I have to give this band one big lump of credit straight off the bat. Last year I reviewed Hexvessel‘s fantastic album All Tree, and I’ve loved it ever since. Now they are back with a brand new record and quite frankly, it’s worlds apart. All Tree drew from some very traditional hallmarks of folk that waded ankle deep into the mystical side of musical storytelling. Well, consider that mysticism a full-blown river, and this time around, front man and band mastermind Mat McNerney has ushered his musical disciples and himself into the deep centre. Psychedelic forest folk? Never before have they lived up to this description so vividly. Kindred is something else yet again.
It’s a very admirable progression. From the opening bars of “Billion Year Old Being”, it’s apparent that the offbeat dive into more brooding folk recesses abides. Twinges of 70’s prog underlining arcane vocals set the precedence, and going forward, there is a lot more to be found. Across the record, the atmosphere meanders between the emotional, the triumphant, the sinister, and the pleasant, all in distinct fashion. With all the dark serenading comes a remarkable aptitude for composition, which immediately attaches a high level of respectability to the band’s sound.
Some intense highlights include the groovy reflections of “Demian”, the sombre movements of “Fire of the Mind”, and the jazz-tinted workings of “Bog Bodies”. Of the treats on offer, I mention only a few. Should my river comparison be a misfire, you’re instead encouraged to imagine Kindred as a woodland trek, whereby each passing song is a deeper delve beneath the darkening woodland canopy and into the unknown. Hexvessel deal in many a musical fable, and each is a journey of its own standing. The band dish out stories and use their music to establish the appropriate atmosphere to these neatly-woven tales. and the wide reaches of McNerney’s wonderful voice enunciate the feeling. As a result, you’ll feel it too.
Of course, folk – particularly of the psychedelic variety – isn’t to everyone’s taste. So naturally, I consider whether or not Kindred is the album to bridge the gap and introduce newcomers to the psychedelic folk table. I suspect the answer may lean towards a ‘no’ for the better part, and that its predecessor All Tree should be the one to provide that service. This is by no means a criticism; that album’s intermediate level of accessibility into the realms of mystical progressions means that Kindred is a clear evolutionary step in Hexvessel‘s sound, and a fully triumphant marker in the band’s timeline. There really is nothing bad to say about it.
Hexvessel have somehow managed to re-write the conventions of their own music whilst remaining faithful to their identity. There’s a whole bunch of adjectives I could attach to this album. It’s strange, pleasant, creepy, mighty, and so much more, but it’s really just the sum of its parts. The esoteric musings of Kindred should be sampled as a whole for full effect, and as a result, the eclectic sense of variety and substance will speak for itself. Read deep enough into Hexvessel‘s personal philosophy and their music could be considered a form of magic spell. It’s one way to explain the intuitive finesse of their sound and, I personally, have no better explanation to give.