Retro is the new contemporary, it seems. Given that we live in age when everything that was once underground is now in the daylight, it’s no surprise that numerous artists have been turning towards the past—especially the schlocky and overlooked—for inspiration. From neo-‘80s dance pop with a Millennial accent to modern day heavy metal acts, everything old is now new.

Nowhere is this more prevalent than in horror movies. While some directors (such as Adam Wingard(You’re Next, The Guest) and newcomer Ted Geoghegan(We Are Still Here) have made a nice living doing throwback horror movies, others like David Robert Mitchell, who directed the brilliant It Follows, keep one foot in the present day while extracting all the best bits from the old school. The end result is a sort of dreamlike nowhere culture where the late ‘70s and ‘80s melt together inside of a highly digital, socially and spiritually exhausted 2010s stew. Hexed, a solo and instrumental release by Anders Manga,who also fronts the band Bloody Hammers, embodies this concoction. For the most part it’s delicious.

A pseudo motion picture soundtrack to a film that doesn’t exist, Hexed calls to mind such maestros as John Carpenter, Fabio Frizzi, Goblin, and critically acclaimed Disasterpeace with its dark synthwave ambiance. In short, Hexed is cinematic murder music for film buffs obsessed with retro red stuff. The titles, which include such gems as “Seer Lays a Hex,” “Depraved are Lurking,” and “Bloody Revenge,” are solid, obsidian dark tracks. Thankfully, Manga didn’t include any dialogue to muddy up the murky waters.

But here’s the kicker: even though it scores nothing, Hexed sounds like a holistic piece - a series of songs that form a logical soundtrack, even without a central, guiding subject matter. Take for instance, “The Creeping Flesh,” the album’s second track. Although seemingly named after a 1973 Hammer film, “The Creeping Flesh” is more in-keeping with Frizzi’s collaborations with Italian splatterpunk king Lucio Fulci. With its slow-building, syncopated drum line hovering underneath moody synth rises, “The Creeping Flesh” really does sound “creeping” in the same way as footfalls sounding down shadowy stairs or groping hands looking for a basement’s light switch.

Another solid example of music mirroring title is “March to the Altar,” the sixth track. Again, as with “The Creeping Flesh,” Manga develops a song that overlaps with a dum-dum-dum marching cadence that has been used in a million monster movies. “March to the Altar” sounds like Michael Myers carrying Dr. Loomis to a suburban funeral pyre, or maybe a hooded Christopher Lee preparing a dagger before plunging it into a virgin’s heart.

Other standout movements include “I Know Where You’re Hiding,” which somehow manages sound like Carpenter’s own work (especially Lost Themes ), while “Ghosts of Victims Past,” which mixes the demonic work of Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells”[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8LEWkwvaNcs] with the gothicism of Dark Shadows (the ‘60s TV show, not the real horror show starring Johnny Depp).

In truth, the entire record is a pearl-clutching, nightmare-inducing success story, but there’s one great flaw: You’ve probably heard it all before.

This is not to say that Anders Manga is a cheat or a copycat. Far from it. Hexed is original music made by a gifted musician. That said, the more you listen to Hexed, the more you’ll begin to think that it’s something else. If you shut your eyes and turn off the lights while this album plays through, you’ll probably say to yourself: “Haven’t I heard this before in some movie?” This thought will be followed by a litany of titles: House of the Devil, The Guest, We Are Still Here. You’ll spin around and around with these words until you come to the inevitable conclusion: Hexed is so good because it’s so familiar. Hexed is the haunted house in every Scooby-Doo episode; it’s the jump scare you know is coming. Hexed is disturbing and unnerving in all the right ways. It’s like October - chilly, tinged with evil, but expected.

—Ben Welton



Hexed is currently available via Bandcamp. Follow Anders Manga on Facebook.


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