Sutekh Hexen are a hard band to write about without sounding like a pretentious twat. Their music is hard to describe, which means resorting to imagery – which almost always results in text that sounds like it was composed from within the author’s own rectum. It’s not so bad if what you’re writing about is rubbish; there’s a lot of fun to be had from coming up with tortured metaphors and appropriately hyperbolic expressions of disgust. I’ve got a fantastic piece of imagery about getting an angry hand job from Jeremy Kyle that’s just waiting for the right piece of shit to nail it to. It’s much harder writing about difficult and abstract music that you actually enjoy, especially if you aren’t someone to whom enthusiasm comes easily. You’ll note that I’ve put off saying anything whatsoever about Sutekh Hexen for this entire first paragraph because I’m so uncomfortable with the next things I’m going to say.
Sutekh Hexen produce abstract ambient soundscapes with overtones of black metal, drone music, noise and ritual magick. There. I’ve said it. Whether you like them or not probably depends on how you feel about that description. If you find the notion of a band largely without drums and only intermittent sounds that could be characterised as riffs absurd then Sutekh Hexen are unlikely to be for you. If you’re a fan of experimental sound artists such as Merzbow and Sunn0))) – well, then, provided you can hack the unremitting bleakness, Sutekh Hexen are going to be an instant hit.
Larvae is actually the most accessible album the band have recorded, and makes a surprisingly easy introduction to the world of extreme black noise that they call their own. During the research for this review I spent some time listening to some of their previous works, which are more one dimensional in tone; blasting noise and static with dimly audible black metal guitars and screams howling away underneath repetitive sound loops. Larvae pushes their sound towards a more shaded approach which incorporates hints of actual melody. The album is all of 30 minutes long but packs a great deal of diversity into three tracks spread across its run time.
The album opens with Isvar Savasana, which appears to be a reference to the corpse pose of Yogic tradition, a form of deep relaxation that is sometimes used in the mystical traditions as preparation for an out of body experience. It mixes jangling guitars and ambient sounds (possibly rain) to evoke a mood of melancholy that is then overpowered by darker, more black metal guitar sounds and effects-drenched screams. The two moods play off each other for the duration of the piece. Track two, Lead us in Warfare, has a pulsing, grinding bass like riff at its heart. This track has elements of rhythmic noise, with its constant hammering repetition against which static mewls and screams are heard. This track is the most straightforward on the album. Finally, album closer Let There Be Light brings the most recognisable guitar melody yet plucked out against swirling ambient noise with spoken word sections running over the top. It almost sounds like it’s going to turn into a normal song before a discordant, impenetrable black metal assault kicks in. There may actually be some drums in there, somewhere, briefly – but it’s hard to be sure.
By now you ought to have some idea whether Larvae is for you. I love it. Every time I listen to it I’m finding new sounds in the chaos and something different jumps out at me. Whilst it’s hard to imagine Sutekh Hexen ever finding a mass audience, their strange blend of noise, black metal and ambient music will hopefully find a niche which will allow them to continue exploring their mad, magickal music for some time to come. Great though Larvae is, I can’t help but feel that their best is yet to come. They probably sound even better smashed off your face on heavy drugs.