It’s not often that a band’s debut album is equal parts polish and originality, but this is exactly what Vancouver-based Momy Fortuna has done with Hexennacht, an album that’s half sonic theatre and half horror soundtrack. The band’s instrumentation is in itself atypical from most live acts these days – front woman Brandy Bones sings and plays bass, the lead melodies come predominantly from violinist Emily Bach, who is supported on piano/synthesizers by Kat Bastow (who also sings in support of Bones), and finally, quantized by the percussive efforts of Bina Mendozza. This tetrad of would-be witches collectively conjures a series of dark, carnivalesque numbers that one would expect to hear after downing some bad acid too close to Halloween at the local amusement park.
The combination of their scalar selections and instrumentation engenders this aura of horror and the occult, but what dominates throughout the album is a strong sense of exotic, eastern Europe – the function of the band’s half-step heavy (Hungarian?) minor progressions blended with some polka-like swing, the result of Bones and Mendozza’s pocket proclivities. “Natas Liah,” as well as its polar inverse in “Hail Satan,” “L’Oubliette,” and “Apolluckalypse” all showcase this eerie funk. It is these dynamics that beckon to mind both System of a Down and Swans at different points. For instance, “Be Rather” opens the album with chilled out bass and pared down drums, the counterpoint of Bones’ chanting vocals atop Mendozza’s wetly reverberating and bringing to mind Swans’ The Seer.
However, there are two outliers on the album worth noting. “Sleeping Man” begins with a bit of beach-goth flair, something that percolates at other moments in the album, but here most explicitly. But it’s the eponymous “Hexennacht” that breaks from the dark carnival textures to emerge into a slow, goosebump-building ballad, making for a triumphant track that blows away any assumptions about the band’s compositional chops. The final point of the album to note is the cover of the Suspiria theme, a well-known entity to film buffs and all dabblers in things metallic and/or Satanic, and Momy Fortuna’s homage is deftly crafted due in large to the labor of Bach and Bastow whose instruments breathe new life into the classic composition.
Although Hexennacht will initially present as a surprise and/or novelty for most (this writer included), the album progressively endears itself as Momy Fortuna’s signature style effuses further and further, and the collective strength of the songwriting with all its sirenic wailing makes itself known. The final twist of “Natas Liah” to “Hail Satan” is the coven’s tongue in the listener’s cheek, a calling card beckoning listeners back for more; one hopes to see strong headwinds blowing behind their broomsticks with such a bold debut.