Rock needs to be dirty and hot, right? Absolutely, and then some. Gazillions of bands did a helluva lot of that back in the ’70s and early ’80s. You know, those riffs that sailed on an abundance of groove, fuzz, and a gluttony of wah-wah. All of that filled with laid-back notions of blues rock and psychedelic soundbites.
One could acquire that stuff on cassettes1) and vinyl that had that tendency to quickly disintegrate. And this added to this woozy scratchiness that most remember so well.
You see, the astro-tongue thing, the one with the electric garden, was already funky enough to retain our attention. But now, Hex A.D. just struck again.
They already got the RMR deckhand’s attention some time ago with their pretty snazzy clip All The Rage that showed much-needed grit that we often missed on their last piece. And whilst a one-year waiting time often doesn’t bode well for a new record, we were drawn to this new piece like little metal bits to a magnet.
Funeral Tango for Gods And Men harkens back to a time where Deep Purple was in full swing, the Rolling Stones were still young2), and the Zep people reigned supreme. That was the time when bluesy crunch dominated rock, fledgling progressive bands timidly rose their heads, and metal – well – hardly was a thing.
On top of that, the grating sounds of mellotron and Hammond, combined with the pounding beats of long-gone rock’n’roll, and the mad croaking of vocalists high on LSD were seen as the devil’s music by many. I always get a kick out of these old TV clips showing middle-aged dudes in the ’60s and ’70s in jackets, hats, and cigars, deploring ‘today’s depraved youth’. Some depravity alright, they had no idea what headed their way. And that trait was then and still is exploited to this day by the folks in the music industry.
Now Hex A.D. already struck me on Astro Tongue in 2020 as this band with a knack for the perfect Hammond sound. Usually, if that one raises its ugly head with modern bands at the helm, things don’t look good. But in the hands of Hex A.D., the sound just fits. And on this new record, things are no different.
Now, Funeral Tango here pretty much got rid of the former electric wooziness and added a layer or five of grit and grime over last year’s offering. But make no mistake, this is still Hex A.D. They didn’t somehow reinvent the wheel. Instead, the band doubled down on what they do best. And that is to create this Heavy Rock look and feel, that miasma full of abundant red-hot retro groove with a live feel all over it. One that gorges with prog, bluesy passages, and whiskey-fueled grating rock.
Now, that of course means mainly mid to slow-tempo pieces that just cruise on in their delightfully sluggish, laid-back, and almost sensuous splendor. Masterful tracks like Got the Devil by the Tail will just pull you under with their delicious grind. Directly followed by One Day of Wrath, another Gesture of Faith in a similar fashion. Albeit, with a slightly sturdier momentum and a tad more juice in there. The ballad-like Hell hath no Fury with its heavy stomp completes that trio of filet pieces. It rolls in on a pretty amazing progression that ends in one of the best fucking solos to be had on Funeral Tango.
Now, don’t ever think that the band cannot do speedier rock anymore. Yet, Painting With Panic with its powerful beat almost feels like an afterthought in all this muddy goodness. That said, the aforementioned All The Rage remains the most accessible song on this tracklist. So, it ain’t no surprise that they chose that one for a first clip.
In the end, Hex A.D. did everything right this time. Whilst Astro Tongues was excellent in its own way, it still felt strangely unfinished. Yet, this new piece fascinated the RMR crew with this newfound and mature power. It displays a band with a swagger, very sure of itself and its capabilities. And we appreciate that.
So, is the rock on Funeral Tango for Gods And Men finally dirty and hot? Damn straight it is. Bull’s Eye, dead-center. Reasonably filthy, hot, scratchy, grimy, sometimes mean, and full of delicious grit. Just what the wizened old doc out there on the porch ordered.
Now, hand me that glass o’ whiskey. Straight up, no ice, and let ‘er roar. I just need one last spin.
Ed’s note: And congrats, the record made it onto the 2021 Top 10 Records!