Fans of the gentle, folkish paean to the trees that was 2012’s No Holier Temple are in for a shock, for it is as if the woodland nymphs who composed it danced a little too close to the forest’s edge, discovering with mouths agape the virulent sprawl of modernity before anxiously holing up in a dilapidated Soho flat and doing too much LSD with The Doors on repeat.
From the outset, Transparent Eyeball wears the acid-washed influence of 60s psychedelia on its sleeve, at once brash and quirky, with lysergic organ dominating spooky environs on the oddball jerk of Earth Over Us, its fascination with death is a theme that continues throughout. A six-member folk rock troupe formed when lead singer Mat ‘Kvohst’ McNerney, also of several other respected acts – most recently Grave Pleasures – relocated his versatile talents to Finland, Hexvessel are searching for substance beyond the ordinary.
Cosmic Truth is a case in point, its mellifluous swing less agitated and hearkening back to the folk of yore by way of poignantly heartaching piano. ‘We will never die, we’ll just change our form,’ Kvohst croons in inimitable form, borne on a crescendo of brass. The appropriately reverb-drenched doom-lite of Drugged Up On The Universe attests to experiences – and perhaps substances – that alter perspective, aiding the search. No Holier Temple was content to hide its sensitivities among the trees, safe from life’s harsh realities. When We Are Death explores what it’s like to expose them to the prevailing winds, challenging us to adapt and overcome, to find paths back to sacred places of sanctity mankind has forgotten. On Mirror Boy, Kvohst obsesses over the kind of questions that keep you awake at night. ‘Do you know the day I will die?’ he ponders on his standout vocal performance.
This is an album that blows open not only the doors of perception, but also expectations of what Hexvessel are capable of. Altogether grimier and less ethereal than its predecessor, it offers listeners much more to get their teeth into, and for anyone who has ever wanted an intangible something more from life, something deeper that we might have to wait until death to find.