|Review: Hexenhaus - A Tribute to Insanity|
|A Tribute to Insanity|
Label: Metal Blade Records
Year released: 1990
Genre: Thrash Metal
Review online: September 22, 2020
Reviewed by: Mjölnir
for:A Tribute to Insanity
Rated 4/5 (80%) (6 Votes)
When people think of the dying days of early Thrash, they usually do it in terms of the fall of the Big Four and the oversaturation of the scene with mediocre trend whores. However, there was actually a fairly robust smattering of more inventive and technical acts that got drowned out in that noise and later buried in The Dark Ages of the mid-90s. Hexenhaus are one of those bands, though they differ in that they were the starting vehicle of guitar legend Mike Wead and the fact they didn't so much split up after their third album as they did turn into Memento Mori (yes, the one with Messiah Marcolin) before morphing back into Hexenhaus in 1997. This led to them being better remembered than most, but not enough for any of their material to get a reissue, which is a shame because their debut, A Tribute to Insanity, is a damn good album.
Rather than being just another half-assed ripoff of Exodus or Slayer, Hexenhaus worked in a more technical and studied vein of Thrash that still had the sense to let go and fucking Thrash from time to time. The songwriting is mean and intricate without being overwrought, twisting and turning like a pissed-off rattlesnake as Wead leads it all with his top-notch guitar work. Even at his earliest, Wead had a great ear for riffs and leads, and he wrings them out by the dozens across the album. The rest of the band aren't slouches either, with the rhythm section giving plenty of support to the proceedings and vocalist Nick having a nicely venomous snarl not too far removed from what Snake was doing on Rrroooaaarrr.
If I had a problem with this album, it's that it can be a little too intellectual for its own good. A lot of this album marches at a mid-pace with the occasional burst of speed, and that can lead to the momentum being throttled, and with it the identity of the individual tracks. The last few songs in particular have this problem, all sporting involved guitar work and kind of blending into each other in spite of that. That said, when they get their shit together on songs like the opener "Eaten Alive", the murderous "Incubus", and the massive album centerpiece "As Darkness Falls", they produce some damn solid Thrash that proves you don't need to sacrifice aggression or attitude for the sake of complexity. Their output never got a proper reissue, so this can be hard to find, but if you want a glimpse at what quality underground Thrash in the '90s looked like when the scene at large was busy embarrassing itself, then this is worth tracking down.
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