(Andy Synn turns his attention once more to long-time NCS favourites Hexer)
To say that Hexer have been on a journey over the course of their career might be considered a cliché, but it would be true all the same.
Beginning with the otherworldly aura of their debut album, the aptly-named Cosmic Doom Ritual, the band then turned their eyes towards the psychic mindscape with the hallucinatory Realm of the Feathered Serpent, and now – on album number three – they’ve shifted the focus of their gaze towards the depths of the abyss.
So let’s see what might be gazing back, shall we?
Right from the start – as the roiling sonic storm of “Katarakt” bursts out of the speakers – it’s obvious that this is going to be Hexer‘s most intense album yet, with the German duo leaning even more into the “blackened” side of their sound (not itself a shock, since both members also collaborate as part of Imha Tarikat), with the result being that Abyssal will likely appeal just as much to fans of Misþyrming and Ultha as it does to those looking for a dose of drone-infused doom ‘n’ gloom.
That’s not to say the band have abandoned their doomy roots by any means, especially when it comes to the more eerie and atmospheric side of the spectrum, as both “Katarakt” and its equally (perhaps, arguably, even more) intense follow-up, “Bathyskaph” incorporate lengthy sections of lucid-dreaming, darkly droning ambience (especially towards the end of the latter track) which seek to capture the lightless, lifeless, emptiness of the abyss in musical form.
And it’s this give and take between blackened fury, doomy weight, and gloomy drone – interwoven with threads of moody, almost proggy melody (especially during the undulating “Sea of Molten Spirits”) – combined with some seriously massive, magnetic riff work (reminiscent of Bölzer at their best), which gives this album its colossal, dynamic power, channelling these elemental shifts in energy into something which effortlessly transcends genre boundaries and exudes a sublime sense of mesmerising malevolence that’s not quite Black Metal… not quite Doom Metal… but is simply, and distinctly, Hexer, through and through.