Providence, Rhode Island grimmers are more set on making "Ceremonial Wounds" than standing on ceremony.
A lot of black metal related journalism has become either absurdly elitist or even self-congratulatory, focused on showcasing the least known, half sketched out demo from the formless chaos, like the Norse divine cow Audhumla licking the cosmic salt ice to reveal the first toenail of Odin's grandfather in a land where He Who Must Not Be Named is not Voldemort but, rather, almost anything with a bit of spit and polish. It is getting pretty damn tiresome and you can't blame rock fans or casual readers for not wanting or having the time to keep up as countless next not so big things are paraded daily as a hot find and subsequently bounced between increasingly similar blogs like corpse painted "old ladies" at a biker rally in hipster metal Hell. You might as well just go digging on Bandcamp yourself where you might find the new grimy metalcore Clover record Exile, a new Krieg collection or Latitudes epic and often breathtaking Debemur Morti Productions release Old Sunlight.
Nu Metal in the mid-'90s and late '00s got so cartoonish that band members often were drawn as cartoons on increasingly ugly t-shirts or even vending machine stickers, during the height of the genres popularity. While it is refreshing that this sort of trend stopped, you kind of miss larger than life characters at times in rock. The trend is increasingly to be as nihilistic and seemingly unapproachable or working class as possible, if thankfully from more of an underground integrity aesthetic than an untouchable, unholier than though "rock star" perspective.
Hey, that's cool if you want to throw a spotlight on some ugliness. Punk rock was best when people were not distracted by trying to run GoFundMe campaigns to be mid-level touring bands or before Auto-tuning came in and launched mall emo. The problematic aspect arises when bands are just churning out pointless negativity with no concern for the repercussions. I'd rather just drink black coffee and listen to Devin Townsend or Hatebreed, where the music is gonna make me laugh or is heavy as hell, but will at least inspire me to do crunches and work on my core muscles instead of kill myself for Satan.
Today in 2016, while it is cool to be the heaviest or to make a crazy, extreme piece of art that actually stops people in their tracks, the temptation to court controversy is often better than the actual music. The flip side is to not get called out by the alleged "SJW metal mafia" (which is obviously such an oppressive regime that it failed for the most part to raise any complaints at some of the lyrics on that last Lord Mantis record everybody loved). Just be as unintelligible and extreme or rough sounding as possible, which is also tiresome, as these bands get raved about often disproportionately to their actual relevance. To each their own, but there is often a lot of back slapping within comfort zones going on.
Which brings us, thankfully, to Haxen.
The Providence, Rhode Island-based black metal collective are certainly about dark vibe and the vocals are often unintelligible, but the overall almost lo-fi cinematic horror vibes push the mind of the listener into some very unique and transcendent territories ("Curss" marches bleakly across wastelands ready made for those who don't feel mentally fragile enough after the B-side of Black Flag's "My War" and need to, y'know, feel that much shittier).
Watain may speak of the devil and wax philosophic about the edges of the cosmos, but Haxen make you feel like you are on a chartered bus tour of the city of Dis. Add in the sort of fully immersed yet white knuckle playing you'd expect from atheists Pulling Teeth (in a more hardcore context) or, say, the ferocious Hierophant and you have a record that might sound like a primitive demo to some ears less keen on spending time differentiating stylistic preferences when it comes to recording quality, but which is, in fact, a pretty darn sophisticated explosion of throwback bile, rapid drum explosions rooted in punk and early black metal and the more digestible current trends in unpalatable extreme metal.
Even when some of the intense beats, guitar textures and roars utilized have been heard before, the conviction and great execution by the band on "Sleepwalking" and "Apparitions" reels you more often than not back into rapt attention to the band's terrain, rather than sitting and picking this apart note by note deciding which parts remind you of Mayhem or Gorgoroth. It is an emotional endurance test, but very rewarding and the feeling is one of self exploration and strengthening rather than abandoning all hope. Even if the band don't shy from making you feel like shit, they are toughening you up and sound pretty un-killable. The minority who think Temple of Baal sound too clean now will probably really dig the zone this Haxen release hovers in, the great gray shaded turning point between spawning and shadow where a near perfect dark metal emission like "Apparitions" can rise from the charcoal depths (2:32 of that song on is goosebump territory for fans of lower-fi, darkened charge music).
A song named "Kvnnt" aside, this album mostly doesn't distract with too much silliness, opting instead to sort of barrel unapologetically out and through itself. Similarly less paint more mood bands like Withered or Hypothermia come to mind, but Haxen are the least polished and perhaps most feral of the majority of the bands named in this review. They show a lot of promise, so let's see how long before people turn on them as too well known (like Craft are too well known post Fuck the Universe or Wolves in the Throne Room are really selling out arenas 63 people who down-voted Two Hunters on Youtube, c'mon?).
Whatever. These Providence grimmers are more set on making "Ceremonial Wounds" than standing on ceremony, with or without you.