This Portland, Maine band came out with their ‘Bachelor of the Black Arts’ a few years back now, this is their second release. I remember feeling there was room for improvement when I bought the last album, namely the vocals and the production. When I first heard this new release it dawned on me that the improvements haven’t happened!

Whilst languishing in late 70’s early 80’s UK hard rock and with more than a slight nod to the NWOBHM era, Hessian reminds me of both Angel Witch and Witchfynde. In particular I refer to the darker elements of that said scene and two bands, although the track ‘Skull Ring’ in particular is very much in the Angel Witch camp. The lacking element of Hessian and displayed on songs like ‘Dude Messiah’ is the low level of sustain from the guitars. It just sounds flat and lifeless (including the vocals), when I want a booming resonant sound for the track style which leads towards the doom spectrum. There is reverb, but the vocals are not helping, the bass is very loud and as a result the guitars simply get lost in the mix. On ‘Legpuller’, if you look beneath its familiar arrangement and presentation, there are some decent NWOBHM era riffs, they’re just not working with the obscure vocal and the time changes in the song that tend to go off at any given moment. On the flip side, you do get a musical nod to Thin Lizzy’s energy with the opening track ‘I Wish I Was Dead’, albeit accompanied by a depressive vocal delivery and theme, therefore the frustration remains!

I haven’t liked, but then I haven’t hated this release. I thought there may have been some augmentation of their sound from the last album, but unfortunately, the sound of the album is very dated and flat. I’ve found this a touch of a let-down which for me having followed this band for many years, ‘Mercenary Retrograde’ is a big surprise, but some surprises you could do without knowing as it may tarnish historical accolades.

(5/10 Paul Maddison)