Sutekh Hexen take their name from one of the original horror stories: Set of Egyptian mythology. Beyond this—because of a short yet prolific career that has already seen them collaborating with some of the post-industrial underground’s most respected labels, from Handmade Birds and Black Horizons to Pesanta, Fall of Nature, and Auris Apothecary—the trio require no introduction. The music begins with the kind of foreboding approach that one would expect to hear from the sort of esoteric setting that Sutekh Hexen have been known to construct. Here on Monument of Decay—itself a collaboration between the American Black Horizons and Small Doses labels, as well as Thomas Martin Ekelund‘s Beläten imprint—they’ve focused on creating an atmosphere that is extremely dark in a meditative, almost transcendent fashion. As we find ourselves surpassing “Lastness” and working our way into the meat of the album, elements of harsh noise begin to dominate their misshapen palette, eventually overpowering the previously all-encompassing ambiance and relying more on the idea of volume and ferocity than the atmosphere that was established at the beginning.
As “Lastness” submits to this electronic fury, it also quickly becomes clear where the strengths and weaknesses lie on this EP. With such strong intent created in the beginning, it is unfortunate that it is not long until Monument of Decay becomes obscured by harsher electronics and pure noise that distract from the album’s clear strengths. There are moments when these two elements of ambiance and noise are balanced, and these glimpses of clarity reveal the power that Sutekh Hexen are capable of and have offered time and again prior to this release. At times, the liminal space created by these dichotomous sounds truly reveals a tear in the veil, to use an occult cliché, but I have never heard music that actually sounds like a world is being revealed, and one that is truly terrifying at that. The vocals conjure this same kind of concept, as distorted howls sound like they are invoking demonic beings.
All of these tracks are almost exactly five minutes in length, with the last of the bunch containing a secret song as well. There is an idea in storytelling that people most often remember the beginning and end of a story, and if this were so I would consider Monument of Decay a remarkable album. Unfortunately, the heart of the album is so full of the same unimaginative elements that I have heard so often before that it hardly leaves an impression. While with certain projects I greatly enjoy noise, with Sutekh Hexen, I feel they are at their best when that beast is tamed by subtle ambiance, and the bit of time for which this approach is taken within the music is truly exquisite. While aspects of Monument of Decay are purely mesmerizing, too much of the album relies on exactly those that are detrimental to its strength, which is perhaps oddly a balance between the black metal, dark ambient, and harsh noise elements that this band relies on. Together, the trio of Sutekh Hexen are perfectly capable of making some of the most powerful music I have heard, but when one musician in particular pushes everything completely into the background, this becomes little more than yet another band that has yet to comfortably exist between these worlds.
02) …of Emanation
03) धूमवती बुभुक्षा
04) ل خــعــه
05) Shadows II (CD Version Boxset Only)
Written by: Patrick Bertlein
Small Doses (United States) / DOSE120 / CD
Beläten (Sweden) / ᚺ / 2xTape, Digital
Black Horizons (United States) / BH-55 / 12″ LP
Experimental Metal / Drone Doom / Black Ambient / Black Metal