Häxanu – Totenpass

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In the last couple of years, we’ve seen a surge of U.S. black metal bands that play a conventional style of melodic black metal. Much like atmospheric bands like Chaos Moon, Ringarë, and Skáphe, Häxanu is a fine example of the brilliant talent of the multi-instrumentalist Alex Poole. Returning after three years of relative silence, “Totenpass” is the band’s second album which also features vocalist L.C. Musically the newest effort seamlessly tackles the Scandinavian modality. Even though “Totenpass” is a continuation of the same musical concept as the debut album “Snare of All Salvation”, the seven tracks are more fluid. And this is probably because the rhythm guitars and the furious drums deliver an emotional intensity.

The opening acoustic intro “Θάρσει” which begins with a beautiful clean guitar passage captures the mood perfectly. Every riff that follows builds to a furious pace with the rhythm guitars adding passion and harmony to contrast with the high-pitched vocals of L.C. The guitars immediately grasp the attention and bring similarities to some Finnish melodic black metal bands. There is a minimal splash of melodies flowing through aggression that keeps the pacing focused on the next song “Death Euphoria”.

Of course, the atmosphere is what you get from this type of music and Häxanu beautifully balances aggression and dark guitar undertones. Although it appears that the songs are fully set in a lush airy atmosphere resulting in fast blistering tempos with everything focused on the abrupt alterations in the fourteen minutes song “Thriambus-Threnoidia”. There is an overabundance in the riffing allowing the drums to incorporate down tempos to create an atmosphere hence generating some kind of dreamy feel. While comparing the latest effort with the debut Alex Poole has managed to strengthen the songs with uncompromising aggression and there is always a moment when the music hits the cinematic level with the synth that weaves some charming appeal.

Totenpass” has the right ingredients to make it sound closer to the Finnish melodies and Alex Poole showcases his ability to charm the listener with this gloomy and somber kind of melody. The blast beats on the other hand mesh with the tremolo-picked riffs adding up to the layers of the guitars. The song further includes dreamy synth arrangements. However, Alex Poole draws a thin line between the relentless riffs and melodies conveying a melancholy mood. Each track segues right into the next and delivers merciless blast beats. For example “Sparagamos” which is another epic song clocking at ten minutes long switches between fast-paced tempos and intense guitar riffs.

All these elements from the individual talents are noticeable because of the songwriting emphasizes an oppressive atmosphere. Apart from the fast blistering tracks, the sophomore also has two instrumental interludes that somehow deliver variety, offering some chilling tunes that fall between neo-folk music. The short tranquil moments adding beautiful themes to the album it shows the wide influence of Alex Poole.

A very prominent element on the album is the synth even though they are used to fill in the spaces, they are somehow minimal while luring the listener into a hypnotic state. Despite the album being focused on solid riff structure, the vocals somehow seem to be less effective than the other instruments. Regardless, “Totenpass” differs from the debut on many levels. First is that the scale of aggression is distinguished in the longer songs. “Ephòdion” continues in the same vein as the previous songs pushing for more dynamics and atmosphere and combining fast-paced tempos and tremolo-picked riffs. Although I am more familiar with Alex Poole’s other side-project bands like Gardsghastr, Chaos Moon, and Ars Hmu, the quality here did not convince me much.

In this regard, the sophomore has its moments but the songs are less compelling despite the addition of the synth and the vocals seem out of place. The album’s title track “Totenpass” maintains the atmosphere throughout the seven minutes length and the pacing somehow tends to be on the mid-tempo. But the best moments of this song are when the pulsating synth waves collide between the intense riffs. Häxanu‘s sophomore is saturated with many beautiful layers of rhythm guitars, forceful aggression, and soaring synth lines, but the catchy moments don’t last long.


  • Music / Songwriting 7/10
  • Vocals / Lyrics 7/10
  • Mix / Production 9/10
  • Artwork & Packaging 8/10
  • Originality 7/10

Overall, “Totenpass” has some flaws in the vocals but nevertheless, this is a welcoming effort from Alex Poole who demonstrates his talent, especially in the drumming performance and the tremolo-picked melodies.

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