Vinyl Visions: Hexvessel - No Holier Temple

Hexvessel | No Holier Temple | Svart Records | 2012   On Hexvessel's tumblr, the band's founder Mat "Kvohst" McNerney describes making No Holier Temple as "the sound of a cult, all focused on summoning the same magic, joined in prayer, haunted by the same demons... This isn’t about using symbols of the occult. This is about a way of living that returns the old gods to their rightful place. We’re a family that worships nature through word and sound. We hope you will join us.” Kvohst couldn't be more accurate when explaining his self-described "tree-folk" band.

   Based out of Helsinki, Hexvessel blend the Black-Metal/ Black Sabbath sensibilities so prevalent in Scandinavia with a mystical-folk streak. The songs on No Holier Temple range from chant-like invocations to full-on stoner-folk-rock, each song drenched in the cold dampness of the fjords. Kvohst's singing is akin to Magnus Pelander's of Witchcraft which only amplifies the druid-like mysticism of the record. The groups eight members fill No Holier Temple with fuzzed guitars, accordion, horns, clarinets, Rhodes keys, chanting lines, and even a balalaika making the record sound like it was recorded at some ancient rite deep inside the forest.

24" x 24" 'No Holier Temple' Poster   This connection between No Holier Temple and the forest is the meat of the record. The gorgeous 12" liner notes included with the LP are filled with John Muir quotes extolling the virtues of the woods and the sides of the double LP are labeled: Side Ash, Side Birch, Side Cedar, and Side Douglas Fir after species of trees. The connection doesn't end there either, songs on the album include "Woods to Conjure," "A Letter in Birch Bark," and "Are You Coniferous?" containing lyrics like "This is a cold wet camp when the fire won't kindle | And you're damp to the bone and miles from home | When the trees shiver all through the timbers." This isn't just some kind of 'cool' aesthetic theme to organize a record, but, as Kvohlst intones in the quote which leads this piece off, a call-to-arms of the naturalist metal-heads. We've seen bands like Washington state's Wolves In the Throne Room thrive channeling the landscape of the Pacific Northwest to inform their music. Hexvessel are no where near as heavy as Wolves In the Throne Room but their topics and concerns are similar, and both appeal to a type of old world lifestyle.

 

   The first 400 copies of No Holier Temple come with an embroidered patch (eight versions were made) that represents the band members by a forest animal. There's an owl, wolf, hare, and others. My copy came with the fox, which delighted me to no end - maybe it's the red hair, but I've always identified with foxes. As I consider its location on my jacket, I can't help but think of it as an indoctrination into some secret society. After all, patches have long filled this role, whether as symbols affiliating a biker to his particular gang or the merit badges of a boy scout, they define our allegiances and begin to operate as talismans from our pasts. I think that this is Kvohst's goal, to unite us under nature's occult. "Are you coniferous?" Kvohst asks, as if for volunteers, "Do your leaves last all year?" There are others like you.