Pareidolia—or the phenomenon of seeing faces or other recognizable forms in objects (fhuman faces in rock formations, animals in cloud formations)—can be extrapolated to some extent to Sutekh Hexen and their harsh sounds. While submerged in the familiar world of black metal, Sutekh Hexen are not what they first appear, and the extraordinarily prolific Oakland-based project instead offer a mind-melding journey into the deepest recesses of the psyche. On their new split with Seattle natives Hissing (which will see release October 6 via The Flenser), Sutkeh Hexen brings all that is dark and noisy to the forefront and push raw black metal to its zenith.
Their contribution to the two-track split, "Pareidolian," is swathed in feeding loops of destruction, with its distorted layers building on an ever-increasing feeling of abject terror. The track begins with quieter moments before coming to life, its overworked, echoing vocals seemingly suspended in the lofty rafters of cathedrals. The pained howls are dark, ritualistic sounds of inhumanity, but there's a sense of the worshipful as well; at times, it sounds as though Hell's own choir was being dredged from the abyss to soundtrack the horrific, grimy feedback that Sutekh Hexen create. It's a claustrophobic world and one that won't be for everyone; however, supplicants to the throne of blackened noise will find much to enjoy here.
Hissing's approach to musical creation here is somewhat more traditional, and sees the trio venture down an instrumental route. They further Sutkeh Hexen's massive run time of 13 minutes with a nigh on 16-minute trip into the unknown, pushing themselves harder than on their previous EPs and twisting the boundaries of their already tangled death metal sound. "Deserted Veins" is murky and viscous; vocalist Zach Wise lays down a guttural performance that leaves you gasping, and the track itself exhales dissonant malevolence. Sections of screeching feedback permeate the piece and break it into more manageable sections but even these are less oceans of serenity than a pause for breath before the madness drops back into view.
Hissing's side of the split is certainly the more experimental of the two; Sutekh Hexen are well known for their diabolic noise, and Hissing do well to match that tension. However, the blackened death metal that they are more comfortable with does work a heck of a lot better than the segues into noise-led territory. Still, both pieces are intriguing, and fans of each will find a solid track from genre leaders Sutekh Hexen and a fascinating foray into new pastures for Hissing.
Cheryl Carter is making noise on Twitter.