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Hexen Being And Nothingness Critical Thinking

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Without ever conforming to trends nor compromising on stellar musicianship and aggression, Los Angeles-based Thrashers HeXeN forges ahead with their most diverse and mature album to date with "Being And Nothingness". Sanctioned by a dark cosmic aura surrounding the entire concept of "Being And Nothingness", the album is a brilliant showcase of intellectual, forward-thinking and their trademark guitar-master wizardry fretwork!

With the album recorded, mixed and mastered at Vivid Tone Recording Studio (Lividity, Guthrie Govan, etc) by Rich Bruce and the stunning album artwork by master of cosmic and fantasy artist Kristian Wahlin / Necrolord (King Diamond, Dissection, Emperor, etc), "Being And Nothingness" is a bold yet innovative Prog-Thrash album that most new generation Thrash bands would only dare dream of.


released July 17, 2012


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Hexen have proven to be something of an odd character among the latter day stock of thrashers, taking on a far more expansive definition of the style that was hinted at during the style's original heyday, but never quite touched upon to the extent it was on their debut State Of Insurgency and a few other players that have hit the scene in the past few years. As best as can be described, they don't quite fit the moniker of being a progressive thrash band, but they frequently sound like they want to be just that, and this has become doubly so on their latest studio outing Being And Nothingness. The frequent interludes into ultra-melodic territory that borderlines on neo-classicism, the jarring shifts to what can be best described as shred happy melodic death/black metal sections, and a vocal delivery that is all over the map from standard thrash gruff yells to Gothenburg inspired sepulchral growls all feed into a band that actually struggles to maintain a grounding in their professed style, and yet somehow they manage to hold onto it in spite of themselves.

While the dividing line between this outfit and their more Voivod oriented fellow progressive expounders Vektor still exists here, it's gotten a bit muddled as Hexen has passed up on a return to the politically oriented character of their previous LP for something a bit more subtle and, perhaps a bit overly intellectual. The abstract album art would probably hint at a band that was dabbling in territory normally suited to Dream Theater or post 80s Fates Warning, and the musical picture definitely conforms to this suggestion. But while there are several acoustic passages and a heavy degree of ambient keyboard additives (not to mention a piano, an instrument not heavily used in thrash metal, or even most melodic death metal), most of the progressive quirks at play on this album come in the form of sub-genre splicing, and it is evenly placed within each individual song within the entire album, most of the time complementing but occasionally confounding the listening experience.

Analogies naturally come with their own obligatory flaws, but if there was a concise way to describe how these songs work, it would be if At The Gates had shifted their sound in more of a thrash metal direction immediately following Slaughter Of The Soul and taken on some of the Iron Maiden inspired guitar melodies that In Flames was dabbling with in the mid 90s. Just about as much time is spent in traditional palm muted thrash riffing territory as is spent in a sea of streaming tremolo picked lead lines that interplay with a high degree of virtuosity. Certain songs such as "Private Hell" and "The Nescient" listen more like Gothenburg songs than otherwise, but even on more traditionally oriented Bay Area influenced numbers like "Grave New World" and the Slayer meets Dark Angel madness of "Walk As Many, Stand As One", the melodic contour obscures the traditional thrash influences fairly significantly, and if nothing else, covers the whole listen with a very modern flavor.

It would be an understatement to call this album impressive, but for what it has in flash and intrigue, it actually loses a little bit in terms of overall focus and coherence. This band's previous album was a bit more stylistically streamlined and functioned within its own stylistic niche with a greater degree of effectiveness, though it wouldn't be hard to imagine a good number of melodeath fans flocking to an album like this, as it packs the same sort of punch that a number of Swedish and Finnish bands do currently, but without any of the balladry or symphonic detailing. It's actually a bittersweet irony that this album deals pretty heavy with the concept of going from something to nothing as this band fell apart soon after this album was released, in heavy part due to low album sales and a declining interest, reinforcing the infamous 2 album curse that plagued a number of thrash metal acts back in the 80s. Hopefully the players that made this band so unique will continue on in some similar capacity in the years to come, or maybe even an eventual reunion will be in the works at some point, but for all the saturation that thrash metal has seen of late, there are many good bands making waves, and this was one of them.