Hex A.D. have produced a stunning album mixing psychedelic, doom and progressive metal in an inspired cocktail.
Norway’s Hex A.D. have been ploughing a path of psychedelic doom metal for a number of years and this is now their fourth album. I’ve no idea what the intriguing title might mean but it certainly grabs your interest, as does the bizarre psychedelic album cover full of strange creatures which makes it faintly reminiscent of the Bosch painting which graced the Deep Purple album from 1969.
Let’s admit it: there can be something slightly predictable about doom albums. Even the song titles can be predictable. So, approaching the opening track here called Elle Est Mort I imagined wailing and gnashing of teeth over the savaged body of a lover but rather oddly we get a cheerful 47 second acoustic ditty. That certainly got my attention!
The following three tracks bring us back to more familiar metal territory but there’s less doom and a more melodic lighter tone than what we’ve come to expect from this band. There are also strong progressive elements such as the middle section of The Day The Sky Exploded. The (almost) title track Astro Tongue has a slight stoner feel to it and has one of those simple but irresistibly catchy riffs coupled with a clever melodic line that reminded me of Blue Oyster Cult at their best. The use of organ and mellotron brings back memories of the classic bands of the 70s but without in any way sounding dated.
After a second sub-minute ditty (on organ this time), we get the 3 track 25 minute epic Monsoon Suite which has a common lyrical theme about the Vietnam war. The first part, Hawks And Doves begins in a ponderous bluesy style with swirling organ (Ken Hensley guests on this track) before launching into an energetic middle section with an inspired riff which is one of the highlights of the album. The middle part of the suite, Old Bones, is a different kettle of fish with a melodic vocal section which leads to solos for keyboards, brilliantly played by Mags Johansen, and then both solo and harmonised guitars from Rick Hagan. Its nine minutes passes in a flash. A Stone For The Bodies Not Found closes the suite with its brooding beginning with sultry vocals from Rick Hagan before more great guitar playing (again from Rick Hagan!) over a keyboard chord sequence with has a touch of Marillion’s Forgotten Sons about it.
If you buy the CD rather than vinyl then you get a bonus track too: Gain & Pain. It’s an excellent straight forward metal track but also lacking a little in originality – it could have been written by anyone, to be honest. What this track does do though is highlight the originality and quality of what has gone before. Hex A.D. have produced a stunning album mixing psychedelic, doom and progressive metal in an inspired cocktail. It’s the best new metal album I’ve heard so far this year and it may still be my favourite metal album of 2020 come year-end. Buy it!