CD Review

Hexenhaus - "Dreamlands"

By Marcus Pan

DreamlandsThey call it "modern music for modern vampires." Hexenhaus, a ritualistic and eclectic musical group out of Texas, has shrugged off the guitar-laden sound of oldsters like Bauhaus or Sisters and instead replaced them with strings and orchestratic accompaniments. Conceived originally as a musical play based on the famed legend of Elizabeth Bathory, Transylvania's estranged Countess of Blood who would bathe in the fresh blood of young virgins to keep her beauty, they tinged their work as well with references and relations to writer H.P. Lovecraft. But all the theatrics left Hexenhaus having trouble finding venues that would allow them to play their new style of ritualistic and ominous sounds. They modified their act from a musical/play base to a band and since their first EP release of The Art of Dying, they've been lighting their candles and chanting their way throughout the midwest ever since.

Following The Art of Dying came Reoccurrence, where Hexenhaus further tinged their already-morose sounds with Shakespearean tragedy. After being filmed in documentaries and successfully touring Mexico, slowly building their cult following and fan base, Hexenhaus' Unveiled EP arrived. A couple live video releases by the band helped to solidify their extremely dark and ritual atmosphere. Then, finally, their first full-length arrived in the fall of '98 - and it is this release, Dreamlands, that we discuss in depth here today.

From the beginning Hexenhaus have been a theatrical combination of Inanna's music and Alyda's lyrics. They've added Jessika for backing vocals on a couple of the tracks here on Dreamlands. They are fond of fairy tales as well as all the aforementioned influences, twisting them sometimes into storylines of tragedy and loss always with the rumbling drums and pipe organ melodies. Providing an important replacement that changes the music from something standard to something different are the losing of the guitars and use of violins, cellos and other string-based instruments. This gives Hexenhaus' music a very morose feel. Alyda's vocals are more spoken word than sung, occasionally getting whiny or low, but never losing the chanting feel. I said in my review of The Body, The Spirit, and The Mind compilation (also this issue)… "It's candle music - but the kind where the candles are black and placed at strategic directional points." This style does not change throughout all of Dreamlands.

DreamlandsSome of the tracks on the CD get whiny and annoying. Alyda sometimes takes his chanting style too far and goes into a near-unbearable drone. Dreamlands, the nominal track of this full-length, is an example of this. It's almost like Alyda and Inanna are "trying too hard" to be vampire icons. They do have a way with words though. Taking influences from a variety of written prose and poetry from Lovecraft to Shakespeare, fairy tales to tragedies, Hexenhaus string together melancholy words and distinguished stanzas. There is virtually no deviation from the already-discussed orchestration however, so if Phantom Of The Opera style pipe organs and strings doesn't match your interests, then this is most assuredly not a CD for you. Crimson Dream appears on this CD, which is one of the songs I enjoyed off of the Spirit portion of The B, S & M compilation. Also here is Unveiled, a track with a catchy melody and fairy tale lyrics; "Over (under?) the river and through the woods, down the rocky path." Alyda and Inanna, the new Brothers Grimm?

Hexenhaus is not a CD I'll be listening to all the time. But I will listen to it, when I'm in one of my extreme isolation moods. The music may get a little repetitive considering the source of the sounds being so limited, but I assume that Hexenhaus would be so much better on a stage. The theatrics and influences of the group dictate such - and remember, they started out as more of a musical/play schtick than a band to begin with.

Contact Information:
Post: R.C. Whitus, P.O. Box 110936, Carrollton, TX, 75011-0936