Album: Spirit of the Stone
Label: CDN Records
Genre: Black/Folk Metal
Release Date: 28th July, 2017
Black Metal is a tenuous thing, with many branches and variations that stretch and redefine the classification almost every year. We get meldings of other genres into Black Metal and this can sometimes create interesting and new sounds (take a good look at Enslaved) but can also create controversy and derision (wink, wink, Deafheaven). In the end, stretching musical boundaries is a good thing, to my mind, because it keeps Metal fresh and vibrant and this addition of different sounds and sonicscapes really makes for a much more interesting listen (although, hey, sometimes you don’t want some strange soufflé, sometimes you just want meat and potatoes and there’s not a damned thing wrong with that, either). All of this is a windy way of introduction new band Hexenklad to the world and their fine new release, Spirit of the Stone.
Co-created by guitarist Michael Grund (SIG:AR:TYR, ex-Battlesoul) and drummer Sterling Dale (who later left the band), Hexenklad looks to return to the roots of humanity, echoed by Grund’s move from the big city to the woods, shirking a lot of the materialism of modern life. This kind of spiritual change tends to seep into a person’s art, and it can definitely be heard in his new band. While labels like “folk metal” and “nature metal” get thrown around a lot, and are definitely used to try and define what this band sounds like, I don’t think those are accurate descriptions of the actual sound of the music. They are actual descriptions, however, of the soul behind the songs.
These songs are pretty straight-up Metal, mostly Black Metal, with tons of harmonies and melody. The vocals go back and forth from screeches to clean and sound good for it. There is some Folk Metal sounds to be found within, but they’re mostly used as decoration and flourish, the cello and keyboards really rounding out the music. Again, this album rocks pretty damned hard.
It’s the lyrics and the emotional feel of the songs that push them towards Folk. These songs are sung with passion and you can feel the emotion from nearly every guitar solo and every tremolo-picked riff. The band leaves nothing behind, wringing out their hearts and throwing their blood into the music. This is a passionate project for these Canadians, make no mistake about that.
Opener “In This Life or the Next” pretty much sets the table for what is to come. It’s Black Metal right out the gates, with those screeching vocals, blasting drums, and furious guitars. The song moves and changes, though, bringing more melody as it goes (a theme repeated throughout the record) as well as clean singing. The Folk is at the fringes of this one but do add depth and shade to the song. Pretty much, if you listen to this one, you’ll know what you’re in for, and if you’re in or out, right away.
The most “Folk” song on the record, in my mind, is the second one, “To Whom Veer Sinistral.” It works almost as a jig and you can hear the familiar rhythm patterns found in most Folk Metal songs. It’s a bit jaunty and the acoustic instruments make more of an impact here. But it must be said, this is no wimpy track and carries plenty of heft.
“In Waking Tymes” is riff-tastic. It comes out of the gate going right for the throat, with lots of chug and aggression. I love songs like this because they fit right in with the overall concept and sound of the band but yet push the heavy even more. As with the other compositions here, the emotion is right there on the sleeves, and you cannot doubt the heart of what Hexenklad are driving towards: nature, respect for paganism and religion in general, personal enlightenment, and freedom, baby. Nice, melodic guitar work in this one, especially right there in the middle of the song.
“An Offering” is the final track and brings things to a soft, poetic conclusion. They give full-reign to their acoustic tendencies here, and I really enjoyed the bass-playing on this track (which may sound weird, but it’s hard to play bass softly and contribute to a song like this, and they nail it). Great guitar-work here.
Hexenklad offer a really solid debut here, giving the listener a lot to process and enjoy. Repeated listens brings out even more substance and the sheer joy of creation these guys bring to the table. No one can doubt their sincerity or their passion. Some Folk Metal is made to dance around the bonfire to, but this is Black/Folk Metal that makes you mosh around that bonfire, and gives you something to think about, as well.
1. In This Life or the Next
2. To Whom Veer Sinistral
3. At the Ends of Existence
5. At Dusk
6. In Waking Tymes
7. Path to Ruin
8. An Offering
Total Playing Time: 41:25