The Song Of Trees
Between a handful of live performances and some brief releases, Hem Netjer’s emergence on the North American scene has been an incremental one. That slower pace has helped to build a receptive audience for The Song Of Trees, the Vancouver trio’s debut proper, and that’s possibly for the best given the idiosyncratic but subtle charms the band (and the record) trade in.
Hem Netjer’s sound could perhaps be pitched as sitting equidistant between darkwave and rhythmic industrial, with a heavy emphasis on pagan and ritual themes. Compositions like “Elemental City” and “Connect” strike a nice balance between a weighty heft and immediate swing. In a sense, Hem Netjer fit in quite nicely with a number of other acts with roots in the Canadian prairies; Scott Fox of iVardensphere holds a projection credit on the record, and fans of Winnipeg’s Ghost Twin might hear some resonance between the two acts on pieces like “Salt And Tears”.
But more than the pieces themselves or the programming, what’s likely to be the band’s lasting impression upon newcomers is the incredible contrast between its two vocalists, Raven Rissy and Jesse Ellyt. Rissy’s history in folk metal act The Wyrding Way is instructive, as she maintains a high and even register above the low-end percussion and programming which makes up the bedrock of Hem Netjer’s sound. Speaking of bedrock, voices don’t get much stonier than Elytt’s striking throat singing. At times Elytt’s voice functions the way bass might, as on tracks like “Void” where the line between programmed drones and Elytt’s voice can be almost impossible to detect. On “Freedom” it modulates upwards, weaving around Rissy’s voice in as close an approximation to a traditional harmonic duet as such diametrically opposed voices can evoke.
Between the leveraging of their vocal instruments and their dedication to ancient folk and myth traditions (the band’s name is a nod to Rissy’s academic study of Egyptology), Hem Netjer do an excellent job of creating their own space and ethos on The Song Of Trees and distinguishing themselves from their immediate musical peers. If music of this sort rests on guiding the listener to another world or time, Hem Netjer are proving themselves to be apt envoys.