Review from Blacforje Magazine

Posted by Hypnotic Dirge Records on Tuesday, May 7, 2024 Under: English
From: Blacforje Magazine
Published: May 5, 2024

Hekseblad is a United States-based black metal artist who has been making waves in the scene due to their latest release, Kaer Morhen. If you’re a fan of Andrzej Sapkowski's The Witcher novel series, video games, or TV show, you might have caught that reference to the old keep where witchers train. Hekseblad focuses on melodic and vicious fantasy black metal inspired by the lore of The Witcher series and classic second-wave black metal artists. 

The first song, “School of the Wolf,” instantly establishes how raw and gritty this album will be. However, the track also showcases what makes Hekseblad stand out: their more melodic and dynamic song structure. Gothic sensibilities are established in this first song and continue throughout the album. 

“A Grain of Truth (Nivellen's Waltz)” sonically captures the portrayal of a cursed and misunderstood soul. The harrowing vocals, brutal blast beats, and riffs evoke a sense of empathy, while the somber piano break adds a layer of depth to the song’s conclusion.  The following song, “The White Flame,” creates a chaotic atmosphere around a kingdom falling. This song continues to showcase Hekseblad’s unique blend of sounds and genres, featuring an excellent mix and synth. The song even surprises with an impressively woven thrash metal-inspired breakdown halfway through.

Given my taste for songs that are unashamedly heavy, groovy, and brutal, it’s no surprise that “The Taste of Ash” is my favorite track. There’s almost a thrash and melodeath influence in this track, but Hekselad maintains the sorrowful and rawness of the lore and landscape from which they draw lyrics about cursed immortality. 

Transitioning the album through the instrumental track, “Ithlinne's Prophecy,” Hekseblad keeps Kaer Morhen interesting with the album’s title track. An intro of acoustic guitar and flutes creates a medieval folk atmosphere before booming guttural vocals and raw breakdowns take over the song. The band keeps some more mythical and splintering guitar solos sprinkled through this track with deep, stocky riffs, creating the sensation that you’re preparing for a dire quest like the song’s protagonist. 

Kaer Morhen turns towards more epic territory in its final tracks, with “Mastercrafted” having steady riffs and ending with the sounds of steel and silver clashing on a battlefield. “The Fall of the Northern Realms” then laments the battle's devastated landscape with a slower, more sorrowful song. “Sodden” continues this theme and narrative of war with a return to blast beats and marching guitar riffs. Hekseblad ends the album strong with “Vatt'ghern,” which uses impressive synth work, various transitions to marching war chants, and even a lute breakdown. All of this works to capture its narrator’s never-ending tale of hardship and turmoil on an epic scale. 

Hekseblad has shown immense creativity with Kaer Morhen, and there is a clear passion for not only the music production but also the lore and world-building of The Witcher. We are excited to see where the artist might take listeners next.

Reviewed by: Alex Hawkins

In : English 

Released: April 19, 2024
Genre: Melodic Black Metal


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