Hexed is a fairly new upstart, begun in 2013 by Tina and Stellan Gunnarsson to create a melodic metal band with female vocals. So far so generic, and they quickly recruited Loch Vostok vocalist slash guitarist Teddy Möller on the drums alongside Daniel Håkansson for bass duties. The only started releasing a few singles in 2016. Last year saw the release of Exhaling Life, a three track EP, the contents of which has been brought back for Netherworld, the Uppsala group’s first full length album. The melodic pieces in and of themselves, lead by Stellan Gunnarsson and his melodically tinged guitars never really take precedence over the vocal lines; the builds are usually very standardized and usually don’t offer much innovation, though delivering in enjoyable listening. And although there are some progressive hints in a few tracks, most of the material is fairly straightforward, giving a sound somewhere in between the likes of Within Temptation and your average hard rock band.
Framed in a package of ten songs and around 45 minutes, there’s not really much that sets the album apart at first glance. It is a good album with a couple of magnificent parts, as much is evident right from the first listen, but it is not a remarkable one. And while even with some analysis and thought, that remains true, a few things also become noticeable. Some of Möller’s more extreme tappings being noticed at times on the drums, which are another highlight of the album, alongside Tina Gunnarsson’s vocals. Especially the opening track Obedience, which stands as the greatest on the debut, delivers dark melodies, hefty rhythms and soaring vocals that is only partly met on the remainder of the album. It certainly doesn’t help that a couple of tracks are filler material, only propped in to extend the runtime. Exhaling Life and Illuminate are bland and boring and doesn’t do anything to add to the feel, but drag on.
A tad too many tracks feature male vocals to contrast Tina Gunnarsson’s powerful voice; she has the chops and the skills to pull it off by herself, so it’s not always needed. Lightyears sees the best of it, with the guest vocals neatly laid in the background, whereas Stars (otherwise pretty good) and closing track Remake My Soul make too much of it, taking the focus away from Gunnarsson’s punch packing delivery. A shame, seeming as how the album starts off with her gracing great tracks in Obedience, Roots and Forsaken with her soaring, melodic voice to contrast the rumbling riffage of Stellan Gunnarsson and the sometimes gritty rhythm section. The latter also pulls some distinct, yet never fully materialized keyboard parts that usually play buildup to the riffs, but could well have been more prevalent to give a bigger sound and to contrast the single guitar sound. All in all, Netherworld is a decent enough debut effort, which has more than a few stellar moments, but unfortunately doesn’t capitalize on them enough, landing a somewhat bland affair at times. Hard to place, but it might grow with a few listens.
Standout tracks: Obedience, Netherworld, Lightyears