Kevin Gan Yuen
(Photo credit: Alicia DiGiovanni)
At some point, in the pursuit of a singular aesthetic, an artist must cast aside the influences of his or her forebears and the cheap comfort of easily-applicable descriptors as the artifice that they so often are. Those able to push past convention into a more pure iconoclasm are by definition the exception rather than the rule, but towards that end, the members of SUTEKH HEXEN have managed to concoct a sound that, while bearing some similarities to black metal, noise, and dark ambient, transforms individual genre signifiers into something altogether different, an oppressive wall of sound that transcends such limiting nomenclature altogether.
SUTEKH HEXEN‘s members refer to their project as an occult experimental band, an assessment that likely proves the most useful in understanding their output. While the use of such terminology and imagery has become increasingly fashionable in recent years, the dictionary definition of occult – that of exploring hidden understandings of the world – is very much a part of the band’s cosmology, a world view based on ritual practices and a rejection of spiritual and philosophical inclinations rooted in the obscurantism of organized religion’s mainstreams. Their music functions similarly: like bits of knowledge that briefly make themselves known despite the universe’s tumult and irrationality, SUTEKH HEXEN‘s music exists at a point along tonality’s periphery where familiar elements will briefly emerge only to be quickly subsumed by the corrosive distortion that enshrouds the proceedings.
Theirs is a cathartic roar, haunted by the paradox of reliance on a sonic violence that can just as easily assume an almost meditative quality through the sheer force of its unyielding aggression. It is an approach where layers reveal themselves with each successive listen and elements that might initially seem at odds begin to work in tandem, forcing a constant shift in an understanding of what the band is attempting. Their music, by finding a convergent point between the seemingly dissimilatory paths of order and chaos, calls to mind Nietzsche’s idea of the abyss that stares back through the individual who stares into it – though in SUTEKH HEXEN‘s case it is difficult to tell whether their music is to be taken as an approximation of peering down from a perch on the precipice or of the void that casts its penetrating glare back through anybody intrepid or foolish enough to engage a fundamental sense of disorder.
SUTEKH HEXEN may find their aesthetic most easily defined by relationships with pre-existing styles, but the band’s unwillingness to partake in either retrogressive fetishism or hollow grasping at wider audiences sets their approach apart. Theirs is a sound that calls to mind the disoriented moment between sleep and waking in which both assume an equal semblance of reality. It is a tearing asunder of artifice, but one ironically achieved through a cloaking of the familiar and the inviting in a facade of the grotesque.
- Graham Scala