I have been a little starved of hearing the distinct dulcet tones of ex-patriot singer Matthew McNerney aka Kvohst of late. His Beastmilk project rebranded as Grave Pleasures have gained more mainstream success and latest album Dreamcrash didn’t see its way to us. Thankfully his Finnish forest folk project Hexvessel did and has seen the group making a more than welcome return following up their sublime 2013 release Iron Marsh. Even the title of this one sent a shiver down the spine before getting to the music and I knew that ‘We Are Death’ was going to prove a poetic and flavoursome listen with many nods to the past. Some were to be taken for granted as the bands roots spread far but others were to come as a surprise. This has proved to be an album full of mystery and intrigue, some tracks being simple, heartfelt sojourns of reflection and longing and others pushing the boundaries and offering up quite a few head scratching moments making me wonder where influences and ideas behind them lie.
First track ‘Transparent Eyeball’ is far from the gentle opener I was expecting and really stands out with a jaunty melody that reminds no small amount of The Stones giving shelter, it’s literally just a kiss away from the classic before opening out with some of McNerney’s post-punk sounding vocal motifs, not at full wail but threatening to go into that territory. There’s plenty of jaunty retro flavoured keyboard sounds adding spice here and it’s got a bit of a flare shuffling stomp about it, some of them as we go on compulsively peeling away with a carnival sounding trump that can only be compared to Madness (and considering where the singer comes from that’s no embarrassment). It’s a slightly glam laden opener and caught me of guard but things settle into more of what I expected after with ‘Earth Over Us’ going into a more gentle garage-psyche-folk orientation. You could no doubt mention many an obscure band from the 60’s now and it is literally a ‘nugget’ of a track missing just the pops and crackles as it sounds like it should have escaped from a slab of collectable vinyl from the era. As with everything it gets under the skin and makes you think you have been listening to it for decades already too. A sorrowful keyboard sound delivers ‘Cosmic Truth’ and I doubt you will have heard anything quite so beautiful in aeons. Just listen to it and watch the stunning video below and prepare to be mesmerised, all at peace with the world as it enters your life and enlightens with its timeless touch.
Already the album has delivered many different facets flavours, ‘When I’m Dead’ continues the journey to the grave. Vocals are more strident in their wails and I desperately try and put a finger on who they could possibly remind of coming up with names as random as Kevin Rowland through to Kirk Brandon. There’s more than a touch of The Doors about things too and some proggy psyche flurries instrumentally just to mess with your head that little bit more. Each and every song has a distinct personality and is brilliantly composed to latch into your head and not let go. “Where will you be, when it comes to the end,” are the words and the answer is obviously “wanting to press play again” and take it all in once more. ‘Drugged Up On The Universe’ is a title Dave Wyndorf must be kicking himself for not having thought of and I can’t help thinking the words “Doremi Fasol Latido” are going to be uttered via the similar sounding vocal patterning here. Lyrics on songs such as ‘Teeth Of The Mountain’ really have that aforementioned poeticism overflowing and listening to them will no doubt have you questioning your mortality if the slew of high profile celebrity deaths occurring at the moment have already been doing so. ‘Mushroom Spirit Doors’ is lyrically impossible for people of a certain age not thinking of Eurythmics chart buster ‘Sweet Dreams’ even if musically it’s a million miles away. At times I can’t help but think the band are being a little cheeky in a fun way and playing around but when the actual mushrooms on this track do kick in it’s a heady nirvana of a trip out and highly enjoyable with it as is the whole album. With a London gig finally in the offing it seems like this is all going to be able to be enjoyed on a whole other level too. This was one sweet death!
(8/10 Pete Woods)