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Thursday, June 30, 2022

Review: Heksebrann – Spiritual Descending

Label: Self released

Date: May 1st, 2020

I kind of like this one! And I really shouldn’t, as it is rarely that an album with so many elements mixed in can dazzle me. But Heksebrann seems to have something special going on. Not only because of the always admirable D.I.Y. attitude. “Spiritual Descending” does need a deeper examination to conclude exactly where its appeal comes from.

This is the debut album from the German trio. When I mentioned their D.I.Y. attitude I meant the fact that this record is not only written and performed by the band, but also produced, mixed and mastered in their own studio. With a young band, featuring relatively young members, that is almost a sure sign of disaster. However, from the very first note it is obvious Heksebrann did their homework (quite literally) to the absolute maximum. The weight of the sound and the power it exudes reaches a frightening degree. Furthermore, the Germans released the album all on their own. On vinyl, to make matters even more respectable. Also, before the album on dissecting table here, they have a demo tape published two years ago. Yes, they actually did a demo cassette. Old school to the bone. Such is the music too.

Heksebrann describes their music as “a mix of heavy rock and metal”. There’s a lot of generalizing in that statement, as placing them within a certain genre borders is downright impossible. Also, their press clipping brings a couple of names of their influences. Without dropping names here, I must state that they have almost nothing in common between them. Against the odds, Heksebrann still managed to bring them together and fuse them all together. Though I would add a bunch of bands more to the list.

First and foremost, the basic principle guiding Heksebrann is southern metal. That dusty, heavy riffing storm. While mostly on that ground, the guitar work often dives down into your regular hardcore, or even post-hardcore. That’s when you get a dose of melancholia to the sound. Also, stoner elements are used to add the psychedelic effect. “Endless Return”, on the other hand, brings a blast-beating drum to the mix. Often you can hear real nasty breakdowns too, which bring us back to hardcore. Maybe even metalcore. Perpetuating such connotations is the significant use of gang vocals, typical of New York based hardcore legends. While on vocals, the voice of Heksebrann is an homage to Mr. Kilmister himself. And they fit to the raspy nature of the music itself. At the same time, the vocals are not nearly as one-sided as one might imagine. There is also a lot of growling around and a bit of wrathful shouting. However, at all times the vocalist remains quite expressive and delivers his feelings with full force. As this kind of music is rooted deep into the past, the Germans do not hide the fact that this is still the XXI century. Like at the very start of the album, on “Well of Creation”, you can even find the opening riff similar to some modern nu-metal tendencies.

The most important factor, after all is said and done, is the overall catchiness of the tracks themselves. That is probably the factor that makes “Spiritual Descending” as appealing as it undeniably is. Since the trio draws influences from all over the musical spectrum, it was absolutely imperative to manage to blend them into a homogenous whole. While doing that, it could have easily turned into a bland and tasteless record. Heksebrann still managed to create a treat for a wide variety of differently oriented fans. Hopefully, it will bring them the recognition they deserve. Personally, I will keep spinning the record for some time to follow. All the while eagerly anticipating the follow-up.