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Dude Messiah - 85%

Twisted_Psychology, September 14th, 2018

Four years and a complete lineup overhaul have taken place since 2014’s Bachelor of Black Arts, but Hessian is still standing and fairly recognizable. The band’s Thin Lizzy by way of Witchfinder General metal style is well preserved and the same can be said for their tongue in cheek attitude if titles like “Legpuller” and “Dude Messiah” are anything to go by. Alas, some changed have occurred that threaten to sand off Hessian’s edge.

For starters, the dual vocal format that was near omnipresent on Hessian’s debut is entirely absent on Mercenary Retrograde. Bandleader Angus McFarland’s post punk-style yelp is serviceable enough on its own, but the trade-offs between him and former guitarist Salli Wason were what really energized the debut’s material and gave the band a more distinct sound. That said, the one vocalist approach on this album doesn’t hurt its material and those previously unfamiliar with the band have anything to seriously lament.

But taken on its own terms, Mercenary Retrograde is an enjoyable album. The more professional production and tighter musicianship result in a rather homogenous sound but the songwriting thankfully retains its quirky variety. “Skull Ring” stands out for its more aggressive approach while “Dude Messiah” features a solid mid-tempo boogie that transitions smoothly to the slower “Saint Leopold.” The horns on the closing “Manos The Hands of Fate” are a fun touch, though I can’t help but feel like they could’ve also been used on the album’s other songs.

The loss of dueling vocalists does make Mercenary Retrograde feel like a missed opportunity, but Hessian manages to find ways to preserve their quirky take on traditional metal. The musicianship is quite enjoyable, and the songwriting is varied enough to keep things interesting. Wytch Hazel seems to be the strongest band of this weirdly specific wave of Thin Lizzy homages, but Hessian should get to a coveted position with an even more focused vision.

“Skull Ring”
“Dude Messiah”
“Saint Leopold”
“The Viper”

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