Finland’s Hexvessel bill themselves as “Psychedelic Forest Folk Rock”, which, while a mouthful, does a pretty good job of describing the type of music you’re in for when you listen to one of their albums. Blending neo-folk with psychedelic rock is not a new thing, but Hexvessel do it with an ease that belies their (relative) youth as a band, having been around for only about eight years. Their debut, Dawnbearer, was acclaimed for it’s effortless blending of these genres and excellent songwriting. Subsequent albums proved to be good offerings as well, though never quite reaching the same heights as Dawnbearer. That’s not to say they were bad by any means, they actually ranged from quite good to great, but they lacked a certain something that the debut had, perhaps trying to do too many things at once at certain times. While never bad, They began to stray from the core sound established on Dawnbearer.
Enter All Tree, Hexvessel‘s latest studio album. This album sees the band returning to a more raw, focused sound, very much like their debut. This step back to a more stripped down, atmospheric and neofolk-centric sound does wonders for the band. Despite this, the modern production and mixing techniques make every aspect of the band’s sound audible and crystal clear, with shimmering electric leads, earthy, wooden acoustic tones and fantastic vocal mixing while detracting nothing from the atmosphere they work so hard to create.
Of particular note is the performance of vocalist Mat McNerney. While on previous records and in other projects his vocal performance ranged from good to great depending on the material, here he consistently delivers a fantastic performance, totally selling the nature themed lyrics of the album. His unique, instantly recognizable vocals are the highlight of this album and his best performance in quite some time.
As mentioned previously, All Tree has a modern yet earthy production that enhances the atmosphere Hexvessel work to craft. It’s not overly sterile, but all of the instruments are wholly audible and each has it’s place in the mix. The use of 12 string guitars, viola and even field recordings all contribute to the warm, comfy and pastoral atmosphere of this record.
If you were a fan of Dawnbearer but feel that Hexvessel had somewhat lost their way in recent times, then you’ll love this album. It’s a true return to their folk roots, and rather than discarding the other elements to their sound, said elements are utilized and blended with the folk in a much more subtle and mature manner. If you’re a fan of the band’s output regardless of their “era”, you will likely find something to love here. All Tree is a fantastic album and a true return to Hexvessel’s strengths. If you’ve ever been a fan of this band or just of the neofolk genre in general, this is an album you’ll want on your radar.
All Tree is available now via Century Media Records.