Album Title: Hexerei
Label: Ketzer Records (Europe), Dawnrazor Records (America)
Date of Release: 15 July 2022
Brazilian wouldn’t be my first guess when identifying the nationality of Patria, the latest black metal band to hit my radar. More famous for the thrash of Sepultura and Soulfly, not to mention their footballing exploits (I refuse to use the dreaded ‘s’ word), I’m struggling to think of another band from this South American location to ply their trade in black metal. Even an Internet search only pulled up a small handful of names, including Sarcófago and Mystifier, neither of which are household names either. Nevertheless, this is the reality with which I am faced thanks to Patria and their latest effort, ‘Hexerai’, which translates to ‘witchery’ in German.
Formed back in 2008 by guitarist Marcelo Vasco, his name may be familiar to those who like to scour the credits within album booklets, as he is a graphic artist who has worked with the likes of Machine Head, Slayer, and Dark Funeral amongst others. In classic black metal tradition, he goes by the name of Mantus within Patria, and is joined by four others: vocalist Tsword, guitarist Ristow, bassist Vulkan, and drummer Abyssius.
What makes the nationality of Patria all the more surprising is that the material on this, the quintet’s seventh full-length release, is that it sounds like it was forged in the icy cold surroundings of Scandinavia and maybe, for that matter, about two, possibly three decades ago. The production is perfectly acceptable, but it does sound a little lacking in oomph overall, whilst the riffing from Mantus and Ristow sounds like it has been heavily inspired by the likes of Dissection, Emperor, and bands of their ilk, especially when you add in the ubiquitous tinkling of keys and swathes of synths that emerge from the depths at points to increase the sense of grandiosity and atmosphere.
If I was to be brutally honest, which I suspect you all want, I’d have to say that ‘Hexerei’ is a perfectly acceptable and decent black metal offering, especially if you like to be reminded of the halcyon days of the genre from the 90s. However, it is difficult to get too excited about it I’m afraid. There are a handful of really good songs within the ten songs on offer – eight if you exclude the bookending title track and ‘All Vices’ that serve as intros and outros respectively. But there are also a few tracks that underwhelm just a little too.
Without doubt, the best song on the album arrives in the form of the excellent ‘Archetypes’. It kicks off in full-on blackened doom style courtesy of a slow, lumbering riff, around which the rhythm section beat out a resolute beat, whilst Tsword releases his words with a satisfying and robust rasp that increases the malevolence. The best thing about the song though, is the amount of melody at play, meaning that it is easily the most memorable song on ‘Hexerei’, as well as the one I most thoroughly enjoy. I also like the way in which the ferocity and speed picks up as the song develops, ensuring that the black metal elements are not entirely lost within this doom-laden beast. I actually wish that Patria used this approach more often because had they done so, I might be issuing a much different score below. A little disappointingly, it isn’t to be though.
Nevertheless, there are a few other highlights to pick up on. ‘Worms Of Light’ for example, is a positive opening slice of malevolent black metal with symphonic tendencies. I like the way that the pace switches effortlessly between rampaging speed, led by some furious drumming and a maelstrom of fast-picked riffing, to something slightly more sedate to let in a little melody and some groove along the way. The tinkling keys inject that touch of nostalgia, whilst the chunkier riffs will get heads bobbing appreciatively.
The introduction of some higher-pitched, almost wheezy vocals within ‘A Last Breath Of Sulphur’ add a layer of claustrophobic discomfort to the song, which again features some robust and decent-sounding riffs to add to the mix. ‘Under The Devil’s Void’ meanwhile, features a really interesting intro that’s dramatic and theatrical, as are the chanted choral vocals that appear at points within what is otherwise a hefty and frantic dose of black metal, nicely accented by moments of quieter contemplation to inject some welcome variety into the listening experience.
And then it all gets a bit difficult to pick out songs that get my blood pumping or my juices flowing. The second-half of the album is all a little bit paint-by-numbers, a little less inspiring or enjoyable than the first two or three big songs on the album. It’s a real shame too, because there is a lot within the first half to suggest that Patria are a better band than they portray here in the latter stages of ‘Hexerei’. This view has failed to shift too, despite frequent spins to try to get the music to make a bigger, or longer-lasting impact upon me. Unfortunately, it has been an effort expended in vain, although to be fair, I’ve grown to admire ‘Storm Of Wilderness’ a little bit more of late, thanks to some decent blasts of synth drenched icy ferocity.
For much of the first half of ‘Hexerei’, I was beginning to think that the name ‘Patria’ might become rather important for those of us who enjoy our black metal. Ultimately, the second half lets it down a little, but I would still recommend a listen to ‘Hexerei’ if you’re a fan of black metal because you might find a lot more to enjoy, and more consistency than I was able to uncover. As such, I’d conclude that this is a solid release, if a little unremarkable in the long run.
The Score of Much Metal: 70%
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