Review Summary: Even without its former members, Mike Wead pushes forward and delivers another great album, losing some steam but gaining more power in the gears.4 of 4 thought this review was well writtenHexenhaus
(German for "witch's cottage"), really was that one band. The one that you can’t help but think “They’re going to be BIG”… but managed to fall short. After an all-star lineup (compromising of members of disbanded cult Sweden underground band Manniya Blade
, plus Mercyful Fate / King Diamond
guitarist Mike Wead) delivered the somehow raw but dark and powerful tech thrash A Tribute to Insanity
in 1988, there was no doubt: These guys were onto something, and they needed just that little push (or luck) to achieve greatness..
But life´s never fair, and receiving little to no support, everyone just dropped the project, except for Wead himself. Returning with a new lineup, 1990´s The Edge of Eternity
expands Hexenhaus sound with more progressive elements that make it a worthwhile addition to the band legacy.
New (and one time) vocalist Tommy Agrippa sounds like a power metal front man gone mad, with a frenzied and angry tone in every single song, and screams / chills combined with some semi-highs that make his vocals not only listenable, but really apt for the most technical approach the band takes. Lyrics are thrash standard fare of war and its consequences ( Toxic Threat
) and everything dealing with the human condition of simply existing and having a psyche that never sleeps (Home Sweet Home
), distrust toward politics (The House Of Lies
) and the terrifying fact that true evil lies inside every one of us (Prime Evil
). Overall, lyrically the album is diverse, and far from stale.
One direction that this album follows as noted before, is that is more technical than A Tribute to Insanity
: Drummer Johan Billerhag and bass player Marty Marteen have far greater presence on this record that their predecessors, the latter having a more audible sound (thanks to an improved production), and the former just giving a lot of great fills, double bass, and a sense of “urgency” that matches the frenzied vocals pretty well; truly what makes the album sound more robust and mature than on the past LP. Just wait until you listen to the rhythm section on Toxic Threat
, the drumming intro to Prime Evil
and that sweet bass undertone on the instrumental A temple for the Soul
to know that these guys don’t joke when it comes to playing their instruments.
Riffs are what make or break any decent thrash albums and I have great news in that aspect: Mike Wead could be easily one of the most underrated riff makers out there. The main riffs on some of the tracks are not only powerful to hold the song altogether, but also are really CATCHY and memorable, like in Prime Evil, House of Lies, and At the Edge of Eternity
. the 13 minute title track (that display some subtle eastern scales - as in the instrumental- and cool acoustic parts), that even with its runtime never gets dull or boresome. The fact that Wead is such a riff machine, coupled with Marco A. Nicosia leads make this album a fine and prime example of the fact that euro thrash was on its own league when “progressive” and “tech” (A Eternal Nightmare
) was used on the same context.
The production on the album as noted before is really good for its time, but not that optimal considering a lot of thrash (and metal in general) releases around the same time, and while this album sounds really fresh and good up until this day, it doesn’t have or hold the same dark, thrashy punch that the first album had. Also a shame is the fact that the bass obeys the classic "follow the guitar" template of the age; but still with those gripes, if you consider yourself a tech thrash fanatic, or are a newcomer to the genre, give this a try. It sure losed some steam on the machinery that is Hexenhaus
, but The Edge of Eternity
keeps the gears running strong, without any signs of getting rusty soon.
Recommended Tracks – Everything on here is pretty solid, but MY favorites are:
Home Sweet Home
The Eternal Nightmare – Act one