12-inch, A Library
A fixture of the Bay Area experimental scene, Sutekh Hexen has purveyed solid ‘black noise’ fare for close to a decade, typically compressing ragged metal riffs and murky ambience into challenging walls-of-sound. 2019 saw the release of their self-titled 4th full-length, brought to you by the German-based label that has recently functioned as the de facto foster home for Cold Meat Industry artists orphaned by that Swedish label’s sudden dissolution six years ago. I’m not sure that S.H. is the first American band to release on Cyclic Law, but nonetheless, this double LP constitutes a significant moment in the transatlantic partnership that has long defined the industrial noise scene. S.H. had displayed an affinity for the Euro milieu even before their collaboration with Sweden’s Trepaneringsritualen, which was performed live deep in the woodlands of the Pacific Northwest at 2013’s Stella Natura festival. The group’s fusion of black metal guitar stylings and nonlinear experimental soundscapes is very compatible with the aesthetic sensibilities of our friends on the old continent (MZ.412 and Paysage D’Hiver come to mind).
On this magnum opus, for which recording first commenced way back in 2012, S.H. seem to have both tightened up their compositions and broadened their palette, perhaps owing to a new and expanded lineup. For whatever reason, longtime member A.C. Way (AKA Thoabath) is no longer involved; here core members Demian Johnston (Great Falls, solo as BLSPHM) and Kevin Gan Yuen (Circle of Eyes, Disgust) collected contributions from Nathaniel Ritter (Burial Hex), Bay Area art-drone luminary Jim Haynes, Jim Kaiser (AKA Petit Mal, and sadly R.I.P. as of 2017), Mackenzie Chami (Terror Cell Unit, Disgust, solo as Koufar and Crown of Cerberus), Jason ‘VENIEN’ Ventura (founder of seminal Bay Area black metal group Von), Ryan Jobes (Grave Babies), James Martinez (provenance unknown), and Vial Magazine editor Patricia Cram. There will be a quiz after this review, so try and keep up.
A Frankensteinian agglomeration of black metal, dark ambient, deep drone, harsh noise, death industrial, electroacoustic, field recordings, and ritual music, ‘Sutekh Hexen’ is a vicious beast indeed, reflecting its diverse contributors’ varied approach to soundcraft. At times brooding and at times extremely violent, it impressively realises the promise of earlier releases and brings the project to a new artistic peak, one with perhaps a wider appeal. Be ye headbanger, noise junkie, Mills College avant-gardist, or dark ambient creeper, Lord Gravestench advises that you drink deeply of this silver-hued nightmare.