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This quest remained futile - 52%

Felix 1666, June 3rd, 2015
Written based on this version: 1988, 12" vinyl, Under One Flag

Hexx had released two brilliant albums before they recorded "Quest for Sanity". Very soon it became evident that this EP could not be compared with their previous publications. Once again, the band had redefined its style. Instead of presenting a further bastard of thrash and power metal, they had fearlessly entered the domain of death metal.

A lot of bands have become less heavy during their career. Seen from this perspective, it seemed as if Hexx had taken a very laudable and remarkable development. But despite its fundamental importance, heaviness is no value in itself. The opener "Twice as Bright" illustrated the band´s sheer aggression - while revealing at the same time that the new approach lacked completely of charisma. Its weakest point was marked by the squeaking vocals of Clint Bower. He had been in the band since its beginning, but Dennis Manzo (and not Bower!) was singing on the debut. Even when Manzo had left the band, Hexx was looking for another lead vocalist instead of making Bower responsible for the vocals. Thus, it came as no surprise that his totally expressionless performance appeared as an emergency solution.

Apart from the botched vocals and the general dubiety of the new style, "Twice as Bright" was a relatively strong opener, but the following pieces were not capable to offer the same quality. Stupid hammering met half-baked guitar lines. Hexx wanted to generate an atmosphere of hostility without having a talent for appropriate melodies. Therefore, this attempt was doomed to failure. It was simply incomprehensible why they had cut their power metal roots. On "Quest for Sanity", the band acted helplessly in an unknown territory. Admittedly, some good riffs were integrated, but nothing really worked. The respective parts of the songs did not blend with each other. Unfortunately, the compressed production also failed to push the EP on a higher level so that "Quest for Sanity" was nothing else but a very mediocre death metal output.

By the way, the label on the record wrongly said that the vinyl had to be played on 33 1/3 RPM. I have tried it. But this way of proceeding did not help to make things better. Honestly, I fear that neither fans of the first albums of Hexx nor death metal fans will enjoy these tracks.

Sweet little second rate US thrash EP - 69%

morbert, May 6th, 2010

Quest for Sanity was the first and only release by Hexx I had in my collection for years until I found their other stuff years later on vinyl in a second hand bin for just about no money at all.

Until I discovered Hexx were a sort of speed metal band at first and in the end even sounded like a death-thrash act before disbanding, I obviously thought Hexx had always sounded like a non-catchy yet typical US trash act like on this 'Quest for Sanity' EP.

I always had a soft spot for this release. Not only because it's been in my collection for over 20 years now but also because I loved the vocals since day one. And to think this is the only release on which Clint Bower sounds like this. Their next two were slightly more aggressive and the earlier Hexx stuff featured a different, far more melodic vocalist. I find him hard to describe really. Not really entirely gruff, nor screaming, nor actually singing. He does all and nothing at the same time and has such a recognisable voice here, it'd be easy to pick out any Hexx song from this EP on any compilation.

Even though there are hardly any similarities, apart from being thrash, I always found the Hexx from this release would fit a bill with 1988 Nuclear Assault perfectly for their aggression would bind magically. And the music here isn't even mostly fast. As a matter of fact it isn't really even that fast for thrash. Nor are they catchy. It's not an EP about 'songs', it's only a 22 minute thrash metal experience. ut honestly I prefer a lot of great individual songs as well.

Anyway, if compared to the loads of quality thrash being unleashed upon mankind in 1988 already, Hexx isn't really that memorable apart from, as said, Bower's vocals. Only 'Twice as Bright' can be considered a catchy tune, making it the most suitable opening track.

I also can understand how people, used to their No Escape and Under the Spell albums were pretty shocked by this change of style and vocalist. I might as well have been a different band. This EP actually hasn't withstood the tests of time that well and after all these years is pretty mediocre compositionally. But due to the great vocals and the opening track I wouldn't ever want to sell my copy.

An inadequate transformation reaps little reward - 55%

autothrall, May 4th, 2010

By the late 80s, the popularity of US metal had clearly shifted away from the early speed and power metal that had only just gotten its roots into the soil, and towards the now dominant genre of thrash metal. Bands like Metallica and Megadeth were headed towards the status of platinum artists, if not already there, and the hottest touring tickets in town, along with peers like Anthrax, Testament, Exodus, Slayer and Suicidal Tendencies. For many bands hanging at the fringe, it was time to put up or shut up if they were to ride this new wave of excitement. Some of the more traditional metal bands simply dissembled and reformed under new projects, but others took a swing towards the more violent sound.

Hexx was in the latter category. Having released two glorious albums of melodic, high powered heavy/speed metal (No Escape through Shrapnel and the excellent Under the Spell through both Shrapnel and Roadrunner), it was time to season a little extremity into the band's broth. After parting ways with vocalist Dan Bryant, Clint Bower (who would later go on to play in more extreme acts Abscess, The Ravenous, and Eatmyfuk) took over the vocals, using a harsh crossover style which fell somewhere in between Sadus and The Accüsed, with an occasional shriek thrown in for good measure. Musically, they morphed into a hyper violent, filthy fist of thrash and speed metal, letting off plenty of steam but keeping the ability to drop a melodic solo at a moment's whim. Sadly, this Hexx is neither as memorable or as fun to listen to as their earlier incarnation.

No, there are no "Hell Riders" on this album, and what you end up with is a slab of pure Bay Area speed/thrash that lacks the force and aggression of a Dark Angel or the immortal propensity for evil hooks that launched the titanic careers of Slayer and Metallica. The band sounds more in line with a Sadus or Holy Terror, only lacking the bass wanking of the former and the ability of the latter to pattern intensely memorable riffing into their songs. It speaks reams when the one thing that stands out in your song is the solo section, but alas, that is what Hexx has come to. Almost all the five songs here fail to sink into the memory, with the possible exception of the creepy closer "Sardonicus", telling a cool tale of terror with some low-shifted vocals and a decent slew of riffing, though barely rising above the average din of its surroundings. "Racial Slaughter" at least maintains a sickening, busy pace. Others are not successful. "Mirror of the Past" sounds like a half-assed butchery of Destruction's "Mad Butcher", and I'd be damned if I could ever remember a single lick of "Twice as Bright" or "Fields of Death", though the latter has a nice, frenzied lead section.

I can understand why a band like Hexx might feel the need to re-confirm its identity, but the Quest for Sanity lacks all of the allure that drew me into Under the Spell, a killer album loaded with hooks and arguably one of the best and most overlooked articles in all of US speed/power history. This thrash phase would certainly not have the legs to carry them past the competition, and I almost feel like it soils the earlier half of their career. This material is hardly terrible, and competently performed, but neither is it impressive by any shape or means.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com