Italian act Hapax have earned their growing fanbase with a steady stream of direct and well-structured releases, and as new EP Exile shows, have been shifting their focus away from post-punk and darkwave to pure, classic goth rock. It’s a move that suits the trio well here, with six tracks that range from the reflective “A Different Blue” to the speedy first-wave fretworkout of “Silvery Track” to the club-ready title track. Regardless of tempo there’s a clear sense of sober harmony and arrangement to every track, and not a moment’s wasted. The deep and often guttural vocal style, which we so often associate with the heavier, borderline-metal style of continental goth, makes for a nice contrast with the lighter and defter guitar tone Hapax use, perhaps splitting the difference between Berlin and Leeds. Very strong stuff from an act still on the rise and which we’d love to see gain a higher profile here in North America.
Alex Virlios (Blue Images, ex CRTL and Provision ) and Andrew Sega (Iris)’s project Hallowed Hearts digs further still into the post-punk and goth rock sounds that informed their 2020 debut LP Into the Fire on their new EP ruins. Like the LP that precedes it, the new release has a strong focus on straightforward melodies and smooth, low-key production that allows the songs’ merits to speak for themselves. “Supernova” is largely all dancefloor rhythm and until its descending chorus comes, in providing both the song’s hook and a pathway to variations in the arrangement, with guitars that switch between delicate lines and rock chug and swooshing keys. “Fly” goes even further down the second wave of goth rock pathway, matching its guitar arpeggios to a spooky keyboard melody and one of Virtlios’ more expressive aperformances. The twangy title track pulls back somewhat towards glassy eighties post-punk in the style of Sad Lovers & Giants or Modern English but that proves to be something of a fakeout as the EP concludes with a dramatic take on Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb”; while it’s not a song that calls out to be covered again, Virlios and Sega zero in on its theatrical sentimentality and deliver a straight but heartfelt take on the classic rock number. That kind of move shows both the skill and good taste Hallowed Hearts bring to bear on their material, never straying too far from their strengths.