I first knew of Lisa Cuthbert as having been the stand-in singer for gothic/doom metal band Draconian on a number of occasions, but it wasn’t until seeing Hextapes as being re-released on Iron Bonehead Productions that I was aware of her solo career. With the great artwork and on one of the best labels in the metal scene, and with someone singing for such a great band as Draconian I had to check it out. Having seen it described as neofolk, Hextapes is actually such a unique and varied album that it really defies all genre classification, as a lot of the best albums do.
Lisa Cuthbert’s voice has a soft, gothic quality to it, similar to Trees of Eternity’s Aleah, with more of an Irish trill to it rather than a Scandinavian one. Dark and gloomy, it fits with the music, which is always dark. The first track Killing Fields has these great vocals, laden in some reverb and harmonized against some heavy drones and pulsing electronic noise, there’s a sense of the old Cold Meat Industry artists on this release with more than a touch of Brighter Death Now on this opening track. The Host Wants a Parasite, takes a shift in direction, with some swirling distorted synths, guitar textures and slow plodding percussion it has all the feels of doom metal, reimagined with electronics – as much Deutsch Nepal as there is Pentagram to it. The vocals are fantastic on this one, somber, heartfelt and gorgeous when they take their place as the music lets up at the beginning, and the more powerful effects laden vocals at the end, add to this doom metal gone wrong vibe.
Then it changes again with the folky acoustic guitars (wrapped in noise of course) and lyrics of the introspective Under The Stars, while the strange manipulated and harmonized vocals of Eye soundlike an old 1950’s song messed with and made creepy as hell, with the addition of dark synths, bassy tones and blunt percussion. Will takes a break from the vocals to give and interlude of dark piano and subtle electronics that could be in a scene from a horror film, while the experiments with gorgeous synth tones and the emotional vocals on Pillar sound like a more gothic version of The Gathering’s progressive rock days on How to Measure a Planet? in perhaps the only track that’s bright rather than eerie and dark, in music if not in lyrics. It’s back to saiddarkness on the closer Hands Clean with some piano, cello and percussive led ritual ambient that builds to a dramatic cello based climax.
Folk, electronics, industrial, doom metal, ritual ambient, Hextapes defies genre classification – it’s an enigmatic and unique album that takes various influences and creates something new, a variety of different gloomy, gothic tracks centered around Lisa Cuthbert’s great vocals. Dark and strange, it’s one to listen to in the dark for sure.