Being and Nothingness

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While Hexen's 2008 debut, State of Insurgency, slam-danced around the mosh pit with all the wide-eyed thrash metal innocence of Metallica's Kill ‘Em All, 2012's belated sophomore follow-up, Being and Nothingness, sees the Los Angeles natives leapfrogging puberty and early adulthood to land squarely into their …And Justice for All, thinking-man's thrash period. But whereas Justice and another comparably progressive old-school thrash parallel, Anthrax's even more suffocating Persistence of Time, infamously collapsed under the weight of their own hubris, Being and Nothingness has a much lighter historical load to bear, and thus its ambitious experiments feel like a gutsy creative stretch, not a tired old template coming to its ultimate conclusion. Perhaps more importantly, Hexen don't go so far as to indulge in an endless slog of excessively long, multi-part epics, saving all of their long-winded instincts for 15-minute closer "Nocturne," by which time one almost figures they're allowed said indulgence (and that it is, combining flailing fretboards, rhapsodic pianos, blistering synths, soothing acoustics, creepy atmospherics, angelic choirs, the works!). Until then, however, the band restrain their newfound adventurousness into relatively short, sharp shocks of calculated dynamic disarray (see "Defcon Rising" and "Indefinite Archetype" for highlights), marrying complicated arrangements, enhanced melodicism, vocals that frequently transform into death-like growls, and, still underpinning it all, white-knuckle guitar work and frantic drumming. Along the way, "Private Hell" flirts with black metal venom and "Grave New World" tries out oddball time signatures not even those thrash titans of old dared mess with, but the album's strength really lies in the robust totality of the painting it assembles rather than in details such as these. As a result, Being and Nothingness is a bona fide coming of age album for Hexen, exceeding all reasonable expectations for a band whose previous work understandably led most observers to dismiss the band as just another short-lived purveyor of retro-thrash-by-numbers. No longer…this elevates the band into an entirely new league that one can only hope will be recognized by the heavy metal-buying public at large.

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