HeKz is a progressive rock band that stands at the crossroads of heavy metal legends and the luminaries of the prog rock genre.
Their journey began with their debut album, ‘Tabula Rasa’, which laid a strong foundation for their distinctive sound. Building on this, their sophomore effort, ‘Caerus’, saw the band ambitiously fusing the contrasting elements of their musical identity. This effort culminated in their third album, ‘Invicta’, where HeKz masterfully blended their influences to create a more homogenised sound that showcased the best of their past while venturing into new and exciting territory.
HeKz’s fourth album, ‘Terra Nova’, promises to be their most ambitious project yet. The band’s lineup consists of lead singer and bassist Matt Young, guitar virtuoso Mark Bogert (known for his work with Knight Area and Magoria), the enchanting Irina Markevich on violin, the rhythmic powerhouse Moyano el Buffalo (formerly of 5th Avenue Hamburg) on drums, and a special guest appearance by keyboard maestro Adam Holzman (noted for collaborations with Miles Davis and Steven Wilson).
‘Terra Nova’ is a concept piece that weaves a tale of ambition, duality, and the relentless fight to conquer the darkest parts of one’s personality to become the person you were born to be.
So that’s the background out of the way, now let’s see what this new album is actually like…
Well, everything starts off with an almighty bang as album opener, and title track, Terra Nova hoves into view like a wild stallion on the rampage. Adrenaline fuelled musical mayhem with glorious vocal melodies and a riff hewn out of granite, if the rest of the album is anything like this then we are in for an incredible treat! It’s like the best hard rock and metal from the late 70’s and early 80’s blended with some progressive nuances to deliver something jet propelled and gob smacking. Matt’s super-funky bass and Moyano’s thunderous drums are the foundation for Mark’s fluid guitar and the subtle interjections of Irina’s violin are really clever. That focused energy flows straight into the monumental Sabotage which takes on a more glam metal feel with its truncated riffs and drum beat. Adam delivers some stellar Hammond organ-esque keys and Matt’s gloriously bombastic vocal is reminiscent of Justin Hawkins at his best. There’s an inctricate instrumental section in the middle which is pure prog and then Irina’s soaring violin takes us on a completely different tack, if only for a brief second before the afterburners are lit and off we go again with a blazing guitar solo from Mark, bloody hell, can I please catch my breath guys! A passionate guitar opens Horizons before things calm down a little (not much though!) and we are treated to a superb hard rock composition that really reminds me of that era of hair metal and glam rock, think Poison, Whitesnake, Bon Jovi and the like, only done with more panache and vivacity! Irina’s violin makes another welcome appearance but this song is just pure rock and roll and will put a huge grin on your face, check out Mark’s ever so 80’s solo and you will know exactly what I mean, it’s all just brilliantly over the top!
Matt’s funky, dirty bass opens the rocking rollercoaster ride that is Mayday, a thunderous thrill ride of perfect progressive metal where Mark’s guitar has that low down and dirt edge to it and Moyano’s drums have gone all primeval. Add in some funky keys from Adam and another shot of Irina’s amazing violin and you get something unique and totally captivating and entertaining. Welcome to the most addictive music you will hear this year, I just can’t get enough! Finally things do calm down with the wondrous haunting ballad So Far Gone, you can tell this is an amazing track as I immediately pressed repeat after the first time I heard it. Adam’s graceful piano combines with Irina’s ethereal violin to deliver music that will touch your soul and Matt gives a subdued but ever so passionate vocal performance, especially on the ever so impressive chorus. Mark enters the fray with an elegant guitar, the drums are perfectly judged so as not to intrude and Adam’s keyboard solo is bewitching, it’s all just magical!
The engrossing ten minutes of The Tower are the first time that we see the progressive being more than the rock on this amazing album. Almost musical theatre in places, especially Matt’s ardent, eloquent vocal, this song is a slow burning masterpiece that pulls you in before unleashing its inner darkness, check out that dark and dirty riff! A mesmerisingly convoluted section follows where everything seems to have gone completely mad, like you’re suffering from musical psychosis. It’s like something from Dream Theater’s heaviest album ‘Train of Thought’ and I bloody love it. Like a dystopian horror story, it ebbs and flows between the darkness and the light and you can barely keep up with the labyrinthine plot, this is music that tells a story, okay, in this case a very disturbing one but it is utterly magnificent, bombastic and completely over the top! A song to calm the nerves after that sinister thrill ride, Lifeline opens with subdued feel engendered by Matt’s vocal before it opens up into something more passionate and dramatic, this song could have come from an early Queen album with Matt’s towering vocals and a soaring guitar solo that Brian May would be very proud of. Add in Irina’s beseeching violin and it’s a very compelling way to close out Disc One of the album.
“Disc One?” I hear you shout! Oh yes, didn’t I say? This album is so long it is actually a double album!
Disc Two opens with Too far Gone and we are back to thunderous hard rock as the amazing intro reminds us. Mark then fires a superb riff at the skies and Irina’s violin adds to the majesty. Matt’s vocal has a more subdued feel at first and Moyano keeps the drums in support. Pre ‘Slippery When Wet’ Bon Jovi is the vibe I’m getting here, before they went all hair metal and, controversial opinion, wrote better songs. Cue the high pitched vocals, flowing guitar solo and dynamic keyboards, the blue touch paper is lit and we are definitely off! Progressive metal for the primeval, I Am The Thrall hits you right in the solar plexus like a two ton heavy thing. A leviathan of the genre with it’s brooding atmosphere where the tension just build and builds, Irina’s violin is used to perfection. Matt’s harder edged vocal and Mark’s monstrous guitar add the drama and the intrigue as this heavier than lead song continues its inexorable progress. You can feel the guitar and the drums as they pummel you into submission and Adam’s ever so slightly evil keyboard solo adds the requisite maniacal grin, it’s ever so joyously wicked like a musical guilty pleasure and I love it!
We now come to the album’s properly epic epic! The Silent Man takes all that was great about early Dream Theater and Haken, adds in a dash of some serious Symphony X style progressive metal and then takes the band’s own inimitable style to create something quite remarkable and iconic. There’s something just right about a twenty-four minute song, especially when it shows the middle finger to mainstream music like this one, strap in and enjoy the ride because you are going to love it. Matt’s marvellously grandiose vocals are a joy to behold and Mark’s guitar is as ostentatious as you’d want on a track of this calibre. You think it can’t get any better than Adam’s meticulous, euphuistic keyboard solo and then Mark comes along and delivers a guitar solo that is utterly rhapsodic, add in Matt and Moyano, who are proving themselves to be a rhythm section to die for, and things are near perfect. Don’t take my word for it, you have got to hear this song as it is as brilliantly overblown and dramatic as they come. The album ends on a high and hopeful note with the gorgeously wistful Terra Nova II. Irina’s violin has been making superb guest appearances throughout the album so far but, finally, she gets to really shine on this beautiful, uplifting and ultimately optimistic piece of music. Imbuing a sense of beatific calm, this elegant track leaves traces of wonder as it passes, Matt’s vocal is tender and poignant and both Adam and Mark deliver their most evocative solos yet. This all combines to deliver the most emotive piece on the whole album and one that leaves you in a much better place than when you started.
“You know who you really are…”
Well, what can I say, I knew that a new Hekz album would be something pretty good but I had no idea it would be this special. With ‘Terra Nova’, Hekz have given us the ultimate involving musical thrill ride and I just don’t want to get off. To tell the truth, it’s the best progressive-metal album I’ve heard in many a year and, if this is the future of the genre, I’m completely sold!
Released 3rd November, 2023.
Pre-order from the band here: