San Francisco's Sutekh Hexen, founded by guitarist Kevin Gan Yuen with
fellow guitarist Scott Miller,
debuted with Luciform (2011), containing the brief frenzied agony of
The Great Whore,
but found their true voice with the fusion of black metal and
power-electronic noise of
Larvae (Analog Worship, 2012), for example the
15-minute La Det Bli Lys (ambient glitch overture, a duet for acoustic guitar and spoken-word, and four final minutes of black-metal madness)
or the ten-minute Isvar Savasana,
an apocalyptic crescendo that leads from
a gentle blend of field recordings and gloomy drones to a wall of noise with desperate screams.
The 30-minute piece of the mini-album Behind The Throne (Magic Bullet, 2012) recast their brutality into symphonic grandeur, the sound of a
demon being burned at the stakes.
The second part opens with the metallurgic noise and the muffled rumble of
an industrial hell, swept bt a miasmatic wind from which an explosive riff
suddenly rises, which is in turn dwarfed by an approaching whirlwind of reverbs,
a massive galactic object that wipes everything out with its
Empyraisch (Vendetta, 2012) is a compilation of rare early recordings.
Sutekh Hexen's Breed In Me The Darkness (Aurora Borealis, 2012) offers
two new compositions and remixes of each one by
The pulses and drones of the six-minute We Once Walked Upon These Coals evoke a funeral procession in catacombs, while the wall of noise of the first three minutes of Selling Light To Lesser Gods evokes a burning hell; but these are minor works in the context of their canon. The real attraction of the
album are the two Liles remixes.
The 18-minute We Once Walked Upon These Coals - To Save Us All From Satan's Power Mix begins as a gentle piano sonata but soon swallowed by distorted
electronic drones. Ten minutes into the piece the guitar unleashes a Black Sabbath-esque riff that keeps repeated till the end.
The 15-minute Selling Light To Lesser Gods - He Is Risen Mix begins
with cosmic sounds that get increasingly loud, dissonant and menacing, while
an angelic choir tries in vain to escape. The noise rises to unbearable
intensity and then suddenly drops. The quiet doesn't last long: suddenly
the guitars erupt and begin a relentless bombing of the senses.
The project then lost Miller but Kevin Gan Yuen acquired various cohorts:
Lee Camfield, Andy Way, Ryan Jenckes of Lycus, and Joshua Churchill.
One Hundred Year Storm (2014) was a live collaboration with
Trepaneringsritualen (Swedish musician Thomas Ekelund).
Salem (Saint Roch, 2017) documents a live, impromptu performance
of dark abstract manic ambient music.
The album is divided into six pieces but it feels like one continuous
improvisation, from the
ghostly electronic drones of Black Mirror to the
layers of harsh dissonance of Visitor, with a peak of pathos in the
darker and more neurotic A Nameless Knot.
The river of distorted vocals of Acceptance sounds like a heavily remixed choral mass, and spills over into the next two movements until the ending
whirling cacophony of To Conceal, perhaps evoking the howling of
millions of damned souls in hell.
The double-cassette (44.947089, -123.031742) (45.521560, -122.527929) (GreySun, 2017) contains remixes of Salem.
The real highlight of the year was the 13-minute Pareidolian
on a split EP with Hissing.
Sutekh Hexen (Cyclic Law, 2019) is the first proper album of this
second phase of the band, although it contains several reworked compositions of
2012-14. It opens with the same lugubrious cacophony of Salem, as
an infernal roaring wind sweeps Descent, but it soon adopts a
more psychological stance.
The nine-minute nightmare of SubStratus indulges in a slow flow of industrial clangor and muffled vocals, but not on walls of noise.
Segue 2 - Xirang sounds like a mini-concerto for field recordings.
The sonic lava and subdued spasms of Elemental Uproar evoke a horror-movie soundtrack, especially because it keeps moving and changing, i.e. it has a narrative quality.
This music is delirious but what is delirious is not the intensity: it's
the creativity of the soundpainting.
There are even two quiet ambient interludes (Segue 1 - Ouroborus and
Segue 3 - Ascent), and the finale is a cosmic lulling "om", Pangea Ultima.
Hyper-kinetic guitar riffs and psychotic vocals only surface in the second half of Eye Of The Quill, in E Siel Enna Lehcim and especially in the beastly Torrential, the best of the black-metal songs.
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