Hexedene (demo tape)

It's when I discovered Inertia that I got the certitude that the UK was preparing us another electro industrial revival; and today this tape again attests I was not wrong.  I must nevertheless rapidly add that one of the instigators of this project is no one else but Mr. Jonathan Sharp, who is, deservedly, slowly but surely on the way to becoming and unavoidable reference on the English scene.  He is known for New Mind, for having composed Cyber-Tec's 'Let Your Body Die' and more recently for Zoth Ommog's newcomer Bio-Tek.  The first listening of this tape literally left me breathless.  Catchy and groovy danceable electronics, strengthening guitars and most of all, very original and expressive tired-sounding female vocals.  Such a unique combination of mixed feelings and emotions bringing some innovative colours on this dull scene.  The ultimate apocalyptic marriage of indies wave with industrial for a gratifying final result.  Let's say I'm 99% sure Hexedene should go far and fast!  Lucky will be the label that will sign them.  The potential hit off this tape is 'Breathe', but there are also other excellent track like 'Close My Eyes' and 'Only Human'.
(Side Line, No. 19 - No.3 1996)

Choking on Lilies

Ironically, the length of time it took to see the debut release of Hexedene has coincided with the departure of the vocalist and guitar player. Katie Helsby and Ian Palmer recently had their own project signed to a large record label in England and as a result left Hexedene leaving Jonathan Sharp as the sole member. Sadly, this means that the key elements that make Hexedene unique will cease to exist once Jonathan finds a replacement vocalist. Katie had a very strong vocal range that could be very lush on slower tracks like 'Everything and Nothing' or more aggressive such as on 'Only Human'. Ian's guitar work was always complimentary, never dominating or hiding in the final mixdown. These elements combined with Jonathans obvious electronic wizardry was bordering onperfection. My only complaint with this relase is that while it contains fifteen tracks, seven of them are remixes, four of which are the same song. I want more original material, not remixes, even if they are performed superbly by the likes of SMP, Alien Faktor, and Society Burning. (Sonic Boom  April 1998)

This band features the talents of Katie Helsby (vocals), Jonathan Sharp (programming) and Ian Palmer (guitars). The music found here is excellent. This is easily one of the best electro industrial bands with female vocals that I have heard yet. Katie has an incredible voice that sings both soft and melodically as well as faster and more aggressive. There's a lot of variety here and it all works superbly. Some tracks are dark and cold with melody while others are energetic and techno style meant strictly for the dance floor. The guitars used fit perfectly and never take over. Everything is mixed, blended and layered to perfection. The electronic sequencing, synth melodies and drum programming are Jonathan Sharp's work of art and do feature his edge. My main complaint is that there are six remixes, four of which are of the song "Breathe". I am the type of person that feels there should be separate remix albums made and no remixes should be included on the original full length album. I only need one version of a song on an album. I am not interested in hearing the same song more than once when I listen to a CD. I also feel that if remixes are going to be included on an album, they should be put at the end of an album as bonus tracks. I don't like it when they are scattered all over the place and put close to the original versions of the songs. Well, the remixes are all over the place on this album. They even are placed before the original versions. Luckily the remixes here are very good and sound a lot different from each other making them almost seem like different tracks. The bottom line is that this is very quality and well done female fronted electro industrial music with a touch of guitar thrown in for good measure. Even with all of the remixes, this album is still highly recommended.  (Wrapped in Wire)

New Mind's Jonathan Sharp is featured with Katie Helsby and Ian Palmer in this, the newest of his projects. It provides an interesting combination of styles. Katie Helsby's ethereal-ish vocals are put to pounding synths and guitars. Now, before you turn away because you might think this is "guitar-industrial," let me explain. I don't normally like it when EBM is mixed with guitars, and bands such as Hate Dept., Acumen Nation, and 16 Volt don't really appeal to me. Hexedene, however, is different for some reason. A less angst-filled feeling is achieved by using a female vocalist with a beautiful voice rather than a raging, screaming madman. My favorite song on the CD is "Everything and Nothing," which provides a faster-paced delerium feel with incredible electronic sequences. Along with the ten tracks on the CD come five remixes from bands such as Alien Faktor, Oneiroid Psychosis, SMP, Gunhed, and Society Burning. Each band adapts the track to fit a style more similar to their own. Oneiroid Psychosis provides what I feel to be the most impressive remix. They give "Everything and Nothing" a much more ethereal feel, adding synthesized symphonics, and an overall more minimalistic feel. Hexedene proves successful with their first release, and I, for one, will be looking forward to hearing more from them.   (Grinding into Emptiness)

One of Jonathan Sharp's (New Mind) newest side-projects, Hexedene is a bit of a departure from Sharp's trademark EBM sound and heads more into a sound that fits into what Re-Constriction has become known for.  With even levels between the guitars and the synths, Hexedene are coming more from the same angle as most of the North American electronic bands that combine female vocals with guitars and keyboards.  The most distinguishable difference?  Katie Helsby is a really, really good singer and lyricist.  Not that she's writing sonnets here or anything, but her lyrics are far better than most of the crop.  This will be the only project from the trio as the two-thirds of the group that isn't Sharp has moved onto major label work.  One of the best feamle electronic bands combing the harsh danceable songs of Euro EBM with the etheral female vocals.   (Interface, Version 13)

Katie Helsby and Ian Palmer teamed up with Jonathan Sharp of New Mind to create "Choking on Lilies", an accessible crossover darkwave album. 'Turn' has received radio play and could sell well as a single. Well, actually, 9 tracks of it comprise the album, the rest are remixes done by just about every mixmaster Hexedene could find, including Jason Bazinet (of SMP).  Though a bit of overkill, the remixes do broaden the style palette.  Hexedene balanced their debut album in captivating fashion.  Slow, sulking songs such as 'Everything and Nothing' exhibit classic Gothic-pop sensibility with creepy yet crafty programming. Sharp's mix of 'Close My Eyes' takes off on a hip hop techno trip, and Bazinet went crazy, sample shopping for his 'Breathe' remix. Having established himself as a programmer/producer, Sharp made the wise decision to include a vocalist on this album.  Helsby can croon the sweet torch song or impale with a caustic edge. Her voice perfectly complements the range Sharp strives for, skating from joy to sorrow.  (Voltage, Issue  #7)

The full length from Jonathan Sharp's next project! This guy is busy, no doubt. "Choking on Lilies" could perhaps be his breakthrough into a larger audience. Vocalist Katie is awesome! Powerful, sexy, and beautiful .. yeah her voice too! Hexedene is one of my personal favorite female-fronted bands. There are great heavy guitar and electronic mixtures on 'Turn' and 'Breathe', the two big hits from this album. Well, in a perfect world they'd be big hits. Excellent noise induce bass drums on 'Only Human', another great one. The first three tracks are unforgettable! True beauty and a softer side come out on tracks 'Everything and Nothing' and 'Fade Out from Me', which are geared for the dance-trance floor as well as radio. Techno-influenced tracks 'Damage' and 'Close My Eyes' are great as well, and then the absolutely stunning 'White Out' is so nice. "Choking on Lilies" ends with six remixes from bands like SMP, Oneiroid Psychosis, Alien Faktor, Gunhed and Society Burning. It is a must have, especially for fans of Jonathan Sharp and the female elektro movement. "Choking on Lilies" is truly a stellar album!   (Outburn, Issue #7)

Hexedene are Jonathan Sharp (obviously an insomniac, as he seems to be involved in a plethora of projects at all times), Ian Palmer on guitars, and Katie Helsby on vocals; they deal in thick electronics and chunky guitars as driven by pulsing techno dynamics. The melding is done well, though there are moments throughout where they seem to teeter and slip into cheesy or at least cliché trappings (‘Turn’ opens with some godawful, get-on-the-dancefloor, grating synths that furrowed my brow – the techno elements threaten to sabotage the disc at every boot-stomping turn).  Despite some precarious moments, the disc is held together by Katie’s wistful, oil-on-ice vocals. This creates a lackadaisical, schizophrenic effect; the contrast works well, and one does not mind that Katie’s blackened goth roots are show. ‘Only Human (Bastard mix)’ is a blend of borderline metal crunch guitars and spoken/sung vocals that rubs me the right way (I like my industrial with an electronic base, not glued together with monotonous, been-there-done-that guitars); ‘Everything and Nothing (Oneiroid Psychosis remix)’ accentuates the dramatic, goth-tinged elements, creating a full-blown gothic sonicscape of cooly expressive vocals (dispassionate, but with feeling?!) and crystalline synths; ‘Turn’ is salvaged by cat scratch guitars and, as throughout, the appealing vocals. A bunch of remixes keep everything interesting, but it is Katie that keeps you coming back for more.
(Side Line, No. 24, 1998)

After countless appearances on CD samplers and some demo tapes, Matrix Cube finally present the first album of the British Hexedene.  I must confess that i've always considered them as a cheap copy of Garbage or Curve with this silly use and abuse of guitar riffs, electronic loops and female voice in a more unskillful way.  But this "Choking on Lilies' will maybe change my mind.   Listeners will, of course, find their most famous hits: 'Breathe' or 'Turn' in a new improved version; but they'll also discover another face where the hypnotic and well-constructed 'Fade Out From Me', and 'Close My Eyes' consort with good songs like 'Everything and Nothing', 'Hex-Break', or the original 'White Out.'
Let's point out some average tracks like 'Only Human' or the (bad) Pierrepoint version of 'Turn' and well-done remixes from (IN)ternal and Dust of Basement.  After listening to this CD, you'll not be surprised to see them courted by some majors.  A good album.
(Side Line, No. 26, 1998 - Europen version of "Choking on Lilies)

Not your usual Recon act. Sure, there are plenty of gothic overtones laid over an electronic musicscape, but what electronics. Hexedene is just as likely to kick out an amped-up disco groove as skull-pounding cybercore lines. Techno with an extremely cool edge.  Wowsers, indeed. Jonathan Sharp is the main guy behind the band, assembling the pieces. Katie Helsby contributes the darkly entrancing vocals and Ian Palmer adds some guitar work. Helsby and Palmer are in Streem, which has an album on Roadrunner. Sharp has his finger in so many pots I'm not even going into that here.  The main point is that this music succeeds where many folks have failed. Gothic electronic music can often sound sterile and contrived, the keyboards thin and cheesy. This music is well-conceived and produced, running through a full spectrum of sounds.  And there's definite synergy to the parts. Every single piece contributes to the whole. And that whole is something wonderful to behold. I've been increasingly bored with electronic music, but Hexedene brings me back into the fold.
(Aiding & Abetting, issue #156, 4/98)

On his mission to dominate the electro/industrial market with female fronted bands, Chase has released Hexedene.  Hexedene, for those who have just been released from a 20 year stint in solitary confinement, is the umpthteenth project of New Mind creator, Jonathan Sharp (aka JS9).  Joining JS9 is guitarist Ian Palmer and Katie Helsby from the band Streem.  For the US release, several of the tracks have been remixed by bands such as SMP, Alien Faktor, Oneiroid Psychosis, and Society Burning, giving it that American electro / coldwave feel.  Turn is the album opener and an introduction to Hexedene's sound.  A mixture of throttling guitar riffs, techno flavored sequences, rhythms, and beats, and Katie's smooth vocals.  This is a nice change from some of JS9's previous work in that there is a rougher edge to it due to the implementation of the guitar work.  Also, the juxtaposition of the heavier musical elements against the softer vocals works well.  The Bastard Mix of 'Only Human' mixes a distorted beat together with crunchy guitar riffs and dense synth lines, creating a dark and ominous feel to the entire piece.  On track that has been kicking around for some time is 'Breathe'.  This is a great piece with hard dance beats, subtler guitar work and dominant, wearied sounding vocals.  Not only is this track presented in its original form, but there are also 4 additional mixes, the most flavorful being JS9's own Gunhed Remix.  The Regurgitate Mix by Alien Faktor takes a slow build-up approach and gives equal time to all of the musical elements.  A nice, beat heavy breakdown, interrupts the track in several places, giving it a good 'in your face' feel.  SMP have always been good at designing and using hard, hip-hop / rap beats, but on their mix of 'Breathe' they opt to concentrate more on the overall structure of the track and really do some interesting things with everything from samples to rhythm to sequences and, of course, the beat.  The Minimal Mix, by Society Burning, begins as if it were an experimental piece.  Katie's vocals are pushed back in the mix, several new / fresh sounds are added, and the beat is deconstructed and rebuilt in an entirely different manner.  'Everything and Nothing' is a slower and less aggressive piece which could be construed as a vehicle to showcase Katie's amazing vocal talents.  Her vocals are laid upon a mixture of light sequences (which do sound similar to the more recent XMTP) and a trippy, backing beat.  Delving into the break-beat territory, 'Fade Out From Me' is a percussion heavy piece with some milder sequences added in certain areas.  Destined to be a club hit, 'Close My Eyes', has a strident beat, hard / EBM styled sequences, and sparse vocals.  This track is a cross between darkwave and electro, which should please many fans.  Although I do like Katie's vocals, I'm anxious to hear what the next Hexedene album will sound like, as Maria from Battery will supplying some of the vocals for that one.  In the meantime, be sure to check out this CD as it shows yet another side the multi-faceted Jonathan Sharp.  (Industrial Bible)

Jonathan Sharp, one-man recording industry, strikes again. This time he's not alone though - Hexedene is (or, rather, was - more on this later) a trio consisting of Sharp, vocalist Katie Helsby and guitarist Ian Palmer. Yes, that's right, a female vocalist. In industrial, no less! Wonders will never cease, next thing you know they'll be wanting the vote.
- Moving quickly on, the sound of Hexedene doesn't really surprise. This isn't to say that it isn't fairly original, rather that it sounds not unlike what you'd expect if you took the combination of Sharp and Palmer (which can be found in places on the last New Mind album "Forge") and added female vocals. Big, extremely crunchy beats with sporadic big, extremely heavy guitars, Sharp's distinctive synth work, and the out-of-place yet perfectly fitting vocals. Female-fronted industrial bands don't exactly grow on trees, so there aren't too many comparisons that can be drawn, but at the same time, circumstances seem to have conspired to ensure that most of the female-fronted industrial bands that do exist sound pretty similar. So, pick your favourite industrial band with a female vocalist (there's not many after all - Coptic Rain, Collide, Battery, that's about your lot) and Hexedene sounds a bit like that, only different.
- So, what have we established so far? That Hexedene has a female vocalist, and that musically it's very clearly a product of Jonathan Sharp. Is there more? Well, the latter of those two on its own should be enough to recommend the album, but matters might be a little clearer if I did the usual track by track on the album. The first track, 'Turn', is the one that seems to be getting all of the airplay right now. I can see why - it fairly rockets along on a solid bed of hyperactive metal guitar, straightforward beats and electronics, with Helsby's vocals over the top. Her voice makes a pleasant change from the ever-so-ethereal and floaty vocals that have drifted into the industrial fringes from gothdom. It's strong, without suggesting that she's the sort of woman to gargle iron filings and wrestle bears, yet capable of some fairly light and subtle touches at the same time.
- Next, it's the "Bastard Mix" of 'Only Human'. I'm assuming the mix was named by Sharp as he gave the same treatment (thermonuclear percussion and guitars) to a Cyber-Tec track way back, and that was the "Bastard Club Mix", so I'm assuming there's some sort of link deep in Jonathan's mind between the aforementioned musical traits and the word "bastard". It's a decent track, combining the aforementioned thunderous bits with samples, a hip-hop beat and a calculatedly unemotional anddistant vocal from Helsby.
- 'Breathe' is a refugee from the lost Cyber-Tec album - why should only C-Tec benefit? Of course, when Cyber-Tec recorded it, it had a slightly bizarre Jean-Luc de Meyer vocal and lyric, and no metal guitars, but the core of Sharp's synths seems close enough. The rhythm track seems to have been beefed up somewhat, and the new lyric and vocal are a definite improvement. It's not that I dislike Jean-Luc de Meyer's vocals, but the lyrics he did for this track originally were not amongst his best, and he's capable of writing some truly hideous lyrics.
- The Sharp sound is very evident in 'Everything and Nothing'. Until Helsby's vocals arrive, you could quite easily assume this was something that had been left off the last New Mind album because it didn't quite fit. It's a rather pretty track, with an attractive vocal and suitably restrained guitars, while the electronic side of things is more laid-back than usual. It's followed by the offbeat instrumental 'Hex-Break', two minutes of swooping synths and intermittent guitar, with a single sample right in the middle.
- 'Damage' is more typical of the material here, with plenty of driving Sharp synth work and breakbeats underpinned by some sharp, controlled guitar from Palmer, with Helsby's vocals drifting over the top. The vaguely ethnic sounding intro to 'Fade Out From Me' is very familiar indeed - I had to do some checking on this and after much scrabbling through the CD collection established that Sharp probably has a copy of Armageddon Dildos' "Lost" kicking around somewhere. Other than that unusual dying violin noise, the track conforms pretty closely to the pattern established here, with the musical side
coming across largely as a lighter, friendlier take on Sharp's EBM-oriented work, with added breakbeats. As with much of the material here, it works well. 'Close My Eyes ('97 Re-Build)' is rather different, with a much stronger breakbeat techno influence and cut-up vocals. There's nothing wrong with this in itself, but it did strike me as rather odd to place this remix on the album before the original track.
- The intro to 'White Out' is very New Mind-like indeed, and the track as a whole has a certain grandeur to it, with rich waves of synths meshing with slow, dreamy vocals from Helsby, and the guitar work subtly fused into the background. The sound and lyrics clash strangely though - a title like 'White Out' and lyrics about being cold and frozen, yet the song has a certain warmth to it. Next, the first of several (outside) remixes on the album, as Alien Faktor remix 'Breathe'. It's pretty decent, and treats the original material with some respect, so that while it does give the track a slightly different slant it remains completely recognizable. The track has been smoothed out a little, with some of the more anxious synth work gone and a new, appropriately paced rhythm track added. Oneiroid Psychosis get to remix 'Everything And Nothing' and do so with some style, giving the track an orchestral, almost gothic feel. It's rather pleasant to encounter two remixes in a row that recognize that remixing can go beyond tailoring a track to whatever the latest dancefloor trend is, however inappropriate the track. - SMP's remix of 'Breathe' is, well, to be honest, it couldn't be further from the Alien Faktor one. It's been given a pretty thorough going-over here and the end result is entertaining, up-beat and really somewhat silly. You only need to hear the opening sample to know that this is a bit different, and the samples come thick and fast. Next, and rather surprisingly placed in the track sequence, is the original version of 'Close My Eyes'. While I still think this should have appeared before the remix on the album, I can see why they placed the remix first - it's not the strongest track here, and sounds to me like it might be an older New Mind out-take reworked with vocals. Of course, this doesn't mean it's bad, but the remix re-energizes the track considerably.
- The final two tracks on the album are both remixes of 'Breathe'. Much as I like the track, five versions of 'Breathe' does strike me as overkill, and I'd have liked to hear remixes of some of the other material here. The first of these two is by Jonathan Sharp wearing his Gunhed hat. Gunhed? Well, it's quite understandable if you've lost track of all the various names that Sharp has recorded under. Gunhed is, to use Sharp's words, "very fast breakbeat-based music". So you've got an idea what to expect from the remix here - the main added ingredient is a somewhat zippy (although not d'n'b zippy) breakbeat.
The final track is Society Burning's remix of 'Breathe' which applies some effects to the vocals and strips down the music dramatically. It's cleverly done so that, although almost the entire track seems to have been replaced, it remains recognizable.
- While "Choking On Lilies" is an excellent debut release for Hexedene, I have to admit that it's probably the least favourite of Sharp's projects that I've encountered so far. This doesn't meant that it's bad by any means - note that I still gave it a decent rating - but I have to admit to preferring Sharp's screams and shouts to Helsby's vocals. Not that there's anything really wrong with those vocals, but I found that they got a little monotonous (Sharp, on the other hand, has several different ways of shouting, and has also been known to sing). As always, my opinion seems entirely at odds with the rest of the universe, as Hexedene has generally received rave reviews, and far wider acceptance and airplay than any of Sharp's other projects. Oh well, hopefully the success of Hexedene will rub off on everything else he does.
- It'll be interesting to see what the next Hexedene release brings, as Sharp will be the only common factor. After the album was recorded (but before it was released) Helsby and Palmer signed their own band (the name of which eludes me) to an exclusive deal with Roadrunner, which rules out any future releases by this Hexedene line-up. More Hexedene is in the works though, with Sharp teaming up with Maria Azevedo of Battery. It'll be interesting to compare the results.     (© Al Crawford)

Bullet Proof Divas

After a really excellent debut album, Jonathan Sharp was put to work with other female lead singers for his Hexedene project. "Bullet Proof Divas" is the result of long months of collaboration across the ocean and in the UK. For those who fell under Katie's spell on the previous "Choking on Lilies", you'll get a terrrific dream mix of the club hit 'Breathe.' Next to this, some other darker song like the very depressive 'I Am the Fear', or the more vocally tortured 'Ashes' and 'Sell Out' still have that sombre edge to please you, especially when you like a band like Switchblade Symphony for example. Then we discover a new face of Hexeden with clearer vocals and tuneful danceable electronics with very catchy melodies, like 'Digital Angel', 'Ascension' or yet 'Strange Utopia'. The next surprise is also the introduction of more experimental atmospheric tracks that come to reinforce the fog that sometimes tends to disappear. All in all, this album is quite distrubing; it jumps from one style to the other without fitting to a definit concept or guiding line, and we also get vocal performances by some five female singers (Alexys B, Daemon Cadman, Sarahjane, Terri Kennedy and Katie). Add to this that the best tracks are the last two remixes we could perceive as bonus tracks (the dream mix of 'Breathe' and a dancefloor mix by Implant of 'Digital Angel'. It lacks the unity and mysterious personality of the first album, although musically, we can say that Hexedene remains that apocalyptic fusion of dancey electronics with guitar samples, noir synths and diva vox. It's good material, but it leaves me perplexed.
(Side Line, No. 37, Oct/Nov/Dec 2001)