Album Appreciation: Hexen Valley by GNOD

The Calder Valley has been well known as a bohemian enclave and epicentre of strange vibrations for decades now. It’s an area of West Yorkshire that extends roughly between Manchester and Leeds across a landscape rugged in aspect and rich in allure. Todmorden, a town within in, has been home to so many UFO sightings that it’s been dubbed ‘The UK”s Roswell’. Sylvia Plath and Emily Brontë were galvanised by its raw beauty. And it’s where Gnod came together to create Hexen Valley.” []

It is true that over the years alternative/ creative people have sought a great deal of inspiration from living in the Calder Valley. Acts as diverse as Craven Faults and W H Lung are among those that I have featured recently that have drawn directly from the area, and the presence of some excellent venues such as The Golden Lion in Todmorden and the Hebden Bridge Trades Club mean that that there is a thriving scene in addition to relatively easy access to Leeds and Manchester… in fact there’s so many people who are in bands that I’ve heard of moving there that maybe someone should commission and alternative version of ’Stella Street’.

This GNOD line-up (they see themselves as a collective rather than a band) has emerged through a number of the group moving to a co-op house in the vicinity and taking the opportunity to bond together to create an album inspired by happenings in the local area… the result is something that is both unsurprisingly GNOD, yet also unsurprisingly different.

‘Hexen Valley’ opens with ‘Bad Apple’ which was built up around the initial twig-like guitar riff into something that wouldn’t be out of place in the early 1980s such is its post-punk aesthetic… while at the same time sounding bang up to date…

Four minutes in and we’re already at what, for me, is the centrepiece of the album… ’Spotlight’ is first and foremost an absolute banger! It is also fifteen minutes long… which also makes it an absolutely insane monster of a banger… the heavy chug that is present throughout does not just drive the track, it thoroughly screws it into you sonically disfigured face, over and over again… each time stepping up the intensity… Oh to hear this live… it would be a near life experience!

It’s going to take something to clear that particular devastation, and ’Skies Are Red’ is just the track to do it… direct and angular this is a relatively straightforward number which just kills it… visceral and just simply exciting it really captures the sheer rawness of this iteration of GNOD… and, I may say, just keeps on upping the ante before collapsing into feedback… which continues into ’Antidepressants’, which feels more reflective until all hell breaks loose half way through (presumably as they kick in)… once again the power in the band is just stunning.

‘Still Runnin’ kicks off with a cracking riff that just, well, keeps runnin’ throughout. Once again this has a real chug to it… and, like with a lot of this album, there’s something very down to earth about it; while closer ’Waves of Fear’ was apparently recorded in one take and plays like a contemporary folk tale, underpinning the time/place-specific milieu of this album.

GNOD albums have come out with quite the frequency lately, and while they all have their charm (and I like them all) I think this one might just edge it for its sheer visceral energy. It blasts across its forty plus minutes lifecycle with a real pounding passion and an incredible tightness that perhaps comes from co-op living. A more that welcome addition to the great and varied GNOD catalogue.

‘Hexen Valley’ is released by Rocket Recordings.



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