Finely crafted, artisan metal...
The Levitation Hex are somewhat of an Australian metal “supergroup”, but I only use that term to give you a gauge on the musicianship of the members. More often than not, “supergroups” are a one album or one idea proposition. I would be underselling The Levitation Hex to describe them as one, and this album is the proof.
If this is the first time you’ve heard of the band, they’re a 4 piece metal band that blend progressive, psychedelic and space rock sounds with thrash and death metal elements. The band was formed in 2010 by Adam Agius of pioneering psych death metal band Alchemist (vocals guitar and keys), Mark Palfreyman (bass, vocals) and Scott Young (guitars) from Alarum and Ben Hocking (drums, programing) from Aeon of Horus.
They released their first album 2012 and while it showed a lot of promise, its Achilles heel was that in parts it sounded a bit like parts of Alchemist linked with parts of Alarum songs. Given the album featured the main songwriters of both those bands’ first work together, it is an understandable result as they learned to work together and grow their own identity.
Fast forward to 2016 and taking into account the above, it’s very unlikely this year will provide a more appropriately titled album than Cohesion. For long time fans of Alchemist and/or Alarum, there are plenty of artefacts in the nine song album that will provide comforting reference points. However, the sum of the parts they have delivered is a work distinctly of their own collaboration and chemistry.
Kicking off with the double kick intro Disrate announces this more unique identity with big seven string rhythm parts, some spacey chords that reminded me of ‘80s Voi Vod and one of this album’s pleasing signatures, capitalising on Adam and Mark’s vocal abilities. Both guys have a strong vocal presence and their twin vocal attack compliments each other like chocolate and peanuts on pretty much every song on the record, and it’s one of Cohesion’s real strengths. Speaking of strengths, the densely layered production on this album is thick and clear and features a nice bit of headroom to encourage you to put it on in the car and crank it loud, as I did for a good two weeks after I got it.
The quality of the production is even more impressive when you take into account not only did the band perform all the above mentioned parts, they engineered, mixed and recorded this in the Brewdio at Agius’ residence. Mastered at JR Mastersound Studios in Melbourne, the record is crisp and clear with what I would class as a “modern” sounding metal production that will sit alongside any heavy bands work being produced today.
The different parts are all clearly discernible, which speaks a lot for the production given how many layers there are on these tunes. The dense atmosphere these layers create contribute to the heaviness of the record. For example, as the tail of The Things Time Can’t Mend trails out, each layer subsides to leave a sense of relief, a chance to catch your breath after one of the albums strongest tracks.
Of course production is only one aspect of a record and you can’t produce away poor songwriting (Clearly you haven’t heard Five Finger Death Punch – Ed). In this area, the band’s hard work has really paid off. To give you an idea of their dedication, two of the guys live in Canberra, two in Melbourne. The cities are around 700kms or 434 miles apart depending on how you measure distance where you’re reading this. They drive to Albury which is about half way between both to rehearse and write.
The maturity of the writing is noteworthy in that while the majority of the tempos here are mid-paced, there’s a searing aggression that underlies the melodic keys and guitars. The musicianship is there in spades, but never strays into being overplayed. Scott Young’s leads exemplify this best for me in that his leads aren’t particularly long, but they’re sharp and inspired and left me wanting to hear more. Most of his parts more importantly feature a melody that you can sing, which is always a plus for me.
That catchiness has always been an earmark of Agius’ writing and the same of Young’s guitar lines is true of most of the keyboard parts too. Buried In A World is a great example of this. The overall result of all their hard work is nine songs that will go just as well on your media of choice as served up live in their upcoming domestic tour they have planned out for the majority of 2016 before taking it global next year.
Cohesion is perfectly balanced, crisp modern heavy metal for fans old and new and you would be doing yourself a real disservice not to crank this one loud in the very near future.