Review Summary: An apocalyptic amalgamation of metal fury
Not much is known about this three-piece band hailing from Philadelphia. Signing with the respected, Gilead Media, Hexer have released a remastered version of two cassette tapes they had distributed by hand in 2011. Inundated with second wave Norwegian black metal production but also incorporating elements of crust, d-beat and thrash metal, Hexer infuse some much needed liveliness in the sometimes mundane, underground black metal scene. Unlike most of their peers Hexer aren't hesitant to let their riffs speak for themselves. The musicianship doesn't take shelter in the safe alcoves of layers of distortion and reverb nor do you get the sense that Hexer take themselves too seriously. The black metal aesthetics are a cognizant application; blast beats, lo-fi production, raspy vocals and tremolo guitar riffs all add to the calamitous pace of the record but when delving deeper into the music, the crust and thrash metal infrastructure is ever-present. Analogous to what modern day Darkthrone sounded like before dropping some of the crust and black metal vocal stylings.
Searing guitar leads provided by mastermind Phlegethon are the centerpiece in which Hexer develop their chaotic and relentless take on black metal. The infectious infusion of blackened crust and thrash metal riffs never take a back seat to the their surroundings, alway present and in the foreground. Injected at quick intervals, one after another, the riffs give the listener no chance of reprisal or recovery. They are a throw back to a time when metal was less preoccupied with brooding and evil atmosphere and more about head banging. "II:I" is an excellent example of this, the main riff being completely contagious and will no doubt, seep into every region of grey matter you have available for days. Ansgar's vocal delivery--wretched, an adjective used in the best possible way as she opts for short succinct rasps that flow along with the beats instead of cascading over the music. Being the longest number on the disc it showcases one of the few instances when the band slows things down a bit and indeed, to great affect. Allowing some form of movement to arise in the song as the progression of the rhythm chords let Hexer flex some of their songwriting muscles. The added length benefits the overall trajectory of the song giving it a sense of motion while preserving the speed the record is firmly rooted in.
Lack of diversification in the songs is one of the major drawbacks of the record as they all tend to sound alike. The programmed drums switch things up but never really differ from either, blast or d-beats. Of course, there are the kicks that might also annoy those who have an axe to grind with drum programming, however, the drum work is only a minor flaw and doesn't take away from the menacing tone. The song structure that Hexer puts forth on the first track is very rarely strayed from but can be overlooked as the musicianship and out right fist-pounding atmosphere is palpable throughout the short run time. If you are looking for a record to enjoy as the world comes to an end, look no further.