Hexvessel: Iron Marsh

Best Underground nominees continue to enthral

You can trust Louder Our experienced team has worked for some of the biggest brands in music. From testing headphones to reviewing albums, our experts aim to create reviews you can trust. Find out more about how we review.

Displaced Englishman Mat McNerney and his band of Finnish troubadours have forged quite a hot buzz of late, with two full-length albums (and a Roadburn-exclusive seven-inch) of assiduously arcane flower power psych folk, and this beguiling octet are one of those completely non-metal bands that end up inextricably attached to the metal scene as the chill-out vibe of choice for wasted longhairs coming down from a night of headbanging debauchery. But Hexvessel are much more than that.

Although folk-challenged metallers may compare it to the quieter moments of Opeth or Witchcraft, they possess a distinctiveness, ambition, eccentricity and radiant musicality that sets them way above the usual jangly Viking campfire fare – and a rare sense of immersive engagement with their own singular sylvan muse.

Iron Marsh is a 35-minute EP – not much shorter than last year’s acclaimed breakthrough opus No Holier Temple – and while it functions as a handy companion piece to that album, it also sounds more dense and robust, with a wider scope and greater (though discreet) use of electronic sounds, perhaps a little more harmonically advanced and less obsessed with striking a twee, rustic hippy pose.

It’s still defiantly rooted in the Age Of Aquarius freak zone of course; witness the 13-minute opener Masks Of The Universe, building from an apocalypse-jazz drone through a nervy labyrinth of mellow spacey psych, or the nifty cover of Yoko Ono’s 1973 tune Woman Of Salem with Purson’s Rosalie Cunningham, rendered accessible and benign with languid wah-wah and sublime duetting male/female harmonies.

Throughout these five songs there’s a captivating warmth and irresistible hook-driven melodic flair at play, confirming Hexvessel’s special status and nudging them further up the developmental ladder towards a keenly anticipated apotheosis.