Somewhere between raw black metal, dark ambient and experimental noise lies San Francisco’s Sutekh Hexen. Their second full length album, Larvae is a hellish yet ethereal sounding affair that’s relentlessly, unendingly dark; permanent fucking midnight. I’m not talking about the Earth being covered in eternal blackness here, I’m talking about the dark night of the soul, the abyss within. It is outsider music designed to take you on a journey to the darkest recesses of inner space, a crepuscular womb of crumbling distortion.
Sonically, Larvae is not a particularly harsh album, in spite of the genres it takes its influence from. Its methods of musical devastation are far more insidious, the blackened noise slinking its way into your ears like a brood of serpents slowly coiling around your brain. Dense, billowing clouds of overloaded guitars and electronics envelop everything in their path, occasionally opening up to allow the voices of demons to cut through the sonic morass. Speaking of demonic voices, none other than Integrity’s Dwid Hellion lends his trademark blast-furnace vocals to Larvae, and it’s interesting to hear his voice in a context so far removed from metallic hardcore, much as it was when he guested on Wrnlrd’s Death Drive EP. And while Hellion’s presence is what initially piqued my interest in Sutekh Hexen, the trio’s bleak soundscapes stand on their own, regardless of any “big name” guest spots. Anyone can make noise, but to harness that noise into a compelling song is an art form, one that Sutekh Hexen have clearly mastered.
Clocking in at thirty minutes, Larvae isn’t quite long enough to be a fully immersive experience in just a single listen, but it is so utterly hypnotic that you’ll most likely be giving it repeat listens, and this is when Sutekh Hexen’s audial alchemy comes to fruition. Larvae is one of those albums that reveals some strange new facet each time it is played, some previously unexplored cranny that takes you ever further down the rabbit hole towards the obsidian phantasmagoria at its core. It’s the same trance-out effect that Burzum achieved with Filosofem, but whereas that album sought transcendance through infinite repetition, Larvae uses layers of overlapping sound combined with subtle shifts in mood and tone to actualize its haunting mesmerism. The songs begin as whispers in the darkness, build themselves up into storms of swirling cacophony and then recede back into the maw of infinity from whence they seemingly came.
With Larvae, Sutekh Hexen have created the soundtrack to an internal apocalypse, the grim revelation that there’s a demon lurking within each and every one of us. It is a meditative affair, conducive to introspection of the most horrific kind; it might just inspire you to take a long, hard look in the mirror and realize that you’re utterly terrified of the rotten, evil thing that stares back.