrumentally as they are vocally. No Holier Temple
marks the transformation from a side project into a band, and it's noticeable. The album caters to more of a psychedelic rock feel, than it's neofolk predecessor. The band blends their own take of bluesy psychedelia with small elements from flamenco, cabaret and 70's prog.
No Holier Temple
oozes warmth from almost every pore, contrasting the warmth with small spurts of discomforting dissonance. The guitar tones are light and fluffy, and touches of well programmed synths manage to reference 70's prog without coming off as cheesy. Vocally, most of the songs are very catchy. Unlike the previous album, Kvohst strays away from his very distinct voice, experimentally emulating sounds of rock bands long passed. In 'Your Head Is Reeling' Kvohst channels act's like The Moody Blues
, which happens to be one of the stronger influences on the album. Not to say the folk element isn't there, but it's significantly less prominent than on their debut.
For the first few listens, the experience is nothing but ecstasy. Repeated listens however, will present a vague sense of monotony. Some of the songs can feel a little lengthy structure-wise. 'His Portal Tomb' and 'Unseen Sun' have a habit of reverting to previous parts in the song, just when you think it's about to end. It can be frustrating, but it isn't a huge issue, as they still sound beautifully warm.
Admittedly, none of the influences on No Holier Temple
sound like they would have been conceived after 1980. To some, this may seem restricting, but it's what makes the album so special. Hexvessel manages to incorporate older influences without sounding dated or messy. The modern production is key to the success. In terms of originality, there is nothing over the top, but what they do play is very representative of older psychedelic and blues groups. Bands like Orchid
, and Uncle Acid and The Deadbeats
have gained attention for accomplishing this very goal. Taking an old sound and putting it in a modern context, Hexvessel surpasses expectations by making music that isn't just relevant, but genuinely enjoyable too. No Holier Temple
makes the perfect gate way album to music that is becoming less and less known to today's generations.