Hexvessel – No Holier Temple

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Review by Jason Guest

Founded in 2009 by Englishman Mat “Kvohst” McNerney, Finland’s psychedelic forest folk-rock band Hexvessel is a far cry from the death and black metal bands he was involved with while still living in Blighty. Fusing late 60s and early 70s folk and psychedelia with pagan mysticism, folklore, the occult and Finnish nature, the reverent shamanism of Hexvessel’s 2011’s debut, Dawnbearer was dark in tone and an oddity that was an imaginative, ritualistic, and otherworldly experience. And so the ceremony continues with No Holier Temple, their sophomore album, a slightly lighter work whose colours are allowed to flood between the trees and cast its shadows more widely.

The sound of the seas, the skies, the lands, and all above and below are wrapped up in the trippy atmospheres of the acoustic balladry and esoteric and mesmerising ambience. From the repetitive simple acoustic lines of opener ‘Heaven and Earth Magic’, Kvohst’s narrative vocals act as a device to ordain the listener into the hypnotic rhythms that emerge and unobtrusively worm their way into the psyche. His ritualistic chants are the summoning sounds of magic, of spiritual rites of passage, of images akin to that of the magnificent artwork. Into the magician’s subtle and gentle web are woven a slightly overdriven guitar for ‘Woods to Conjure’, another dimension added with Miles Davis-like horns and the resonant backdrop of a sweet, lingering harmony vocal. ‘Wilderness Is’ evokes images of the dawn with its bright acoustic guitar, simple and solemn violin, and skewed piano strokes that twist the golden light into something slightly dark, powerful and overwhelming. The contrast between that track and ‘A Letter in Birch Bark’ comes with the subtle peals of electric piano, the chords of the accordion and the melodious guitar. Along with the instruments already mentioned, a Jew’s harp appears for ‘Elegy To Goyahkla’, an ostensibly mad man fervently bays the words of ‘Are You Coniferous?’, and the tender timbres of ‘Unseen Sun’, which, at almost fourteen minutes long, is the longest track here and never once feels laboured or leant on. ‘His Portal Tomb’ is the heaviest track, the wind instruments whistling their way through the reverent and melancholic tenor of its insistent rhythms, mantra-like vocals, and the doom-like feel of the middle section that slowly gains intensity before reverting to a doomy coda. And the cover of late-1960s psychedelic blues rock band Ultimate Spinach’s ‘Your Head Is Reeling’ is a landscape of psychedelic sounds cascading through a cacophonous kaleidoscope of 60s jazz drumming and lysergic sounds that would give many a magic mushroom muncher much to marvel upon.

“Subtle” and “gentle” appear to be the most apt adjectives to describe Hexvessel’s approach to instrumentation, arrangement and structure. The album and each track take their time to develop and with repeated listens, the album’s deep textures become tangible, the shape of the whole piece revealing itself more and more. If you like your music to transcend the monotony of mundane existence and give you a leg up onto higher spiritual planes, then there’s No Holier Temple.

8.5 out of 10

  • Visit Hexvessel’s website here
  • Visit Hexvessel on Facebook here
  • Watch Hexvessel videos on Youtube here

Track listing:

  1. Heaven And Earth Magic
  2. Woods To Conjure
  3. Wilderness Is
  4. A Letter In Birch Bark
  5. Elegy To Goyahkla
  6. His Portal Tomb
  7. Are You Coniferous
  8. Sacred Marriage
  9. Dues To The Dolmen
  10. Unseen Sun
  11. Your Head Is Reeling