Three albums in, Ottawa’s Wychdoktor has released perhaps his most straightforward LP to date. That sounds like faint praise, but when the cartography of earlier works Ritual and Totem are charted out, it’s actually rather impressive. The former work saw the project debuting in the vein of tribal industrial, albeit with a far darker cast than, say, This Morn’ Omina. Totem cannily connected that record’s style to moodier atmospherics while raising the sound design bar. Hexen, however, adopts a more stripped down approach, tracing Wychdoktor’s aesthetic and influences back to their rhythmic industrial roots.
The scrapes and syncopated rhythms which dominate Hexen certainly bring influences like Iszoloscope to mind as Ritual did. But by paring them down to their barest essentials, free of atmospheric pads and other augmentation, Wychdoktor’s tracks live and die by their ability to hit that same sweet spot where aggression and rhythmic engagement meet. Track after track on Hexen meets this challenge, giving one the sense that tracks are almost being engineered to compete against each other in raw, brutal combat. “Malevolence”, “Aggressor”, and “Medicine” each have the bite of classic Ant-Zen tunes, and don’t suffer from the comparison or from being loaded into the same chamber. If Wychdoktor’s wearing his influences on his sleeve, he’s also showing that he can hang with them just fine.
There are several points on Hexen where the insistent rhythmic attack is brought to bear for the sake of some reflection, as on the excellent and loping “Empires Fall” or the droning wash of “Seven Deaths”. These cleanse the palate well enough, and are reminders that Wychdoktor’s a project capable of plenty more than pure rhythmic noise assaults. For the present, though, Hexen finds it content to indulge in its most immediate and violent urges, and the results are most pleasing.