Having served as live drummer on Scandinavian tours for Blayze Bayley, Paul Di’anno, Ripper Owen‘s solo record tour, and his own leg humping party-hard metal band Absolute Steel, Norwegian drummer and vocalist Rick Hagan would soon take a stab at his own original vision with help from famed late producer Chris Tsangarides (Judas Priest, Thin Lizzy, Ozzy Osbourne, etc.) around 2013. The result was progressive rock influenced stoner/doom metal band Hex A.D. who now receive their third refinement with ‘Netherworld Triumphant’. If you grew up along with the heavy music of the early 90’s you will likely not be able to escape the most obvious notable resemblance within Hex A.D.‘s music; In fact it almost appears as if the moment British stoner/doom legends Cathedral were officially dead in the dirt, Hagan pounced right on filling those shoes. Miraculously enough, he does a spot on job of recapturing the swinging gloom and rousing heavy rock spirit of said group thanks to similarly sourced influences and a love of late 70’s and early 80’s hard rock.
The whole ‘they sound like Cathedral‘ thing isn’t something to dance around and what I mean is that it is a point to be celebrated. From the brilliant Dave Patchett artwork on both ‘Even the Savage Will See Fair Play’ (2014) and ‘The Last Nail in the Coffin Lid’ (2016) to the heavy psych influenced doom rock style, the throaty rock vocals, and keyboard driven swagger the Hex A.D. experience unabashedly resembles the breadth of late 90’s/early 00’s Cathedral. On ‘Netherworld Triumphant’ the focus on that Deep Purple-esque use of keyboard and riff is generally aimed at something more early 80’s than previous but they do not escape their semblance to Lee Dorrian‘s stoned ambitions even slightly (see: “Netherworld Triumphant pt. I”, “Skeleton Key”). Slithering between the harder doom metal thump of ‘The Last Nail in the Coffin Lid’ (see: “WarChild” feat. ex-Dio guitarist Rowan Robertson) and the cranked energy of catchier tracks like “Skeleton Key” makes for an entertaining but slightly filler-bloated record.
There is some idiocy in suggesting that both tracks showcasing some decidedly unique personality traits from Hex A.D. and the filler tracks are one and the same but, I suppose that’d depend on how well you interpret ‘filler’. The 13+ minute “Ladders to Fire” that ends ‘Netherworld Triumphant’ is stretched, like old elastic around a giant ass, yet it gives a clear look at Hagan‘s intended progressive rock (early King Crimson in particular) influences; Though the sentiment was already made loud and clear on “Boars on Spears”, “Ladders to Fire” combines the heavy doom aspect just enough to find it working quite well. While I wouldn’t excise either track because of this, the ballad should have come on Side A instead. Now, truly slashable filler would be the throwaway progression of instrumental “Netherworld Triumphant pt. II”, an inconsequential interlude that does little to build to the highlight of “WarChild” or accentuate its Part I.
Although it is an imperfect record with an all too clear set of three or four highlights what Hex A.D. do in terms of psychedelic heavy rock influenced doom metal is an admirable undertaking. They bring enough ruckus, gnarl and riff to entertain and inspire but outside of reminding me of what a huge Cathedral fan I am, there aren’t a ton of reasons to return to ‘Netherworld Triumphant’. Recommended to fans of Keenan-sung Corrosion of Conformity outings as well as ‘VIIth Coming’ era Cathedral. For preview the clear standout moments come in the duo of “Skeleton Key” and “Netherworld Triumphant pt. I” with “WarChild” if additionally interested.
Dragged into the mist. 3.5/5.0
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