Rock trio Häxan have built a considerable reputation on the tour and festival circuit, with performances at Hard Rock Hell, Download and Planet Rockstock, and gigs with Status Quo, Electric Six and The Subways. The release of their debut album, White Noise, has therefore been hotly anticipated.
The band, which is based in South Wales, consists of Sam Bolderson (vocals, guitar), Harriet Wadeson (bass) and Jess Hartley (drums), and they recorded White Noise at Stomp Box Studios near Cardiff. The album was produced, mixed and mastered by Todd Campbell (of Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons).
Recording during the COVID-19 pandemic was no easy feat, especially as lockdown was enforced before the band had finished all the vocals. Completing the album required the construction of an isolated makeshift vocal booth. Referencing the pandemic, the band themselves say:
“We want ‘White Noise’ to be able to mask the sounds of the uncertain outside world that’s around all of us currently, to allow people to escape it. It’s an opportunity to shut everything else out and enjoy the incredible potency of music.” - Häxan
The band’s determination to complete White Noise and launch it on schedule has paid off handsomely, as this is exactly the sort of album that we need to lift our spirits during these difficult times. The opening track, ‘Damned If You Do’, is an energetic and punchy number that sets the scene for what is to follow. Bolderson’s crisp vocals are perfectly complemented by Wadeson’s skilful work on bass, underpinned by Hartley’s precision and power on drums.
The catchy lyrics of ‘Killing Time’ seem tailor-made for lockdown, exploring how easy it is to become trapped by monotonous routine. ‘Nine Lives’ is an early highlight, containing an exquisite but all-too-brief guitar solo by Bolderson. ‘Grave Digger’ is about being stuck in a bad relationship, and is a track that demands to be seen live.
Relationships receive further scrutiny in ‘Louder Than Words’, which showcases another tidy guitar solo from Bolderson and some outstanding work on drums by Hartley. ‘Black Sheep’ marks a stylistic shift and amply demonstrates the band’s range as musicians. A slower-paced track, it gradually builds to create a complex and deliciously dark song.
The mood lightens and fast tempo returns with ‘Crash and Burn’, another track that will be great fun to see performed live. ‘Skeletons’ is undoubtedly the album’s highlight – a multi-layered track that keeps you on your toes with its frequent shifts in pace and tone.
‘Living Dead’ ends the album on a high, with a theatrical style and dramatic conclusion. This is clearly a band that is not just on top of what they do, but are having a great time doing it.
White Noise marks a confident debut album from Häxan, and effectively showcases their skills as songwriters and performers. Highly recommended.
White Noise is released on 24 July 2020.