This second summoning, and debut full-length, from German black/heavy metal duo Hexenbrett extends their Deutsche-sung cemeterial warping of classic dark heavy metal, first wave black metal, and creep-fetish doomed deathrocking cult unto a frightening tirade that’d spray familiar venom from an uncannily villainous tongue. Steeped in fog and swinging their lanterns by noisy, rust-crusted hinges throughout their haunting tale one can hear the stirring vaudevillian souls of Feratu and Mme Bolétte held fast as to not yet reveal the entire harrowing circus of horrors within. The atmosphere is thick, the tale is macabre, and the stage is set beautifully for the child to die yet it soon becomes clear Hexenbrett have not gathered all by the cemetery for a show but rather to burn it all down; To set aflame the old ways and extrude the ashes of old and dark heavy music in craft of their own blackened havoc-attuned golem to inflict upon the listener. There will be awkward rock solos, plenty of mystic keyboard chimes, and even a bit of Townes van Zandt at the intermission yet there’ll be little to fear if you are the intended audience of headstones they’ve specifically tuned their darkness toward on ‘Zweite Beschwörung: Ein Kind zu töten’.
No sound and style appears so readily complete upon debut without meticulous consideration for a lifetime of preference for the disturbed, and perhaps campy, achievements of heavy metal and rock-adjacent darkness. Undoubtedly a steady diet of the 70’s most theatrical creep rock and ancient 80’s/early 90’s black metal free-thinking contributed to this current state of Hexenbrett yet the average listener will certainly have some modern contemporaries in mind. The raucous and thrilling first wave thrashing mania of Funereal Presence and Spire, the shuddering and persistent riffing of Culte des Ghoules, and the hard-charging classics minded vision of Malokarpatan all offer reasonable enough analogues. Hexenbrett‘s style is neither a collection of those attributes nor a hard semblance to any one contemporary but rather a project with very much the same resonance, a mind that’d ache for a return to the spirit of early black metal as it was in the 80’s, a mindset and a vision where avant-garde music was daring to be dark and different beyond imagination but, with enough taste applied that it’d make for stellarly (and often romanticized) heavy metal/hard rock music. Citing a berth as wide as Varathron and Danzig, it becomes clear that the nigh anonymous German duo aim for an ancient and unforgettable vibe, an atmosphere all their own rather than fussing over what sub-genre or grouping they’d land within at the endyme.
Having intended reviews for their first demo and its May/December issues last year there was no wrapping my head around what ‘Erste Beschwörung‘ (2018) were echoing about at the time. Sure, I understood some of the first wave black metal affect and even noted a Mercyful Fate spawned riff or two but the piece of the puzzle that’d been missing was surely the fact that I’d never quite cared for Death SS and couldn’t conjure enough words to describe the catchy, snarling freakishness of that fine demo. In truth the scratched-out black metal riffing, heavy use of keyboards, and general spook-rock’d modus of the wildly popular demo stuck with me but without reason. It’d simply been a ‘cool’ curio, a human bone yanked from the mortuary that may or may not have been haunted, and it’d been a sore point to not address it in written form despite enjoying it. That first summoning was raw, noisome in a satisfying way, and had the presence of a an early 90’s horror-infused extreme metal record from eastern Europe. ‘Zweite Beschwörung: Ein Kind zu töten’ is not the same sort of beast as before thanks to tighter production, setting the tone in a small room with a spacious ceiling; This finds tone of the record akin to the first Alastis record (but more clear) or Master’s Hammer on ‘Ritual‘ complete with keyboards and all. Alternately one could reference ‘Stridžie dni’ or Root‘s ‘The Black Seal’/’Madness of the Graves’ era in the early 2000’s for pieces that have similar spiritus but surely less restrained aggression.
There is a broken and nude doll on the cover of this record and its title translates roughly to “second summoning” b/w “killing a child” so right off the bat I knew I was not likely to buy the LP version of this record, not for any fault in the art direction but, because I am admittedly too aesthetically driven as a record collector to buy a photo of a doll regardless of how much I adore the music. Maybe I’ll grow out of it, eh, but either way the initial visual impression was bland rather than pure creep-out on my end. Of course the music matters more and I’d no doubt Hexenbrett were going to deliver their expected combination of gothy, mystic and deathly rock influenced black/heavy metal with an unexpected angle. In this sense fans of the demo tape will be more than happy with what ‘Zweite Beschwörung: Ein Kind zu töten’ ends up being as they’ve used similar leitmotif and movement throughout, relying on chime-along progressions and ruddy black metal guitar work that buzzes and slinks beneath the blackened and glossy atmosphere to great effect. “Spalovač Mrtvol” is the early standout for my taste thanks to its heavy/speed metal swings and the bigger picture it provides for Hexenbrett‘s unique modus; Honing in on a semblance of early Greek (and perhaps Swiss) black metal sensibilities with engaging use of keyboards and plenty of loftily swinging black metal riff set atop echoing, deranged vocals. Perhaps the most stunning and unexpected moment on Side A comes with their cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “The Spider Song” where a song that was perhaps a fantasy parable for heroin addiction becomes a haunting yet simple heavy metal tune.
Side B is perhaps a minute shorter than previous but it packs no fewer insightful and impressively detailed moments into each song, the standout being the prog rock-a-swinging breaks of “Attraverso Sette Porte All’Inferno” which clash uncontrollably with the symphonic black metal spurned and shrieking vampiric narrative, ‘Vanity/Nemesis’-era Celtic Frost-esque dramatics unto one of the most interesting, unforgettable pieces on the record. It’d been a song I’d hated just enough to remember and would soon love by the third or fourth listen. For all the impact of “Attraverso Sette Porte All’Inferno” the perhaps more neatly arranged “Blutige Seide” that follows feels as if it is meandering a bit too much and I’d probably have swapped the two on the tracklist. There is no mistaking the driven dark spirit and absurdist revelry emanating from all of Hexenbrett‘s work and the duo are a huge success in my mind for their distinct sound and well-formed style. With that said I’m not sure that I’d want something entirely similar to this record a second time, it feels like they’ve leaned away from the noxious guitar tone of the ‘Erste Beschwörung’ to a respectable degree but I’d still found myself wanting that slightly more primitive black metal thump rather than the cleaner, saucier hard rock/heavy metal influenced leads and such. The way forward is entirely their own and I’m inspired enough by this debut that what comes next will be hotly anticipated. A moderately high recommendation, slightly more if you’re attuned to black/heavy metal and rock-source first wave black metal but want something entirely bug-eyed and extreme.
Moderately high recommendation. 3.75/5.0
<strong>Help Support Grizzly Butts’ goals with a donation:</strong>
Please consider donating directly to site costs and project funding using PayPal.