Hexvessel – No Holier Temple (Svart Records)

Let’s go to the woods to worship the pagan gods.
Release Date: 
14 Sep 2012 - 12:30pm

If you still don’t know who they are, you soon will, for Hexvessel has caused a great impression with their first offering Dawnbearer, released last year. 

Although the band was formed in Finland, it is the project of Englishman Kvohst (yes the same guy of the Norwegian band Dødheimsgard) and this charmingly sweet voice of a British dude brings to the forefront of the mind some of the old bands of Classic/Progressive Rock, mainly Van Der Graaf Generator’s Peter Hammill, but in a more orderly way, if you know what I mean. But still, Hexvessel is not a progressive band, neither copycats of old rock. Is their sound psychedelic? Totally, but merged with the sound of today it has its Opeth moments.

No Holier Temple doesn’t have passages of true metal, with full screaming guitars (hence my comparison with VDGG), they just appear here and there with a hint of Black Sabbath, but still one cannot classify it as stoner nor doom, although the sounds are slow…

So what the heck does Hexvessel actually do? They do a neo-folk with rock passages. Heavy rock passages I dare to say, but still more outside of metal than inside it. 

The sound is deliciously good for people who like to sit right back and relax. The main difference between this album and the first is that Dawnbearer was more upbeat, while No holier Temple is much more mystic and sullen than their first one. 

The songs are strangely distributed between in its 57 minutes and 11 tracks… Tunes varying from one minute, to 13… Yeah, it’s that crazy.

After the intro Heaven and Earth magic, Woods to Conjure brings the potent and enticing voice of Kvohst, gathering souls to the pagan ritual. It’s beautiful and the arcane words he utters like “a spirit form inside a tree” remits to the CD artwork and while the chorus is being sung, a sax gives that seasoning of jazzy-avant garde music.

The Wlderness Is, with its acoustic guitar and some classy keyboard, sends us directly to the Finnish forests to worship the gods of paganism. It’s a short passage tho. 

A Letter in Birch Bark starts with a fairy keyboard, and soon the voice of Kvohst is fulfilling the place with his perfect timbre. He’s easily the star of the CD for it seems he does what he does with mesmerizing passion. But everytime he ends his passage a folk rock “explodes” giving some grandiosity to the song. It’s moving. 

Another short passage (Elegy to Goyahkla) with a spoken part, brings that reference to Opeth that I cited before, it’s a repetitive phrase with a jew’s harp. 

It opens the path to the first real trip of the CD, His Portal Tomb, this time with an intro that gives an indigene impression (where’s my shaman?), then the sounds enters with the voice and instrumental attitude that wouldn’t be out of place in a Black Widow (come, come to the Sabbath) album. That sensation that Kvohst is conjuring the voice power of Peter Hammil comes back again. 

After the doomish acid trip (where am I?),  the neofolk number Are You Coniferous? remind ones of Finnish neo-folk bands like Värttinä or the Swedish old trad folk band Norrlåtar (just people from that region would get the reference, probably). 

The same goes to Sacred Marriage with the magical vocals back on the bill, and it’s perfect to listen to when the night is cold under a starlit sky. This song is where everything gets its peak, from the magnificent voice to Hammond organ, and the semi-soloing, repeating itself in an enchanting way. What music, bravo, bravíssimo!

Dues to the Dolmen is an intermezzo divided in 3 parts, the first is the spoken part with a instrumental, the second, is a blend of acoustic and electric guitars and the 3rd is the poetic conclusion. 

Now we are finally in the 13-minute track and near the CD conclusion: Unseen Sun is the only track in the whole CD that I’d dare to call progressive. Naturally if they’d repeat themselves in 13 minutes in a row, I’d commit suicide, that’s not the case, of course. The song is sung in snail pace rhythm until it changes in the 3:30 minute, and some choruses enter to give it layers and more layers of splendor. Then the climax with a totally 1970’s feeling. Perfect.

To end our journey, Your Head is Reeling is the only different song in the album, more upbeat, and happier than the others.

No Holier Temple is a travel to the deep secrets of the cult of the forest. Inside its repetitiveness and ritualistic sounds lay tons of shades of ethereal music. It’s really over the top. If you’re inside psychedelic sounds don’t dare to ignore this CD. Dude, where’s my acid?