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Interview

Hexvessel Talks New Album "No Holier Temple" And The Finnish Underground Scene

Folksy, psychedelic rock outfit Hexvessel is now only a handful of days away from the official release of sophomore full-length effort "No Holier Temple," which reflects on the idea of sacred places in nature. While perhaps not a traditional theme metal heads may be exposed to, except for outside a few folk metal bands, Hexvessel sits in that nebulous area between genres where fans of the extreme and the mainstream can come together to enjoy something a bit different.

Described more accurately as "neofolk" than "metal," Hexvessel still sits proudly on the Svart Records roster along with some truly dark acts. While diving into the band's new release in an interview, Mat "Kvhost" McNerney discussed the kinship between styles of music and how fans of devastatingly heavy sounds can get a needed fix from "No Holier Temple." An avowed fan of the underground, Mat also shared his love of unknown local Finnish acts, how this new album has changed musically from the first release, and how the band ended up with Svart Records.

xFiruath: Although this album has some dark atmosphere, Hexvessel can’t really be called a metal band. How did you get hooked up with Svart Records, which is known for its heavier releases?

Mat: We met the guys at Roadburn a few years back. We were staying at the same house and they had allowed us to stay there in a spare room. So we were hanging with these guys and they had a record label, so we started talking about my band. These guys were huge folk music and psychedelic rock freaks. Their idea was to create a label that could release anything, and it did involve quite a lot of metal releases, but I think the idea is still to be a diverse label. So that’s how we sort of got together and became friends. There wasn’t like a deal on the table before I knew them, we got to be friends first. I appreciate the ideology behind the label and their love of vinyl and they collect all kinds of music.

xFiruath: I’ve been listening through the new album but I actually haven’t heard the band’s first release. What are the differences between the two albums?

Mat: It’s my songs so I’m sure you’ll recognize things. It was arranged by me, but the new album is a band playing with a lot of different members. It is more of a psychedelic rock base with some folk parts. The first album is a folk album with some psychedelic rock elements coming through. It’s the flipside of the same coin.

xFiruath: Where did the recording take place for these new tracks?

Mat: We recorded earlier this year at a great studio up in Finland, it’s called Space Junk. We recorded most of the stuff live. I was meant to do the vocals live too but I got sick before the recording, so I just played guitars and did the vocals later. We like to play and record the music together and it was really special.

xFiruath: There’s a clear nature theme to the album, but what specifically is happening in the lyrics?

Mat: The idea is for people to try and reflect on what is holy and what is sacred, so it’s really asking that question. We’re talking about nature and the idea to reflect on the natural world and contemplate where you came from in the universe. We’re all connected back to the mothership, the Earth, and that’s sort of what we’re talking about. The first album was the idea of enlightenment and discovering some form of spirituality.

xFiruath: You guys released a video for “Woods to Conjure,” which has a bunch of different clips in it. Tell me a bit about that.

Mat: We spliced up some old black and white movies about the forestry industry. A lot of these things weren’t necessarily in a negative way, these were just a couple of documentaries I like, informational films about forestry and forest fires. We were using it to conjure certain ideas and make people think about it a little bit.

xFiruath: Will you be playing with any extreme metal acts for upcoming tour dates?

Mat: We have played with metal bands, and I think there’s a kind of kinship in lots of different kinds of music. I guess we would prefer to mix it up so we’re not always with metal bands. The borders of metal and non-metal are very blurred and there’s lots of different people now listening to metal, and lots of people in metal listening to different things, so I think we’re entering into a different kind of age when people are open minded. In the Internet age we’re in that era where music can appeal to a lot of different kinds of people. Whatever our audience is, we love them and want to meet them.

xFiruath: There are a good number of bands that really aren’t heavy but still tend to included in the metal scene. For instance, have you heard Sol Invictus? It’s a bit different, but that band is a little along the lines of what you guys do.

Mat: Yeah there’s loads of bands like that that metalheads really like. Everything from Tom Waits, Wovenhand, 16 Horsepower, and things like that. It’s kind of acceptable even for the diehard guys to sit down and listen to that to chill out and get a different vibe. People can enjoy it without feeling they are sacrificing or in some way compromising their dark heritage. That’s just cool with me, whatever turns you on.

xFiruath: What music are you looking forward to coming out soon?

Mat: I really like the Finnish underground scene, so I’m really focused on bands like that. There’s a band coming out called Sammal, they are just excellent, it’s like Finnish prog rock music that’s really psychedelic.

xFiruath: What else is happening in your local scene these days?

Mat: It’s great, it’s really some amazing going on. A lot of people try to tell me what’s going on in the rest of the world, but I’m just like you’ve got to listen what’s going on in the Finnish underground. There’s a lot of great record labels and artists creating this music with no kind of media attention at all. I love it, it’s great, you can see some great bands like Dark Buddha Rising, there’s so much happening in the Finnish underground.

xFiruath's avatar

Ty Arthur is a freelance writer who writes for both entertainment and technical instruction sites. An avid fan of many different forms of metal, he has been involved in reviewing music for several years and is currently a contributing editor for Metalunderground.com

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