Demo:listen: Hexenkraft

Welcome to Demo:listen, your weekly peek into the future of underground metal. Whether it’s death, grind, black, doom, sludge, heavy, progressive, stoner, retro, post-, etc. we’re here to bring you the latest demos from the newest bands. On this week’s Demo:listen, we get down with something completely different by the Deep South’s Hexenkraft.

Hexenkraft’s self-titled demo is arguably the darkest, most sinister material thus far presented on this weekly column. So dark, in fact, that I’ve told no one, not even my editor, about who I’d be featuring this week. I was afraid they would try to stop me, that’s why. And I must not be prevented in carrying out my end of the deal and bringing this prophecy to realization. Only after ye masses are possessed by Hexenkraft will I be released from the torment of dancing alone.

Meet Cory Richards, the man behind Hexenkraft. A seamen for as long as he can remember, Richards has also been actively involved in both underground metal and electronica for many years. (Check out his death metal band, Cosmic Atrophy.) “[Hexenkraft] is really just a natural evolution of my path as a musical artist,” writes Richards. “I’ve been heavily invested in the metal genre for about 15 years now, and I first picked up a guitar when I was 12 years old. Simultaneously, I was always very much into electronica and I have old productions dating back to 2005 on my PC. So really these two different paths converge on themselves from time to time when I feel a little ambitious. Combine all of that with the rise of the synthwave genre (which I have been actively participating in as a producer since 2012 under different names), and I just felt the time was right to do something like this.” While it’s refreshing to hear someone explain their art in plain speech, there is one point on which I must slightly disagree with Richards. Anytime is the right time to do something like Hexenkraft. But I understand what he’s saying. What with other synthwave acts like Perturbator and Dan Terminus seeing heavy rotation from many otherwise typically close-minded metalheads.

Although, Hexenkraft stands apart from that crowd. While Perturbator’s never really struck me as metal, there’s no missing what Hexenkraft’s up to. Richards explains: “I’ve been doing metal for a real long time and the experiences in writing that kind of heavy, dark and evocative music have absolutely carried over to my electronica productions in a way that I don’t hear from what is currently being offered. I’m talking about a palpable, bleak atmosphere and an authentic fog of sublime evil that you can only get from bands like Incantation or Burzum. Of course, this is still synthwave we are talking about here so you have your bleeps and bloops, but you know exactly what I’m talking about as soon as you hear my music.” Even those “bleeps and bloops” are deployed in a metallic way. Like in the song “Devil Rides Out,” how the bleeps sound like pinch harmonics in a chunky death metal riff. Or how about the crescendo-unto-doom of “BlackSynth Cyborg Death Squad?” 

For anyone who’s feeling inspired to try their hand at Hexenkraft’s style, or for any haters who thinks he’s just running his finger across an iPad a bunch of times, Richards gave me the lowdown on his set up: “I’ve been using the Cubase digital audio workstation platform for over 10 years now, and it’s served me well. In addition to that wonderful DAW, I do a lot of my synth magic with plugins like Serum, Massive and u-he’s Diva and Zebra. There’s actually a considerable amount of work that goes into producing any given track, using dozens of different plugins. Recently I have fell in love with this emulation of the YM2612 FM sound chip, which was the synthesizer used in the Sega Genesis console. It’s called FM Drive for anyone interested. Killer stuff!” He admits: “I am a studio hermit. I leave, eat and breathe production.”

Finally, Demo:listen is psyched to bring you the premiere of Hexenkraft’s self-titled demo in full–which you won’t hear anywhere else until September 16th. After you’ve given yourself over to those malign spirits, check out Hexenkraft’s Bandcamp and pre-order the demo. News regarding a physical coming very soon, Richards promises.

You heard it here first on Demo:listen. Check this space next and every Friday for promising new metal.