It seems that interesting things happen lately in Heavy Psych Sounds’ portfolio. The Italian label may have developed some sort of know-how in detecting peculiar cases of bands engaging in the down-tuned scene and producing/promoting their work. It’s almost sure that if you search thoroughly their catalogue, you’ll come across something that concerns your ears.
In late 2021, HPS signed a contract with the Swedish doom/rock trio Hazemaze for the release of their new album and the reissue of the first two releases. The newcomer Strängnäs-based band started in 2016, initially as a garage rock band, but soon they changed their direction, worshipping traditional doom, according to the standards set by Black Sabbath (who else?), Pentagram, etc. Hazemaze gained attention with their 70s, warm, vintage sound. Their debut (“Hazemaze”, 2018) indicated a mixture of doom with blues/rock strokes, while their second attempt (“Hymns of the Damned”, 2019) was heavier, yet flirting sporadically with a rock attitude, tending clearly to wickedness.
So far, Ludvig Andersson (vocals, guitars), Estefan Carrillo (bass) and Nils Ein (drums) proved that they’re true followers of classical riff masters and old-school sound; however, their sophomore work underscored their willingness to change course and make new steps. Hence, it would be interesting to find out whether “Blinded by the Wicked”, released earlier this year, is diversified from the previous albums (and in what way).
What stands out more in the new album is their explicit tendency to become even heavier and darker, making their tempos slower. Ominous, groovy fuzz are in fact a “passage” to a warm, wicked atmosphere, in accordance with the lyrical themes (perverted acts of cult leaders and corruption of their followers). Yet, they subdue the blues element of the debut, while an orientation to the rock aspect is still evident, and appropriate for their current purpose. Now, Hazemaze remind a not so much distorted Electric Wizard, in a scenery where the vibe of Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats emerges as well.
“Blinded by the Wicked” is full of English, traditional riffage that you grew up with. Andersson’s patterns reach higher levels of intensity and heaviness, sounding like concrete; doom, groove-filled riffs are well-written and dominating, combined with rock-originated solos. However, without Carrillo’s omnipresent, dirty bass, and Ein’s proper, cymbals-focused drumming, Hazemaze wouldn’t sound so much heavy and psychedelic concurrently. On top of all, Andersson has that distinctive tone in his voice, both warm and somehow cynical, narrating untold, unholy tales. Vocal lines may remind you faintly of Uncle Acid’s aura and approach; but Andersson’s voice is by far more expressive, having now more “space” to unfold.
This time, an organ intervenes occasionally (“Devil’s Spawn”, “Ceremonial Aspersion”, “Luciferian Rite”) to contribute to the ceremonial attitude, deepening the songwriting. Hazemaze make the transition to what we call “ritualistic” (or whatever) unpretentiously and successfully; it’s like they already had done it in the past, but it’s a new ground for them, though.
No matter the familiarity of the album, there are songs that will draw your attention. You may wander from the horrific opening track “In the Night of the Light for the Dark” to the maliciously evil “Devil’s Spawn” and the more straightforward, addictive and stoner-sounding “Luciferian Rite” (its riff will surely remain in your memory). Hazemaze switch with ease from doom-crushing patterns to rock strokes and spontaneous “dialogues” between organ and riffs or bass and vocals.
But let’s not hide behind our fingers: Hazemaze cannot impress you with their originality, and you may think that your ears need more variety at certain parts; you’re right, partially though. “Blinded by the Wicked”, in its closed-mindedness (in the good sense), is addressed to dedicated doomsters. Hence, its structure is relevant solely to their likings.
Though relatively unknown to the mass audience, Hazemaze is a well-connected trio who perform cohesively and maturely, despite their short history. Indeed, “Blinded by the Wicked”, with its cohesive songwriting and efficient use of influences, deserves your attention, giving you the impression of a band, whose experience is disproportionately high compared to their 6-year activity. Above all, given their evolution so far, it makes you wait for Hazemaze’s next step.