Doom metal has come a long way since the early work of Candlemass and Witchfinder General. Many a more or less successful fusion has been undertaken, most notably the very successful doom/death mish-mash, but also other mixed class genres have had their successful representatives. Hexer belong to this latter category, since on Cosmic Doom Ritual they nominally play a combination of black and doom metal.
In all honesty, the black metal is quite toned down. There are the odd riffs, and a few faster-paced parts, but there are other genres filtering into the mix that take up a lot more space. The basic musical landscape consists of slow, slow doom metal, with bizarre melodies played on massively down tuned guitars, coupled with stoner and experimental stuff. The distortion is crushing, sometimes generating a noisy industrial vibe. An analogue synthesizer and a pile of effects add a healthy dose of surrealism and atmospheric insanity.
The mostly low tempo doom brings immediate thoughts of Esoteric. Hexer rarely go as slow as the British masters, but with the heavy psychedelia going on almost constantly the connection is still impossible not to make. The German origin and the blackish vocals, complete with a certain desperate sound, also make it difficult to forgo mentioning Bethlehem. These references only go so far, to be sure, because Hexer definitely have their own sound.
To be more concrete, the regular employment of oriental melodies and rhythms mix things up quite a bit, and this reviewer can’t really think of any other doom act that have gone quite this route. A huge bonus is that these influences are supremely well integrated into the music, and not just tacked on in the form of interludes or (shudder) intros. You cannot listen to “Pearl Snake” without forming some vague notion of a Persian belly dancer performing her craft in the middle of the night on a decrepit Ironclad warship, floating on a river of black oil. Or maybe you can, but only if you lack any faculty of imagination.
The album has its ups and downs, as most albums do. Sometimes the heavy experimentation takes over in a way that makes the music lose its way, when it coincides with less melodic passages. There are far worse examples of such meandering, though, and overall Cosmic Doom Ritual holds together nicely. The oppressive atmosphere the album evokes is partly a typically doom metal one, well known from Skepticism and the aforementioned Esoteric, and partly something alien and refreshingly new.
Cosmic Doom Ritual is a brilliant addition to the still not wholly overexposed doom metal genre, and its release on April 14 should be awaited with joyous anticipation. It will be available from Vendetta Records.