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Hexvessel - Dawnbearer CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.41 | 16 ratings

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2 stars Thanks to my inadvertent settings on Spotify, I have been doggedly directed to HEXVESSEL by a disembodied virtual CD changer, only to slowly recollect that I added them to progarchives several years ago. A variety of valid reference points exist for this generally somber "forest folk" offering. Because the group is Finnish, apart from its leader, a British transplant, and because of their generally morose affect, my first observation is that they might be compared to countrymen TENHI, although here lyrics are English. More importantly, whereas TENHI's repetitive motifs tend to be sufficiently captivating on their own, yet ultimately deliver more, those of HEXVESSEL too often remain mired in neutrality, in need of augmentation that never materializes. This is especially apparent on most of the instrumentals, like "A Cabalist under the Gallows" and "Radiant Transcendent", which might have worked as bridges between songs if they were bisected.

Occasionally, particularly on the opener "Invocation Summoning" and "The Tunnel at the End of the lIght", the ghosts of 1980s era DAVID BOWIE or GARY NUMAN are lurking, seemingly the antithesis of the organic sound being sought, but I suppose neo folk as a pseudo-genre does conceal this lineage several pages into its resume, and leader Mcenerny cannot fully cloak his doom metal past, to the point where "Conversations with Rosa" could swap out acoustic for electric guitar and have almost the identical dampening and emotionally numbing effect, which leaves me profoundly disappointed.

Luckily, "Dawnbearer" is somewhat salvaged by a handful of superb performances scattered throughout, albeit a bit too sparsely to be wholly satisfying, and, more importantly, never permitting the immersion required for full appreciation. "Heart of the Mind World" is the first of these, with a wistful lead vocal and effective backing vocals in the absence of lead at the interludes. My favorite is the banjo enriched "The Death Knell Tolls" which is certainly the most pop oriented track here but in all the best ways, and not unlike the best from WOVEN HAND. Its main themes are most catchy but balanced with more reflective vocal and instrumental diversions. "Wayward Confessor" is haunting and awash in mellotron, like OPETH or RIVERSIDE at their most introspective. "Solomon's Song" is even more downbeat but just as lovely, and more reminiscent of STEELEYE SPAN or FAIRPORT CONVENTION when the male lead sings.

I wish I could accord this at times brilliant pagan folk album a higher rating, but its lack of consistency and its rather static instrumentals serve to derail any hope of stealing away deep within the rituals which the group appears to take so seriously. 2.5 stars rounded down due to insufficient editing.

kenethlevine | 2/5 |


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