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Hexed - Netherworld

CD Info
ViciSolum Productions
10 tracks
English lyrics

Hexed is a relatively new Swedish sound from Uppsala.  The original participants are vocalist Tina Gunnarsson and significant other guitar dude Stellan Gunnarsson.  New stuff to me but SonicCathedral owner John Wolff is a friend of Tina and the work came very highly recommended.  That was enough for me to give their initial little 3 title EP a listen, and I wasn’t disappointed.  Was going to write it up but a full CD is about to be released so Tina and I decided to go ahead and just work on that one instead.  How would I define it, well, the thought “well constructed, solid metal with a killer femme vox” comes immediately to mind.  Damn, that girl has pipes.  But she’s not all this release is about.  Guitars are solid with Daniel Håkansson joining lead guitar Stellan on bass and the drumming by Teddy Möller is about as good as it gets.  I’m certainly no drummer, although I have been known to pretend to play one after a few hours of drinking, but this guy is someone I could listen to all night.  I think you’ll agree.  There’s other stuff as well, some symphonic sounding backgrounds, some overlayed vocals and some additional male vocals on several tracks.  Beyond that the production is strong.  This often sounds like a room full of musicians instead of just 4.  The writing is clearly a highpoint, I think this one took a lot of thinking to put together, that and a lot of practice.  This is professional metal, you get a lot to like across the board.  But, this is a female vocal site so we’ll probably spend time talking about Tina, and you won’t have to worry about getting short changed there, she’s a solid vox.

It’s difficult to describe the music, it’s not simple stuff.  There’s a lot going on, not just some background metal with a lead vocalist.  You get that killer drum laying out a bottom, along with the bass.  Things seem to build from there, but they get complicated.  The lead guitar gets its time on the lead, and when that happens it’s good.  This is metal and you gotta have a lead guitar to make it fit the description.  But, how it mixes with the vocals is where things get complicated, and we get a shit load of vocals.  Tina is the main ingredient but we get lots of different Tina, sometimes more than one Tina at the same time.  And she has the pipes to take us in multiple directions with that voice.  But, she’s not the only vocal.  Stellan does vocal on several tracks.  And, there’s some guy named Thomas Vikström (Therion) on one track and another guy named Ronny Hemlin on another track.  And, sometimes they work in combination, not really choral in nature but you get multiple vocals on various tracks, and to good effect.  And, one could argue, the vocals on this release tend to define the release, good as the instrumental component is. 

Northern Europeans tend to so some fairly dark material, Gothic was largely originated there.  I wouldn’t necessarily call this pure Gothic, although there is a tendency with the lyrics to sneak into that neighborhood from time to time.  This is more traditional metal, especially the sound.  We’re here to feature metal components, guitars, drums and a screaming vox.  And that’s what you’re going to appreciate.  I can certainly see this material being done live; any bar with an interest in moving it’s drinking customers to the dance floor couldn’t go wrong.  There’s some video available which suggests they’d be an interesting festival show as well.  Just make sure the sound equipment is up to par and properly mixed.  People are going to focus on the music.

The CD begins hard and doesn’t stray far from there for the next 47 minutes over the 10 tracks.  Obedience is the kickoff and this video gives you what you need to continue the journey.  You get that apocalyptical drum from the darkest regions of Scandinavia kicking off the track that leads to the fuller metal sound and finally to that voice.  Videos typically exhibit a range of styles, especially in this genre of music.  This one is, to me, one of the better; it has a level of drama but, instead of giving us a storyline of Romeo and Juliet badly acted we get a close focus on the musicians, at least Tina and Stellan.  And you gotta love that screeching 7 string Stellan has in his arsenal.   I’m also fond of the adaptation of Tina’s voice at the end of the track, clearly the lady can do the beautiful when the mood strikes her.  Wish there was a little more of that thrown into the mix, when you got it, use it.  

The big track on the release, I guess, is Exhaling Life featuring Therion vocalist Thomas Vikström. This one begins with a keyboard sound, very Gothic, and the video begins with Vikström in all his best Gothic finery before flashing to the band in live performance mode.  We fade back to Vikström off and on throughout the video, no one does a Gothic visual better than a Therion vocalist.  And this one looks like it came direct from the new Therion release, Beloved AntiChrist.  He backs up on the choral parts, which are truly fine music, as the band sings:

Exhaling life / The life I have
I save my soul / The cross I bear
For you to see, your own despair

You also get a couple glimpses of Möller pounding out a savage drum beat like a massive Apache warrior taking the tribe into battle.  All in all, a very satisfying experience, both visually and musically.

The title track, Netherworld, continues the hard hitting metal (if there was a ballad in there I missed it) but this one seems to focus on emotion a bit, at least a dark interpretation of it.  Tina has a multi capability voice which can go from screaming to plaintive in something approaching a New York second.  With this one you continue the throbbing drums and bass but it seems to be conveying a more painful message, one of contemplation of the reality of existence.  Tina sings:

I sure as hell don’t want to be here no more.
This has to end and I’ll find my way
Through life while I’m alive

But the lyrics continue and seem to give a feeling of potential hope, however remote:

I cannot speak about all the things I feel
Words are so far away and I can’t see why I’m here
In this black hole hell
I close my eyes and wait for the good times to arrive
Necessary, unconditionally free

The final track is an interesting duet with vocalist Ronny Hemlin.  It’s called Remake my Soul and we get two top metal vocalists trading licks over that pounding metal.  Initially Hemlin takes the lead:

Explain my time, explain my place
All surrounding shadows keep haunting me
Ancient scenes reflecting me, in front of my eyes
Mesmerized and hallowed

To which Tina responds:

I see my fate, it’s too late, all too late now
I see it breach, the sky
This time it’s a path of no return
I leave my empty shell to die

As the track continues we are entertained by these two strong vocals, both individually and working together.  Certainly a solid metal vocal performance; one to remember.

Not exactly sure when this one gets released, I think it’s yet to come but should be there by the time this gets published.  When it does, it’s certainly not a bad purchase idea.  You get solid metal, killer vocals and some interesting thoughts.  Worth the shekels required for purchase for sure.