The Hill Temple, the first album from New Zealand-based Hex, is named for a church devoted to the study and teaching of the tarot near Wellington, and is dedicated to the notion of empowering witches. The group—made up of Kiki and GG Van Newtown, who are married, and drummer Jason Erskine—blend punk, folk, rock, and classical music to create something powerful and enchanting. It’s also an album of extremes: The anthemic vocals in “Gardener’s Prayer” call to mind Black Sabbath, while “Sight Beyond The Line” has the melodic brightness of The Cranberries, and “Billboard”’s slowly-circling vocals and taut nets of guitar could have been plucked from an early Lush album. But while The Hill Temple is sometimes foreboding and other times energetic, it is consistently mystical.
On “It Begins With A Man,” feminist anger is delivered via ghostly, strikingly soft vocals. Supported by a simple but unyielding bassline, its chorus speaks of a change led by sacred feminine knowledge and sisterly bonds: “He doesn’t know about our plan / A thread connecting us through time / Handed down from sisters past.” It’s hypnotic and entrancing. Throughout the album’s eight tracks, Kiki’s vocals swing from celestial to defiant, winding ominous melodies over heavy riffs. Lyrically, Hex encourage engagement with the spiritual, channeling it to create a force for good. On “The Moon,” the Van Newtowns chant: “I see you / I see the moon / Both reflectors of energy / But we’re in an original position / We are a battery of complex construction.”
The title track brings the album to a solemn close. The final lyrics present a promising, united future—a continuation of the ideas offered throughout the album: “Around the central golden door / We rise together like a tower / Where we unfold like a flower / She takes your hand and I take yours.” With The Hill Temple, Hex step out of the shadows, and suggest that the mystical world still has an important role in navigating life, love, and conflict.