Following the psych-rock excursions on 2016’s When We Are Death, Hexvessel’s fourth full-length All Tree returns to their pagan folk foundation. It feels like a return to the style of 2011’s Dawnbearer in particular, placing a similar emphasis on brief runtimes and a welcoming Ren Faire atmosphere. However, it stands out for its more vibrant instrumentation and livelier performances, resulting in what may be the group’s densest album to date. Yet somehow it may also be one of their most accessible.
Hexvessel has always employed a variety of instruments, but All Tree sees them expand to even greater extents. The compositions seem more layered than before as even the most straightforward acoustic ballads feature intermingling rhythms and flourishes while the inclusion of a second vocalist allows for more developed melodies and pleasant harmonies. Such arrangements would seem overstuffed in lesser hands, but the songs know how to make them work and the warm production job helps everything sound bright and breezy.
The songwriting is also quite varied despite consistently keeping to a minstrel aesthetic. Most of the songs are acoustic folk tunes that each settle into a particular mood as songs like “Son of the Sky” is driven by upbeat whimsy while “A Sylvan Sign” takes a slow, tranquil approach that may give one flashbacks to the first half of “Stairway to Heaven.” In addition, “Wilderness Spirit” also stands out for its sea shanty style and there are even psychedelic remnants found in the slow burn blues of “Birthmark” and the carnival waltz on “Luminal Night.” I also appreciate the appropriately titled “Closing Circles” for its somber ritualistic piano buildup.
While 2012’s No Holier Temple may still be Hexvessel’s strongest outing, I can’t help but love All Tree for its unabashed positivity. It’s a very eclectic and exciting album, boasting a variety of styles and moods that all come together smoothly thanks to a confident presentation and quality arrangements. If you ever enjoyed Rush and Zeppelin’s acoustic musings or Jethro Tull’s minstrel era, then All Tree and Hexvessel’s other efforts come strongly recommended.
“Son of the Sky”
“A Sylvan Sign”