LARVAE…Sutekh Hexen Review
Every so often we are lucky enough to be around for an album that seems absolutely emblematic of a musical movement. With Larvae, Sutekh Hexen have crafted a transcendentally chaotic masterpiece, bound for canonization by metal fans and outsiders alike. With a line up as disparate as their sound, including Dwid Hellion of Integrity, Sutekh Hexen have outlined a blueprint for a new form of black metal. Infused with a murderous surge of noise blended with the frigid brutality of raw black metal, Larvae seems immensely familiar, yet completely new all at once. At three tracks, and weighing it at just over thirty minutes, Larvae covers tremendous ground.
Full review after the jump!
Opening with “Isvar Savasana”, possibly the most traditional track on here, we begin with haunting synth work layered with droning noise, distant guitar tones quietly building in the background. Vocals so distorted they sound like crashing waves rise through, before a riff begins to swell which ultimately erupts into full on blackened chaos. It’s here that the production on this album shines through. With so much going on at once, this entire record could have been a complete mess, something more akin to harsh noise wall recordings than the immensely intricate sound we hear. With so many layers competing for your attention, you’ll find this record simply gets better and better with each listen, your mind picking out which thread to follow before it loses track, sending you back into the chaotic whole. The vocals are tremendous, bringing to mind the desperate howl of Dominic Fernow on recordings like “Cocaine Death” or some of the more violent pieces of “Bermuda Drain”; the sound of a single entity drowning in utter chaos, the recording crumbling around them. The wash of static never relents, even as the furious riff and drumming build to a mind bending crescendo, where the vocals suddenly rise up through the mix taking the forefront. This dynamic sense is what keeps this record from faltering. With one movement it morphs from harsh noise, to raw black metal, and back again.
The second track, “Lead Us In Warfare” is the shortest, weighing in at just over five minutes. Opening with a doomy riff that swiftly becomes subsumed with noise, it then transitions to an almost martial cadence, pounding bass balanced with high pitched, heavily distorted vocals. Trudging along at a funereal pace, this track evokes an atmosphere of complete warfare. With distorted vocals reminiscent of military radio broadcasts playing off a mortar bombardment of bass, its audio violence at its most primal. As the vocals fade out, leaving nothing but the trudging bass line, it evokes an atmosphere of mortality many death metal bands which they could reach.
The final track, “Let There Be Light” is the high point of this record. Haunting and elegiac, it begins with a wintry wall of noise, bringing to mind some of the bleaker recordings by Ättestupa. Acoustic guitar mournfully play against the electronics before the incredible vocals drop in. Switching from the howl of black metal to a more folky aspect, it falls more in the vein of Scott Kelly’s solo work. It’s completely spine chilling compared to the ferocity of the rest of this record, a bleak and ominous track that evokes a frozen vision of the future; nuclear winter given sonic form. The vocals grow in ferocity as the line “Let there be light” is delivered again and again, a hopeless chant. Just as everything begins to fade away the track explodes into a blazing riff, electronics building against it like an explosion in slow motion. In an album full of memorable moments, this one clearly stands out. The simplicity of this moment is what shows Sutekh Hexen’s mastery. A simple riff repeated endlessly, the warped noise underneath keeps it dynamic, combining both an old school approach with the current trend of more and more noise being integrated into the mix. This outro is a statement; that we cannot forget the past regardless of how we move forward.
Simply put, Larvae is the most exciting release of 2012 so far. Crafted with a clear vision, it treads new ground in a genre many feel is being overexposed and exploited. It’s so full of layers, so full of new ideas, that even at three tracks I find myself coming back to it again and again. It’s meditative in a way that only truly chaotic music can be, and for that alone it deserves a listen, regardless of whether or not you’re an old school purist. Currently available via Handmade Birds, a cassette special edition will be released by the incredible label and distro Analog Worship. Larvae gets the highest possible recommendation I can give. This isn’t just required listening for black metal fans, it’s required for everyone who wants to feel the raw emotion that only music can trigger.
Ryan O'Connor lives in the harsh New Mexican desert in the city of Albuquerque. He spends his free time reading cheap horror novels, writing, listening to music, and attempting to eke out a living under the unremitting sun. http://www.dontflysouth.com/