Dismal Ritualistic Darkness: SUTEKH HEXEN – “Salem” Review + Stream
From the Sutekh Hexen Bandcamp page and Grey Sun website:
Salem is an occurrence of allusions, devotion and result.
“…On May 30th, 2014, Sutekh Hexen performed with several other bands at the Wisp House, a former nunnery located in Salem, Oregon. It was early the next morning; sleep had settled over the neighborhood. The party was winding down and the house had become quiet except for a few people having conversations here and there. I was preparing my Thermarest and thinking how nice my sleeping bag was going to be when I heard sounds starting to emerge from the basement again. I looked at my “bed” and started rummaging through my pack for my recorder. I put some fresh batteries in and looked at my phone, “I should be sleeping” I thought to myself as I sat down on the stairs and pushed record. One by one each of the guys came downstairs…”
Salem is a live, impromptu field-recording by GreySun Records which provides a rare window into the improvisational and un-scripted creative realms of Sutekh Hexen. Finding the collective at their most forthright and primitive to date, Sutekh Hexen conjures something entirely original within their own construct. Upon completion came reflection and context, which yielded a challenging and equally commanding release in six movements.
And so it is that the masters of crippling ritualistic ambience have returned to releasing a full length album – something that hadn’t happened since 2012’s Behind The Throne. Or perhaps Salem remains what the band hinted that it is… a live album? Or an improvisational performance work captured on tape? Call it or define it as you will, but within we find the band once again at its finest, cracking the 30 min mark and abundantly dwelling in their famed and iconic sound deformations summoned from the bowels of the underworld. The story behind the release as told above admittedly remains ambiguous; but this is Sutekh Hexen, and within their world few things are defined, and the immaterial and unknown shroud everything. But if you sit down with Salem in a dark room with candles lit and with a decent soundsytem, you WILL be reminded you are alive and made of flesh, and that YOU are mortal and material, as the hairs on your neck will raise so high you won’t believe your own body’s reactions. This is, of course, the kind of ritualistic sonic terror you get lost in, and out of which you must then navigate yourself through a thick fog of nightmares and sensorial illusions in order to retain your sanity. Sutekh Hexen plasm labyrinths of sound with horrors lurking behind every corner, and where one’s phobias and fears take aural form. Your fear of dark, closed and unexplored places will spin out of control when fondled and taunted by this “music”…
Somewhat following in the steps of Become, Salem isn’t as reckless and merciless in its sensorial attack as, say, releases like Luciform or the early demos were…. The black metal component is now alluded to, but seems to be not fully embodied. It seems to be pulverized in the background, providing a nightmarish and evil backdrop to an otherwise deconstructed industrial terror made of field recordings and unholy aural abrasions that shimmer and vibrate at the forefront. And this begotten industrial spectral doesn’t obliterate the listener upon contact, as was with famed past Sutekh Hexen releases, but digs more patiently and meticulously within the listener, growing and swelling second after second, and slowly and inadvertently creeping on them to eventually inglobate them like a devouring plasma.
As “Black Mirror” and “Visitor” open the ceremony, the band seems restrained and set on a quite eerie and ethereal trajectory. The sound is dense as per usual, and reference points are few, but the slow moving miasma of static and sound passes by the listener slowly like a mournful funeral march made of sound and reverberations. But this is how Sutekh Hexen delivers its most lethal blows. The work then begins to imperceptibly grow and swell, and by the time “A Nameless Knot” swings around, the cacophony and chaos have reached undefinable levels – and that’s when Sutekh Hexen has an unaware and unexpecting listener within their grasp, ready to lunge out from the shadows to kill and dismember through a firestorm of unholy sonic chaos.
The following “Acceptance (Praxis),” and the closing twin ritual of “To Reveal” / “To Conceal” are the sonic frenzy Sutekh have reserved for themselves, and built momentum up to, as they finally feast with sound on the listener’s corpse, ravaging their synapses and prying open their flesh as they lie motionless, catatonic, and completely overcome by the ungodly hypnosis and sensorial torture forced upon them. These three tracks have an incredible density of sound that literally crushes you and squeezes every ounce of air out of your lungs, leaving you famished for breath in a blind chasm of static and vibrating walls of sound.
Once again, Sutekh Hexen have faced us with a dark and impenetrable riddle. They move a black hole of sound within your habitable zone, and then open it up so you can glimpse within and that’s when your world collides with something so harrowing and monstrous that it cannot be understood. The portal is opened and you’re faced with your nightmares before the cacophony subsides, the recording winds to its end, and the room returns to normality, familiar and quiet once again, after having been filled with demons and having been ransacked by a deluge of unstoppable darkness. Salem is another spectacular addition to the band’s repertoire, and finds them once again at their best: confident leaders, and overlords of a wretched realm they themselves have created and rule with merciless confidence. To glimpse within means letting your self go to this tyranny of transcendental chaos, and letting it guide you into places unknown. Salem is out now on LP through Saint Roch Ave. Recordings, on cassette from Grey Sun Recordings (possibly sold out), and on digital from the band.