For better or for worse, I've always 'self-identified' as a 'true' Metalhead. Despite this, the complexity and diversity of my tastes have repeatedly metamorphosed, with many of the extremities of my youth being counter-balanced by an increasingly diverse array of auditory misadventures. Among my most fervent of obsessions in this regard is Finland-born Folk Metal master minds Hexvessel. Formed in 2009 by English singer/songwriter Mat 'Kvohst' McNerney of Beastmilk/Grave Pleasures fame, the new group quickly immersed themselves in the Pagan and per-Christian heritage, mythology and tradition that permeated the region. Issuing their full-length debut Dawnbearer in 2011 and it's subsequent follow-ups No Holier Temple (2012) and Iron Marsh (EP) (2013) in repaid-fire succession, they soon began establishing themselves internationally. Now, with the release of the highly-anticipated Kindred, they at long last appear destined for the recognition they so unquestionably deserve.
On the brilliant Kindred (2020), an expertly assembled ten song collection of Psychedelia and Blues-infused Folk Metal, each track, beginning with the occasionally lilting, oft-haunting jewel “Billion Year Old Being” and the swaggering, distortion-laden lament “Demian”, instantly commands the rapt and undivided attention of even the most jaded and unimaginative of listeners, myself most definitely included. Driving home each key focal point with a much-welcomed sense of authenticity and, for a lack of more succinct terminology, 'realism', the group effortlessly distances themselves from their few legitimate contemporaries. Deftly incorporating elements of Emerson, Lake And Palmer, Iron Butterfly and King Crimson as well as Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span and arguably lesser-know Shirley Collins (“Death And The Lady”) and Vashti Bunyan (Just Another Diamond Day), the group fires on all cylinders, resulting in an auditory amalgam that sets the pace for what soon follows.
Continuing with the shimmering, self-explanatory tome “Bog Bodies” and the refreshingly ominous--albeit all-too-brief--third single “Phaedra”, the steadfast combination of vocalist/guitarist Mathew 'Kvohst' McNerney (Code, Dødheimsgard, also of Grave Pleasures), lead guitarist Jesse Heikkinen (Depth Beyond One's), multi-instrumentalist (keys, piano, trumpet, viola, violin) Kimmo Helén, bassist Ville Hakonen and drummer Jukka Rämänen (Atomikylä, Dark Buddha Rising, Waste Of Space Orchestra), the group is augmented by guitarist Andrew McIvor, violinist Daniel Pior, found sound/sound fx collector Antti Haapapuro (Aeoga, Halo Manash, I.Corax) and backing vocalist Marja Konttinen. Showcasing the impossibly fluid delivery that has defined their career thus far, the group obliterates the per-conceived, stereotype-laden notions of the past, the group remains subdued and tastefully restrained all the while wholeheartedly engulfing us all within their trademark variations.
Boldly returning to their delightfully mysterious roots (i.e., Dawnbearer, 2011, No Holier Temple, 2012 and, to a lesser extent, the Iron Marsh EP, 2013), other standouts, including the falsetto and cymbal-fueled “Kindred Moon” and the thought-provoking, equally impressive closer “Joy Of Sacrifice”, offer a wealth of further sonic evidence in support of their reputation as an innovative, genre-defying force. Adorned throughout by artwork courtesy of Thomas Hooper (Converge, Doomriders, Neurosis) and Richey Beckett (Foo Fighters, Metallica, Robert Plant), the ensuing audio/visual allure is seemingly guaranteed to appeal to both clueless newcomers and die-hard completists alike. Having quietly readied themselves for world-wide dominance, the multi-dimensional behemoth that is so often the mighty Kindred ultimately succeeds by serving as a idealistic quintessence of their ever-metamorphosing modus operandi, making it one of the finest 'all new' releases of this rapidly-waning year.
But what can you really expect? Even more of the Hexvessel you presumably already know and love. With the majority--if not all--of the quasi-ethereal wares contained herein serving as a much-welcomed reminder of the group's overall prowess, what ultimately separates Kindred from it's well-heeled contemporaries is a much-welcomed focuses on the compositional 'originalities' that are so often absent from the crème de la crème of the would-be elite. An absolute must-have for both clueless newcomers and die-hard completists alike, even if you somehow still find yourself less than enthralled with the outright uniqueness of their delivery, one must, at the very least, sincerely admire their ceaseless dedication to honing their already razor-sharp chops. Thus, if you've once again found yourself in search of a truly imaginative alternative to the puréed banalities of the mainstream, then this, my friends, might just be the high-octane salve for what ails you. Trust me, you won't be disappointed.
All Tree (2019)
When We Are Death (2016)
Iron Marsh (EP) (2013)
No Holier Temple (2012)
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