Hessian – Bachelor of Black Arts (Stormspell)

Wednesday, 3rd September 2014
Rating: 9/10

Active for five years, Portland, Maine quartet Hessian possess a boatload of old school metal energy and occult rock atmosphere/texture on their debut full length album, the interestingly titled Bachelor of Black Arts. Hailing from Northeastern New England exposes these musicians to beautiful springs, hot summers, colorful autumns, and brutal winters, and I believe in turn allows for a transformative, electric outlook in terms of songwriting. Hessian embody a playful, hook and groove oriented aspect that is part NWOBHM, part classic rock, and 100% pure, as well as using dual male/female guitarists and vocalists that can intertwine to make masterful musical moments.

The four-piece chemistry works internally due to the right tools and tricks in place; drummer Tim Webber has as much Peter Criss groove as he does Clive Burr and Bill Ward swing, while bassist Michael Bryant adds his progressive flair and knack for hammering home the correct riff emphasis. Then you have guitarists/vocalists Angus McFarland and Salli Wason – trading off licks, matching up vocal and guitar harmonies, expressing all kinds of angst, anger, beauty, harmony, and probably 50 other feelings throughout these 9 tracks. If you aren’t swinging devil horns or doing hair windmills to relevant material such as “Old Wild and Free”, the campy/doomy “Funeral Disco” and bluesy, early BOC/Rush oriented “Iron Baby” then there’s something seriously lacking in brain matter or aural ability.

Names such as Angel Witch, Manilla Road, Tank and Thin Lizzy mean the world to many, and Hessian will assuredly hit the sweet spot in your collection as well. Fiery extended guitar breaks that build and build make “Witch Road” and the slow, churning “Alchemist’s Blessing” favorites, but I’m really hard pressed to say there’s anything average or filler on Bachelor of Black Arts. Top it all off by spitfire vocals that are the genuine article while never strained or succumbing to studio tricks, plus primal production punch and a throwback logo/cover art montage to promote the total early metal package platform.

All those lucky enough to witness Hessian live know they bring the heat and passion for metal a hundred fold each and every time. Bachelor of Black Arts is a fine slice of familiarity for those who’ve been into metal 30 plus years, and may they expand their cult appeal to borders unforeseen.

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