Just under two years after the tragic death of producer and co-founder Chris Tsangarides, Hex A.D. come back to the record stores with their fourth album. Astro Tongue in the Electric Garden deals thematically with drug abuse, science fiction and the Vietnam War. So topics from the 1960s, some of which are still relevant today. The Norwegians also invited some more or less well-known guests such as Thomas Tofthagen (Paul diAnno, Audrey Horn) or Eirikur Hauksson (Artch, Ken Hensley).
The squeaky-coloured cover is extremely borderline and suggests 1970s psychedelic flair, which can only be heard in the beginning of the album. Instead, predominantly dark, slightly doomy sounds are offered. The intro makes you expect a country album or something, but the first drum beats of the first song “Deadly nightshade” make it clear that a metal band is at work here. Gloomy guitar riffs, Hammond sounds and the harsh voice of Rick Hagan don’t create merriment. The second song starts with indefinable sounds that vaguely remind you of a Theremin or a Mellotron before it starts rocking.
Sounds a bit like a mixture of Black Sabbath from the early 70s and Deep Purple in Perfect Strangers times. “The day the sky exploded” sounds again like Sabbath or early Ozzy works, also vocally Rick reminds a little of the Madman. The main riff, backed by screeching Hammond organ, is one of the best on the record. In the middle section, calm tones are struck, which give the song a lot of atmosphere. After a short organ interlude follows the three-part “Monsoon Suite”, which closes the regular album. The first part “Hawks & doves” is at the beginning a little irrelevant musically, but increases in the second half to a solid rocker. The song is garnished with a Hammond organ solo a la Lord or Hensley. The beginning of “Old Bones” is acoustically held before the band’s trademarks begin again: memorable main riff backed by organ carpets, enhanced with the rather majestic vocal performance by Rick Hagan. The last part of the suite is more ballad-like, so the vocals are not as powerful and rough as on the other pieces, but rather quiet and soulful. The bonus track is again a fast rocker in the style of Black Sabbath with Hammond organ accompaniment. Actually too good for a bonus track. It is in no way inferior in quality to the other songs and does not exceed the total playing time, which is almost 50 minutes including the bonus track.
All in all a very successful album with little to complain about. Both retro- and doom fans should get their money’s worth here, provided they are not put off by the cover and survive the first three-quarter minutes without damage.
Hex A.D. – Old Bones: https://youtu.be/D_Tqv93A808