review - 08.20.2014 20:01

Japan's unknown monster leaves a swath of skillful destruction in an upcoming album.

HEXVOID, the self-described "NEO TOKYO CHAOTIC GROOVE METAL CREW", was formed in 2007. Initially only somewhat active, the band has only managed one full album, along with a slew of coupling releases and demos. That's not to say that the band is totally unknown, however. In fact, they seem to know all the right people -- renowned music journalist Yuuichi Masuda has called HEXVOID "the unknown beast of Japan."

Now, in the same year that another Japanese monster ravaged America's shores, HEXVOID hopes to do the same. Their new full-length album, RAVEN, sees the band's heavy, alternative metal sound stomp ominously across the Pacific and make landfall in the US. Can the beast find a nesting ground, or will it merely send the population screaming in terror? If this release is anything to go by, HEXVOID's sound is indeed a very similar to a kaiju film: it's big, it's scary, and at times it's even a little fun.

The beast draws near in (hollow), an effective intro track that creeps along via eerie piano notes and heavily distorted speech. The assault truly begins, however, with New World, as ERC screams to life an impellent monster of a song that gradually builds to an unexpectedly manic crescendo. The next track, For Myself, is an impressive achievement, with a psychedelic video that serves to drive home the all the energy and emotion HEXVOID put into the track. The interplay between screaming and singing, something the band accomplishes with great skill, is at its most obvious here. Sign, the next track, is reminiscent of a severe storm, with chaotic vocals and guitars that momentarily dissipate into a peaceful interlude.

Mosh & Beer is next, and it's surprisingly just as fun as the title implies. Despite being one of RAVEN's most furious numbers, the song bounces along with sort of deranged energy that allows every member to go absolutely wild. Shapes Of The Cloud provides a more pristine take on what the band's shown so far, and is just as packed with emotion as it is clean vocals and thundering guitars. Clash has a similar feeling, and is one of the album's more low-key offerings, allowing Hajime's satisfyingly powerful drumming to take the spotlight.

Discharge brings back the more aggressive sound of the earlier songs, with an intimidating introduction that imbues the entire track with a ferocious, implacable energy. Fighter sounds much as its title indicates, and its dynamic pace will ensure its place as a mosh pit favorite.

The next track, Taken, is another standout. Though the entire album could easily be described as "unrelenting", Taken demonstrates it the best. An oddly hazy, dream-like bridge allows listeners to breathe, but otherwise the song proceeds as aggressively as songs by some of extreme metal's biggest names. River, the last full song, has arguably the album's most accessible sound, with very little in the way of harsh vocals. It's a familiar-sounding track that helps close out the onslaught on a softer note, backed up by the carnival-esque outro, (wake up).

HEXVOID is one of those bands that seems destined for immense success. The songs on RAVEN are all skillfully composed, but lack the experimental weirdness that many bands under the "alternative" umbrella often attempt. Experimentation can be a good thing, but HEXVOID doesn't really need it. They've polished their sound to a mirror finish, and it's readily apparent that the members are extremely competent. ERC in particular is a striking vocalist, but each member is relentless in their contributions to the wonderful aural assault that is RAVEN. As they stomp their way across the Pacific, HEXVOID can remain confident about their success. This is one monster Americans will be glad to have on their side.

RAVEN descends on Japan September 10th, and will be unleashed stateside on October 3rd.

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