Photo by Ann Sydney Taylor Photography
A relatively new band built from some of Birmingham’s hoariest metal alumni (Capsized, Hog Mountin, Molehill and Charnel Ground), Hexxus parlays its collective experience into an efficient three-man wrecking crew capable of collapsing Trump-sized walls with its massive sound. As its name suggests, Hexxus thrives on slow southern sludge. The riffs are trudging and punishingly heavy, but expertly executed with the lightest touch.
One of the most intriguing aspects of Hexxus’ debut release, Tunguska, is the band’s restraint. While many of its brethren consistently chug away with a sledgehammer, Hexxus isn’t afraid to pull back and gently chisel out a melody. The album opens with static-filled droning and a plodding chord progression, but pulls the volume back two minutes in to add some detail to the riff. The respite makes the track feel all the heavier when the vocals kick in and the song returns to full volume. There are small moments like this, moments of obvious attention and craftsmanship, scattered throughout the five-track LP that sets Hexxus apart from its peers.
There’s a progressive spirit lurking in the underbelly of this swamp beast: sudden shifts in tempo and key, layered melodies, theme and variation. The album even toys with a concept: plotting the course of Earth’s largest impact event from space to the Russian wilderness. It’s a fitting concept for a band that hits hard and has a preoccupation with natural disaster. Tunguska may be a debut, but it’s the work of long-time professionals. This is an album that’s every bit as clever as it is heavy, and was clearly as enjoyable to create as it is to consume.