Sweden is a damn fine place for Heavy Metal – it has been for many years. So many Metal bands of so many genres have hailed from it’s musically fertile territories and it’s an absolute pleasure to welcome another one, Hexed, to the World scene. Vicisolum snapped the band up after the release of an EP last year and Hexed have relished the opportunity of a full length outing to show us all what they’re about.

As a starting point, you could say we’re in Lacuna Coil territory with this debut, crammed full of down-tuned, chunky guitars and driving rhythms, but as the album progresses there are touches of Nemesea, Within Temptation, Delain and Lullacry. However, vocal power-house Tina Gunnarsson marks the band apart – whatever the song demands she absolutely nails. Powerful, passionate, melodic and diverse, her vocals certainly give the whole thing an added vitality – the choruses shine, the verses hold your attention every time – it’s a spellbinding display. I dubbed this an added vitality, simply because the musicians do their fair share as well. There’s a progressive/speed metal edge to proceedings at times that is reminiscent of Helstar, Queensryche and Fifth Angel. But the arrangements and overall delivery mean that this is a mere acknowledgement, as the band totally stamps it’s authority very much on the here and now.

The difference the band has to any other familiarities keep coming back to those vocals and how they use the music to excel and expand. ‘Forsaken’ for instance has a huge range of emotions and power within the vocals alone. We’re not talking warbling soprano here, this is full-on, soaring, dynamic Heavy Metal vocals, full of everything a Metal fan could want, backed/enhanced by heavy songs (including some impressive lead-work and occasional additional vocals from guitarist Stellan Gunnarsson), and a great, bass-rich production – all adding to Hexed’s already unique sound. Every track is powerful and in-yer-face, with no let up in the intensity or for that mater, interest.

In addition to all the above, former Therion/Candlemass/Loads-of-Great-Swedish-Bands singer Thomas Vikstrom lends the more gravel-orientated end of his considerable vocal prowess to ‘Exhaling Life’ and Tad Morose voice Ronny Hemlin pops up on closing track ‘Remake My Soul’. These guys don’t lend their talents to just anyone and surely this is another ringing endorsement for Hexed. How fabulous it is as a reviewer to be in at the start of a bands career and to then follow them on their hopefully fulfilling and rewarding journey – for all parties concerned. As if we needed any more proof, Metal is alive, thriving and well in Sweden as long as talent like Hexed is on offer. A great debut that promises even more.

(8.5/10 Andy Barker)