Which music Norway is usually associated with? Black Metal, of course! Probably Viking Metal to a lesser extent. But obviously there are always some exceptions: for decade Hex A.D. mix classic Hard Rock, Doom and Progressive, adding there touches of Psychedelic.
Hex A.D. is a brainchild of vocalist and guitarist Rick Hagan. The band released three albums, full of 70-80s nostalgia and got a lot of compliments for their last album Netherworld Triumphant. Then Hex A.D. decided to diversify the music, making it more complex but keeping what we call “hookiness”. Those attempts erupted into the album with a long name Astro Tongue in the Electric Garden.
Like the name, the album’s cover alludes for Psychedelic Rock or something like that: a complex acid-pitch picture with lots of details. In this regard it reminds me the art of Hieronymus Bosch, which also has lots of small details and you need to look at it for a long time, searching for connotations.
But when the first song “Elle est mort” starts to play, you don’t really understand what’s going on: two guitars play some cheerful and quite simple tune, which reminded me some French chanson. Maybe with this track the band wanted to say: guys don’t get prepared to anything and expect nothing! Just relax and listen to the music. Or maybe it’s a part of some concept, which I don’t get because of my stupidity.
The other seven songs and the cosmic interlude “Au revoir jardin électrique” is a mix of Black Sabbath, Dio, Uriah Heep, Rainbow, ELO, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple and many more in different proportions, with different accents. This mix, despite it is quite recognizable in some moments, creates something original, the band’s signature sound,
The first one I want to allocate is Mags Johanes who is responsible for piano, organ, synths and suddenly mellotron! He gives the album its “cosmic” atmosphere and largely because of him the music is so addictive and changes the mood for a couple of times per song. His solos often sounds equally to Rick Hagan’s guitar solos and in “Old Bones” Mags interchangeably plays synth and mellotron, masterfully creating a keyboards “dialogue” in the background of Progressive guitars and drums. It’s a brilliant work that in some way reminds the play of legendary Jon Lord.
Rick Hagan’s guitar riffs and solos it’s a Hard Rock, Progressive Rock, Doom and classic Heavy, commonly merged in through one song. Now it becomes clear why most of the songs in the album last over seven minutes: the band just can’t play everything what they want and seamlessly merge it in less time. The greatest examples for it are “Astro Tongue”, “Hawks & Doves” (which thematically reminds “War Pigs”) и greatly atmospheric “A Stone for the Bodies Not Found”. Although there is a pure classic Heavy song: bonus-track “Grace and Pain” featuring Rowan Robertson, former Dio guitarist.
This album became a sudden but pleasant surprise for me: I didn’t know anything about this band before and all I got from stingy description is “Progressive Doom”. But these words don’t reflect the diversity and marvelousness, which give us Hex A.D. in this record in the slightest. And it seems that I need to become more familiar with the band’s discography.
Astro Tongue in the Electric Garden will be released on February, 21th via Fresh Tea Records.
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