The infamous Bay Area has a long and extensive Metal history. Responsible for many of Metal's most trendsetting acts (just think of Exodus, Testament, Forbidden, Heathen or Blind Illusion) for over three decades now, the city by the bay has spawned some of the most innovative and exceptional talents there is... Hexx, one of the third-generation Thrash Metal bands emerging from San Franciso, were formed in late 1984. Their first album entitled »No Escape« was released only in the United States of America by the legendary Shrapnel label and began shaping a steadily growing fan base for the band. »Under the Spell«, issued a year later, made strong waves on the independent radio charts at the time (also in Europe). The third album »Quest for Sanity« was released via Wild Rags Records and marks the end of Hexx Mark I.
At that time, internal changes were taking place within the ranks of Hexx that would alter the musical direction the band would take in the future. Founding members Bill Peterson and Dan Watson were joined by guitarist/vocalist Clint Bower and drummer John Shafer. On the strength of a new song called “Watery Graves“ (released as an EP on Wild Rags Records), Hexx signed to Century Media Records. The following album, 1991's »Morbid Reality«, marked Hexx's evolution from a more or less traditional US Speed/Power Metal band to a brutal, technically-inclined Thrash/Death Metal outfit.
With the brand new record »Wrath Of The Reaper«, however, Hexx are returning to their traditional Power Metal roots. “Perhaps Hexx phase three is a good way to describe it,” says founding member and guitarist Dan Watson. “This new record is mostly rooted in our old Power Metal style of our first two albums but there is a track on the album called ‘Exhumed For The Reaping’ that has a lot of very fast riffs that almost sound like it could have been from our Speed/Thrash Metal era. Eddy’s vocals are very high and melodic, so it still sounds like very fast Power Metal and not like true Thrash Metal. We consciously tried to take what we thought were the best elements and style of our first two albums »No Escape« and »Under the Spell« and use that as the mainframe feel and vibe for this new record. I think there are slight elements echoing back to »Quest for Sanity« as well in some songs.”
Perhaps »Wrath Of The Reaper« is indeed the best Hexx album there
is... “We think this new album is by far our best offering as well,” confirms Dan Watson. “The true test will be to see how well the new album is received. We all poured our hearts and souls into this record, so of course we hope true fans of Heavy Metal music will like it. We officially reformed to perform at the ‘Keep It True’ festival back in 2013 and we have been working on songs for the new album ever since that time.”
A song like "Screaming Sacrifice" is a near perfect tribute to a band
like Judas Priest circa »Screaming For Vengeance«. Such a great track...
"A Slave In Hell", on the other hand, has a bit of a galloping Maiden bass line happening, also a very good number... “Yeah, we really went back and tried to channel all the bands that influenced us in the early days before we got our first record deal with Shrapnel Records,” remarks Dan Watson. “When writing the songs I tried to remember how bands like Judas Priest, UFO, Iron Maiden, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Rainbow, The Scorpions, Rush and even Kiss would inspire me. I really wanted to try and capture that fresh youthful exuberance I had at that time in the early 1980s.”
The guitar work on songs like "Swimming The Witch" is pretty
outstanding. Somehow this number reminds me a little bit of classic
Metal Church from »The Dark« period! “Yeah, we can thank John Marshal and Bob Wright for most of that,” smiles Dan Watson. “John Marshal played for Metal Church for several albums and tours and wrote and recorded the intro exclusively for the ‘Swimming The Witch’ track! In the solo section John Marshall takes the first part of the solo, Bob Wright takes the middle section and I take the last part.”
"Dark Void Of Evil", on the other hand, starts out like a bit of a ballad, would that be fair to say? And then it is building up in the style of classic late
1970s Priest style once again... Dan Watson explains: “’Dark Void Of Evil’ starts out with a kind of Scorpions »Lovedrive« era inspired intro with Bob Wright doing a tasty Schenker inspired solo erupting into a slamming 70s Priest influenced riff. That is totally true.”
As mentioned earlier, the history of Hexx goes back such a long, long time. How does it feel putting out a comeback album after so many years? “It feels amazing,” beams Dan Watson. “It’s like we have a new lease on life! We are very excited to have the opportunity to release a new full-length album after all these years. Of course, we are much older and hopefully wiser now compared to when we were making records back in the mid 1980s and 1990s. The music scene and climate for Metal has totally changed here in the San Francisco Bay Area. There is not really a scene at all compared to the way it was back in the day, but that does not deter us from writing and performing our style of Heavy Metal music the way we like it!”
Re-unions and comeback albums in general always make fans wonder how "original" the line-up is? Dan Watson explains in full detail: “Well, our drummer John Shafer and I (Dan Watson) are the only original members in the current line-up. Our original Bass player Bill Peterson is still struggling with health issues that prevent him from being an active member at this time. However Bill did play bass on the ‘Swimming The Witch’ track for the new album and our friend John Marshall also contributed to the track by writing and recording the intro and a guitar solo as well.
Mike Horn who replaced Bill back in 2013 so we could perform at the ‘Keep It True’ festival has been doing a fantastic job covering the bottom end for the band! That really speaks a lot for Mike because having to replace a bass player of Bill Peterson’s quality and style is no easy task.
I am very excited about the line-up for this album because we have what I think is a very unique chemistry of musicians. Our new vocalist Eddy Vega was the find of the century! His style of singing fits and complements perfectly our sound and style of Heavy Metal! He is the seasoned performer and dynamic charismatic front man that really make our songs come to life in the recording studio and on the stage!
We are also very excited to have Bob Wright ( Brocas Helm) join the band last year. We had been looking for another guitarist to replace our original guitarist Clint Bower for some time. After our performance at the ‘Headbangers Open Air’ festival back in 2014 Egbert Berenst (Dark Wizard) approached me backstage and suggested that I contact Bob Wright about playing guitar for the band. When we got back home, I did contact Bob and he agreed to addition for the band. After his audition everything just fell into place. His style of guitar playing compliments our sound perfectly! Bob put it eloquently when he said: It’s like the Witch in the Woods meets the Wizard in the Castle!
John Shafer was our first drummer’s (Dave Schmidt) roadie and understudy so John was around for both recording sessions for »No Escape« and »Under The Spell«. He was the perfect replacement for Dave when he left the band shortly after »Under The Spell« was released. John has been cultivating his style and technique over the years and he is the powerhouse dynamo time keeping driving force of the band!
All in all I really think that this is really a great line up and we hope to prove it through this new record and with subsequent live performances!”