Cave Painting will be released June 21st on Hex Machine frontman Trevere Thomas' label, Minimum Underdrive.
Founded by Thomas in 2004, and with drummer Dave Witte (Municipal Waste, Human Remains) on board in the early days, Hex Machine made waves through the underground for a good eight years. Across two EPs and two full-lengths, the band crafted and refined its own unique strain of heavy noise-rock, and toured hard with the likes of Clutch and Melt-Banana. The sound had roots in the realms of The Jesus Lizard, The Melvins, and the Dischord Records scene, but from there it reached toward something new.
The last the world heard of Hex Machine was 2012's Fixator album. Fixator wowed, laying down a superior brand of noise-rock that flirted with big choruses, metallic drumming, and a range of guitar sounds that would foreshadow things to come. Thomas' snarling vocals and dynamic playing elevated the music to a unique place. Decibel weighed in thusly: "A careening, seething monster of a record – squalls, hooks, and powerhouse riffs galore."
Following Fixator's release, Thomas and newest Hex drummer Douglas Andrae joined Today Is The Day, proceeding to play hundreds of shows across the world as the rhythm section behind mercurial cult hero Steve Austin. Kicking off that experience was a devastating van crash. Thomas recounts:
"I'd done about 40 shows as Today Is The Day's merch guy. It was just Steve and I in that accident. The fact we lived brought us that much closer. From there, Douglas and I joined the band and we went on to tour North America and Europe over the next couple years, nearly 200 shows in 20 countries. That unto itself is its own chapter. After six tours, a much-needed break turned into the beginning of the writing of the songs that are now presented here as Cave Painting."
With new album Cave Painting in hand, Hex Machine returns now, a new beast. Thanks in part to the intensity of the Today Is The Day stint, Hex Machine emerges reborn and sailing forward, entirely free of conventions. Cave Painting sees a new layer of moody, early-'80s drama creep in to Hex Machine's sound. On top of sludgy, lurching rhythms that nod to Richmond elders like Sliang Laos and Breadwinner, Thomas' guitar radiates post-punk tones of the XTC, The Police, and Killing Joke variety – "Evil Andy Summers" was a description once assigned to Duane Denison's style and it applies nicely to Thomas' as well. Track 3, a cover of The Psychedelic Furs' "President Gas," fits in seamlessly. Thomas gives this statement:
"I'm an MTV Baby and that '120 Minutes' sound is something that always speaks to me when I hear any semblance of it: dark, atmospheric, studious, memorable, with varying degrees of sexual energy and aggression. Thus, my style has become something that comes from romantically putting the 'heavy' in front of just about anything you may not think of as heavy, like, say, The Police or Cocteau Twins."
Thomas' vocals veer from a drunken mumble to a crooning tenor, delivering existential lyrics that are abstractly poetic. His words address the human condition as he sees it – a state of isolation, pettiness, and cruelty, made better by art:
"We are ultimately these very small entities that exist in our own worlds and yet excel at fucking each other up with the trivial. At times this strange journey makes one feel like they are truly in their own world. Our thickened skins grow and must be shed regularly in order to survive. The album title initially came from what I feel we do when we play live – in these caves, if you will. We come in and spray a very colorful coat of paint comprising all our fear, drive, sweat, desire, dread, and joy. We expel the demons through art – for us it is a necessity."
The progression shown on Cave Painting is inspiring. Seven years have passed and Hex Machine has evolved into what it is – a new and unclassifiable thing, expelling its demons in its own way, saturating the noisy and metallic with melody and ambience.
1) Oh You Petty Things
2) Western Mood Swing
3) President Gas (Psychedelic Furs)
4) Scimitar Blues
5) Youth Tube
6) Lemonade Stance
7) Spiral Outhouse
8) Talking Back to Heaven
Trevere Thomas - guitar, vocals
Alex Ricart - bass
Douglas Andrae - drums
Cave Painting (Minimum Underdrive, 2019)
Fixator (Learning Curve Records, 2012)
Omen Mas (Minimum Underdrive, 2009)
Run to Earth EP (Molsook Records, 2007)
Hex Machine EP (Relapse Records, 2006)
Photo by Randy J. Byrd
Cover art by Adam Marx