Finns Hexing love their thrash metal; I know because it was midway through track four on their debut elpee, Welcome To Salem, before they played anything other than pretty rigidly-formatted old school thrash. Then, after track four, they slipped the white hitops back on and returned to business…

I’m joking a little, of course. I love thrash metal as much as the next man, especially when I look round and find the next man to be Kevin ‘thrashy’ McThrashfan, but even a little deviation from the format would be welcome here to give a bit of light and shade to the grim faced competence of it all.

The afore mentioned track four – Death May Die – kicks in with a looser feel that might commonly be identified as crossover, before ending with some rather nice flash guitar playing, and these two little concessions to non-conformity make all the difference, they really do. Elsewhere, on well-meaning but ultimately toothless wannabe ragers like Servants of Belial, the band huff and puff without even coming close to blowing the house down.

At times Welcome To Salem feels more like a demo than a real album, a document designed to demonstrate the lads’ basic competence in their chosen field with an eye to getting some help in their development, rather than being something one might foist on the commercial marketplace. Thrash metal in 2022 is a densely-populated field; not only that, it’s densely populated with people who know a thing or two about songcraft and dynamics, meaning that a band that only betrays their own skill in those fields intermittently – very intermittently – has little or no chance of making any headway with releases like this.

I have no axe to grind with Hexing – the guys are clearly sincere about what they do and possess bags of talent, however latent that might be at this stage – but releasing this album just feels a bit too ‘early’ for them. Back to the drawing board?

Welcome To Salem is out now.