Hexx – Entangled In Sin (Album Review)

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We are all creatures of sin.

The famed rivalry between the L.A. Sunset Strip scene and its grimier, San Francisco rival is usually the prime focus of media regarding California’s metal history. However, the battle lines were not so clearly drawn as one might suspect, with a number of less glam-obsessed acts such as Armored Saint and Omen bringing a more metallic flourish to the SoCal area, while the thrash scene at the northern end encompassed a diverse spectrum of sounds that would often dovetail with the older traditional heavy metal style. One of the more impressive yet only moderately successful acts to come out of the more power metal-oriented side of the equation was Hexx, whom like Metal Church and Vicious Rumors, predated the thrash metal scene by several years and stuck a bit closer to the melodic contours of the early 80s metal paradigm. All of this considered, while this outfit started in a similar place to the aforementioned bands, their subsequent career would take a very unique path.

The changing musical landscape naturally resulted in a few stylistic shifts on the part of this Bay Area quintet, aided by some shakeups in their lineup. Unlike Vicious Rumors, they opted for a long-term hiatus rather than slogging it out through the mid to late 1990s, thus never adopting the groove metal craze of the day; yet they would diverge from Metal Church’s stalwart conservatism for a time and took a chance on the ascendant death/thrash sound during the early 1990s, resulting in a sound almost entirely alien to where they had began. Interestingly enough it would not be the thrash revival of the 2000s that would inspire this fold to resurrect their brand, but the New Wave Of Traditional Heavy Metal of the 2010s that would see them return to the studio and usher in a modernized retread of their mid-80s glory days in 2017’s “Wrath Of The Reaper,” featuring a brand new flock of musicians alongside founder and guitarist Dan Watson and long time drummer John Shafer.

In just about every respect, their 2020 follow up “Entangled In Sin” is a more focused, energetic and aggressive improvement upon their 2017 comeback, ushering in the same wicked old school metallic vibes with a present day auditory flavor. Between the vile, gritty shrieks and shouts of relative newcomer and lead vocalist Eddy Vega and the battering riff assault of Watson and fellow early 80s metal pioneer of Brocas Helm fame Bobbie Wright, this is a collection of songs that bridges the divide between the present and the distant past in a highly effective fashion. Streamlined songwriting and a familiar harmonic scheme to the bygone days of theatrical and mostly tongue-in-cheek odes to the occult making televangelist grifters fume are combined with a level of speed and bite comparable to the classic power/thrashing mayhem of Flotsam And Jetsam and Laaz Rockit are the order of the day here, tempered with occasional nods to more serious lyrical topics.

For what this album may lack in subtlety, it fully compensates for with a consistently fun and forceful presentation. Heavy-hitting anthems such as “Watching Me Burn”, “Vultures Gather Round” and “Power Mad” are animated and nasty enough to trade blows with any of the mid-80s offerings of the Bay Area thrash scene that was less extreme than Seven Churches and Hell Awaits, yet ultimately come off as closer to the more proto-thrashing character of some of the darker offerings out of early British acts such as Hell and Satan. On the other hand, slower rockers like “Strive The Grave” and the quasi-doom metal closer “Over But The Bleeding” come off as a bit less frenzied and lean a bit closer to the dank stylings of Cirith Ungol. Interestingly enough, this entire album proves about as faithful of a return to the old sound as could have been accomplished when the rerecorded “No Escape” songs “Night Of Pain” and “Terror” chime in at the end, sounding indistinguishable to the rest of album despite being written more than 35 years prior.

This is one of the clearest representations of what power metal was prior to Helloween getting a hold of it, as well as a solid example of what thrash metal tends to sound like when purged of most of its punk elements and all of its more extreme leanings. It will appeal mostly to those who have continued to enjoy what Metal Church has been bringing to the table since their 2012 reunion, though just about anyone who has taken to the revival of old school heavy metal that has taken place over the past decade will find plenty of material to love. Most of its strength lay in an effective songwriting formula that balances a good melodic hook with plenty of high-impact riffing, though it should also be noted that the lead guitar displays out of Watson and Wright are top notch and highly reminiscent of the legendary solos heard out of Tipton and Downing. Not an album for the faint of heart, but even in these PC times that is a virtual non-issue, so please head bang responsibly.

Released by: High Roller Records
Released Date: September 25th, 2020
Genre: Thrash Metal

Musicians:

  • Dan Watson / Guitars
  • John Shafer / Drums
  • Bob Wright / Guitars
  • Eddy Vega / Vocals
  • Don Wood / Bass

“Entangled In Sin” track-listing:

  1. Watching Me Burn
  2. Entangled in Sin
  3. Vultures Gather Round
  4. Beautiful Lies
  5. Power Mad
  6. Internal Enemy
  7. Strive the Grave
  8. Touch of the Creature
  9. Wise to the Ways of the World
  10. Over but the Bleeding
  11. Signal 30 I-5
  12.  Night of Pain 

8.3 Great

One of the early adherents to the Bay Area metal scene and eventual
casualties of the 1990s continue their recent rebirth and success with another modernized
version of the primitive power/thrash sound that provided a more traditional metallic foil to the
sound that San Francisco has been more known for ever since

  • Songwriting 8
  • Musicianship 8.5
  • Originality 8
  • Production 8.5
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