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Rest In Pain (1991)
 

Recorded in 1991, Rest In Pain is the first Hypocrisy demo. Apparently, it was recorded by Peter Tägtgren, as a solo effort. He would later go on to re-record the entire demo, with some additional songs, after meeting Masse Broberg. The original version already shows that Peter had a fairly good vision of what he wanted his band to sound like.

Musically, the songs are very similar to the versions that would appear on Penetralia. The production is much more raw, as one would expect from a demo. That being said, it's really not bad, at all. All of the instruments are pretty clear, and Peter's solos are already one of the highlights of the sound, at this early stage. And it must be said that the one tremolo riff, near the middle of "Suffering Souls", sticks out very well and sounds much better on this version.

As it regards the vocals, there's really nothing wrong with them. Nonetheless, it is easy to see why Peter wasn't completely satisfied. His vocals don't compare with Masse's, at this point, in terms of power or focus. Still, they're not very far off and it is doubtful that anyone would have really had a problem if he had continued on as vocalist. All in all, bringing Masse in was a wise move, but not absolutely necessary.

In the end, the album versions are slightly tighter, but this demo serves as an interesting glimpse into the early development of this band. If you are able to track down a copy, it is recommended.
 
(26 June 2010)

 
 

Penetralia is the debut full-length from Sweden's Hypocrisy. It marks the only time that the band functioned as a five-piece. Released in October 1992, on Nuclear Blast, this album displays a strong influence from American Death Metal. This is credited to Peter Tägtgren's time living in the states. He played with Malevolent Creation for a short time, and it seems it affected his mentality as it regarded songwriting. Still, there is enough here to prove that this Satanic Death Metal album is the work of Swedes.

Despite bearing some characteristics that were already becoming a little too common and generic, by that time, this album features a good number of interesting riffs and manages to keep its head above water. Peter's solos were already distinctive, as he had found his own style. That is one of the things that brings some identity to early Hypocrisy. As far as riffs go, Penetralia is a very dynamic album. There are a fair amount of thrash riffs to be found and, of course, tremolo picking throughout the songs. Already, as would become more evident as time went on, there were some riffs that had more of a Black Metal feeling. It was this combination that really helped establish the dark atmosphere. Most importantly, as is heard on songs like "Impotent God" and "Nightmare", there are slow doom riffs that really create a dismal feeling. Even at this early stage, it is clear that Hypocrisy's moments of brilliance are, often, during the slow parts. This was something not uncommon in the Swedish Death Metal scene, but there was something darker in the way that Tägtgren structured his songs and his lead solos added to this, quite well.

Whereas most bands choose to lead the album off with their strongest song, Hypocrisy's debut appears to build momentum as it goes along, increasing with quality as you get deeper into it. "Jesus Fall" is a good example of this, with a great tremolo riff that would have worked just as well in a pure Black Metal song. The production and deep vocals are the main things that even give this song a real Death Metal feeling.

The vocals are another thing that set Hypocrisy apart from many of their Swedish peers. Masse Broberg didn't utilize the typical style found in bands like Entombed or Dismember, nor really that of Unleashed or Grave. Masse's voice is very rough and, though his vocal style is quite deep, it still possesses a very raw feeling. Compared to albums like Shadows of the Past, by Sentenced, or even Covenant, by Morbid Angel, those vocalists have more of a refined sound to their voices. Interestingly enough, Peter handles vocals on the title track and doesn't sound too far off from Masse, though his efforts prove even more raw and uncontrolled. It's clear why he didn't feel that he would be a suitable vocalist, and only took over once Broberg was kicked out of the band a couple years later.

The production of the album isn't necessarily unique. It's rather standard, almost reminiscent of the Morrisound production style, at times. However, it's a little rougher and this suits it just fine. The fact that so many Death Metal bands were trying to sound exactly the same, around this time, still fails to make sense. In the case of Hypocrisy, it may have been a combination of preferring the American sound as well as not wanting to follow the crowd and record at Studio Sunlight. Based on the style of songwriting, it's quite possible that Penetralia would have sounded similar to Necrophobic's The Nocturnal Silence, if they had gone there. In truth, it might have been an improvement, but there are no real complaints. Speaking of Necrophobic, it is with bands like this that Hypocrisy had more in common with, as opposed to the more popular Swedish bands. Penetralia also shares some characteristics with Nothing But Death Remains, by Edge of Sanity, and Dark Endless, by Marduk.

The song arrangement is another interesting facet of Hypocrisy's debut album. Particularly, the second half of the album really begins to showcase their abilities. One of the highlights has to be the slow section of "Left To Rot", where a doom riff is joined by a cold tremolo riff, coming together to create something very dark and menacing. "Burn By the Cross" builds on this; after some memorable thrash riffs, yet another slow section draws the listener in and really envelopes them in darkness. "To Escape Is To Die", immediately, catches your attention with the melodic lead guitar riffs and dynamic tempo changes. "Take the Throne" is very similar, in that it features some of the most memorable riffs on the album and serves well to create a sense of tension that builds to the climax of the album.

It has to be said, again, that one may think that the higher quality songs should have been spaced out a little better, to give the record more balance. However, the first half is good enough to keep you interested so that, by the time you reach the second half, you are dragged into the abyss and mercilessly assaulted. As you reach "Penetralia", you are weakened and vulnerable to the most intense song of the whole album. After an eerie intro that features some clean guitar and keyboards, the furious riffs are unleashed and Peter's harsh vocals slice into you. The tremolo riffs are incredible and the drumming pounds through your skull. As mentioned earlier, Hypocrisy always had some Black Metal feeling present in many of their songs. By the midway point, another slow riff is introduced, with distant vocals that soon turn into something otherworldly. Some other, demonic, voices then rise up from the depths and are joined by a haunting riff that seeps into your subconscious. There is a brief return to the sounds from the intro, before the speed picks up again and you are exposed to some great lead solos. As the song continues on toward the end, it picks up in speed and you feel as if you might explode. And then, all collapses and it is over... for now.

Looking at it now, the song arrangement was very wise, as it leaves the listener with a very good impression. What Hypocrisy began on Penetralia, they perfected on 1993's follow-up album, Osculum Obscenum. They soon became more comfortable in their sound and found their style, going on to create one of the best Satanic Death Metal albums, ever. It all began here. This is highly recommended to any fan of early 90s Death Metal, as well as those interested in the early works of this band.
 
(25 June 2010)

 
Osculum Obscenum (1993)

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Over a decade ago, my best friend and I had a Friday night ritual that included meeting up and sharing our latest musical acquisitions. Back then, this was one of the main ways I got into new music (along with college radio and magazines). One gloomy Autumn night, he brought over Osculum Obscenum, the second full-length album from Swedish Death Metal band Hypocrisy. I had heard plenty of Death Metal over the years, but this was beyond all of that; far more evil and far more epic.

"Pleasure of Molestation" begins with a horror intro that really sets the mood for what is to come. It starts out quietly, and one gets the feeling of being pulled into a nightmare. Then, as the song gets going, the sound is not entirely similar to other Swedish Death Metal bands. The music is filled with dark energy and the vocals are extremely rough (almost as if Masse was gargling gravel) and filled with hate. There are many variations with the vocals, keeping things interesting. Similarly, the song includes various tempos. One can hear that it is Swedish, but the influences from American Death Metal, such as Deicide, are apparent as well. However, they quickly show that they are far superior to those who have influenced them.

"Exclamation of a Necrofag" keeps everything going. The bass seems to stand out on this particular song. Other than the heavy sound, this feels a lot like a Black Metal album. This may belong next to Necrophobic's The Nocturnal Silence as one of the earliest mixtures of the two. As the song progresses, there is a very slow part, reminiscent of Where No Life Dwells by Unleashed. This, combined with Peter's eerie guitar solo makes for a sinister atmosphere.

"Osculum Obscenum" begins with some odd effects and a ghastly moaning. The song is very slow and features layered vocals, giving a demonic feel (much like the first Deicide album). Never keeping to one tempo for too long, the song speeds up, quickly. The song is filled with brilliant Black Metal riffs, even if they are sometimes hard to focus on, due to the crushing drums.

By the time "Necronomicon" begins, the listener should really have a keen grasp on what this album is all about. Yet there are still surprises to be found and each song has its own identity. Again, one may notice that Masse's vocals are rough, even for Death Metal. His style is unmistakable and he does well not to sound like every other vocalist out there.

Next up is a crushing cover version of Venom's "Black Metal," which fits in perfectly with the rest of the Black/Death Metal that is featured here. Obviously, this is much heavier than the original.

Abruptly, "Inferior Devoties" starts up and continues the Satanic Death Metal onslaught. Later in the song there is a good Black Metal riff that doesn't quite get time to breathe, but it makes no difference as the pace slows down and an epic feeling is created with the slow riffs and chanting. However, this does not last long and the song marches forward, seeing the return of the aforementioned riff.

"Infant Sacrifices" is filled with evil, blasphemy and hate. This is what Death Metal should sound like. This song again displays Peter Tägtgren's ability to utilize epic riffs.

And now we come to the most epic song on the whole album, "Attachment To the Ancestor." Slow, doomy riffs fill the listener with a sense of dread and impending doom. The low, whispering voices and acoustic guitar add an eeriness. It becomes apparent that Hypocrisy really shine through during the slower moments, and this is the slowest song on the album. That is not to say that there is no variance in tempo. The song does, indeed, speed up for a bit. Everything is perfectly timed and structured to create the darkest feeling possible. This song is definitely one of the highlights of an album filled with brilliance.

"Althotas" is a great song to close the album with. This one song features Black, Death and Thrash riffs. There seems to be a little added desperation to the vocals and the melodies definitely give the feeling that this is the last assault before the end. The song then slows way down, with a fast tremolo melody playing along with the keyboard outro. Everything continues to slow down to an absolute crawl until there's nothing left but the brief horrific sounds that began the album. Simply one of the best endings to an album, period.

This album is evil and dark Black/Death Metal the way it should be. When compared to other Death Metal albums of the same period, this absolutely kills nearly everything. Eerie guitar work, Hellish screams, epic riffs... This is a classic and stands out as being above and beyond the majority of Hypocrisy's other works. This is the most solid and consistent album that they ever recorded. Buy this or kill yourself.

(6 Sept. 2008)

 
 

A short time after the release of Osculum Obscenum, Hypocrisy found itself with the problem of having to eject their vocalist, Masse Broberg. Rather than recruit a new member, Peter Tägtgren simply stepped into that role as well. He had already done vocals for the title track of their 1992 debut, Penetralia. In an effort to ease himself (and the fans) through this transition, it was decided that the band would record an E.P. In October 1993, the band entered Studio Rockshop to create Inferior Devoties, their first release as a three-piece.

The E.P. begins with a re-recorded version of "Inferior Devoties". Musically, it is extremely close to the L.P. version, with only minor differences. One might assume that the point of doing this was to prove that Peter could handle the earlier material, though it comes off a little weaker than the original version. His vocals were not quite as refined as they would be on The Fourth Dimension. The atmosphere is much the same, with an added crispness to the sound, which is barely perceptible. In a way, it was wise to lead off the E.P. with this song, as it addresses the issue that many would have as it regarded comparing the two vocalists and determining whether or not Peter could fill Masse's shoes, so to speak. While the difference is noticeable, he proves himself fully competent in this role.

The following song is much stronger and is used as the first track (the title track is omitted) on the digipak version of Osculum Obscenum, which includes the songs from this E.P. (as well as from the Pleasure of Molestation E.P.) as bonus tracks. "Symbol of Baphomet" It a fairly intense song, that utilizes some thrash riffs to go along with the Swedish Death Metal assault. There's some otherworldly quality to the solos, which is something Hypocrisy was well known for in those days. About halfway through, the pace slows down a bit and begins building an ethereal atmosphere, which includes some spoken word bit, in the background. Shortly after this, things pick up again and the song ends with much the same intensity that it possessed in the opening moments.

"Mental Emotions" was one of the first Hypocrisy songs that I ever heard. This one begins with a much slower pace, with the doom vibe that the band was quite known for having. After a minute or so, it speeds up while never getting terribly fast (save for a brief blast beat). The production of this E.P. is a bit clearer than on the previous albums, though still a little raw when compared to The Fourth Dimension. Vocally, Peter shows a bit of range as he goes from the deeper growls to the more high-pitched shrieks. This song is very memorable and one that will get caught in your mind after the first listen.

The next song is a re-recorded version of "God Is A Lie". The slight improvement in production is a plus, in this case, as things are more crisp and sped up as well. In fact, it's so much faster than the original that they were able to add some brief sample, near the end, in order to fill in time I would assume. It's an odd sample, as it features part of the intro to the title track of their debut album, mixed with the intro noises from their cover of Venom's "Black Metal", from Osculum Obscenum. Also, the solo seems to have been re-worked and expanded. All in all, it has a bit more punch than the Penetralia version.

Inferior Devoties concludes with a cover of Slayer's "Black Magic", which also appeared on the tribute album, Slatanic Slaughter. Musically, this is very faithful to the original version. Even Hedlund's bass sounds to have a similar tone. The primary difference, of course, are the harsh vocals. Peter does a really good job, showing some variation here. Most surprising of all, is where he actually breaks into a high-pitched scream, at one point. Along with Dissection, Hypocrisy managed to stand out on the tribute album as being among the few to preserve the essence of what Slayer had done. The playing is tight and they've done just enough to add their own touch to it, while maintaining the atmosphere of the original. This is a much better choice for a cover song, than "Black Metal", as it just seems to blend in with the rest of the material, somehow.

This E.P. was successful in giving Hypocrisy fans a taste of the new line-up (sans Broberg), as well as a collection of good songs that places this among my favourite mini albums. The one thing it failed to do, though I doubt this was ever the intent, was to give any indication as to what direction the band would take on the following album. Regardless, this is a quality release and, if it's still available, one that is highly recommended.
 
(19 Dec. 2009)

 
The Fourth Dimension (1994)
 

The Fourth Dimension is the third full length album from Sweden's Hypocrisy. Following Osculum Obscenum, the band went through some changes as Masse Broberg left the band and Peter Tägtgren assumed the duties of vocalist. The Inferior Devoties E.P. served as a transition from old to new, yet none would have been prepared for what was revealed on The Fourth Dimension. Lyrical themes had not yet changed as drastically as many seem to think, based on the title track. Anti-Christian sentiments can still be found, though there is a more mystical and otherworldly quality to the bulk of the lyrics, as opposed to the blatant Satanic nature of the first two albums.

Late one Thursday night, I was listening to "The Haunted Mansion" and was fortunate enough to hear the song, "The North Wind". This song possessed a sorrowful quality that I had not heard on the earlier Hypocrisy albums, and I was immediately drawn in. I made this discovery back in high school, long before my days of purchasing music on the internet, so it took quite some time to locate this album. I had just recently gotten Abducted, not long before, and was eager to fill in the gap and see how things evolved.

The album begins with "Apocalypse". The song starts off with a somber keyboard intro and crushing guitar riffs that fade in and out. This is quite a departure from the Satanic war unleashed in the early moments of the previous L.P. This song is mid-paced, showing Doom Metal influences. Peter's vocals are not far removed from Masse's, yet he manages to also incorporate a few screams and even mournful chants. This song is very epic in nature and one of the classics of Hypocrisy's career.

"Mind Corruption" speeds things up a bit, showing an influence from Carcass. In interviews, Peter mentioned that he wanted this album to sound like Heartwork, being impressed with that album, but was disappointed that it didn't quite turn out like that. Despite the thrashing riffs, this song doesn't entirely shed the atmosphere that was created by the opener. The vocals and, especially, the solo manage to maintain this dismal feeling. Lyrically, it seems to continue with an anti-Christian theme, though not Satanic.

"Reincarnation" is a bit slower and sorrow is dripping from the solo and many of the riffs. It would appear, by this point, that the earlier Florida Death Metal influences have vanished, altogether. While not as slow as the first song, it is quite down-tempo.

The next song goes in the opposite direction. "Reborn" begins like a razor through your flesh, being much faster than the previous songs. The fast tremolo riffs are quite reminiscent of Black Metal and really shine through around the mid-section, where they take center stage. The solo is fast and quite similar to earlier albums. Songs like this maintain the ties with the old works.

"Black Forest" is another mid-paced song. It seems that this is when Hypocrisy really reaches their potential. The riffs are gloomy, like a cold and grey Winter day. The song picks up a bit, with some thrashier riffs in the middle, building the tension while carrying things forward. Some of these riffs would have fit, perfectly, in Osculum Obscenum. After slowing down, briefly, things pick up with a furious solo that then fades into a very bleak and obscure Black Metal riff that is one of the highlights of the album, while also being a very miserable melody that could have been expanded into a song of its own.

"Never To Return" possesses a relaxed pace, while not necessarily being slow. By this time, it is obvious that this album was creating beneath a dismal sky. The atmosphere of sorrow and grief hangs over this, making it difficult to breathe. This song is where the Carcass influence is most prevalent, as a solo is outright stolen from Heartwork. However, wheras Carcass hinted at brilliance and then opted to jump into the next riff, Hypocrisy added to this and allowed it to progress, naturally.

The next song is another throwback to previous albums. "Path To Babylon" almost seems out of place, as it displays somewhat of a shift in direction. This song is much faster and thrashier than the previous two. Faster, more aggressive songs like this probably serve as a break between some of the more miserable, depressing songs, and helps to keep the listener from being completely lulled into a trance. With that said, there is a slower section, late in the song.

"Slaughtered" begins only with drums and bass, creating an ominous feeling. The riffs come in slow and powerful, and the vocals seem to carry more anti-religious sentiment. This particular song could have used a little more work, in my opinion. It is one of the less interesting pieces on this album.

"Orgy In Blood" picks up the pace, once more, yet just doesn't possess the fury of the old albums. While not being bad, at all, the faster songs on this album don't seem to come close to Penetralia or Osculum Obscenum. Where The Fourth Dimension impresses is with the slower, sorrowful songs. However, this song does possess a little bit of this atmosphere, later on.

"The North Wind" was the first song I heard, from this album. This one is well crafted, featuring several changes in pace. The fast parts work well and the slow dirges drag the listener into the depths of the abyss.

"You will stop breathing, as you pass away
Suffocate...Your skin turns blue"

These lyrics are conveyed quite well, as the riffs seem to inspire just such a feeling. As always, Hypocrisy manages to keep a blackened feel to their music. This song is one of the highlights of the album.

"T.E.M.P.T." begins, again, with a faster pace. It seems a little out of place, as it makes too much of an abrupt change in the atmosphere and progression of the album, filled with tremolo riffing and fast drums. However, after a minute or so, it slows down. This is much more fitting of its position on the album, though I'd still have placed it before the previous song.

The other bookend of darkness and despair is the title track, "The Fourth Dimension". This song is as slow as the opener and has the same epic, Doom Metal atmosphere. Here, the otherworldly themes are most obvious, which foreshadows the two albums that follow. The lyrics and vocals convey terror and fear.

"Wake me up from this nightmare"

The song has almost an oppressive feeling, despite the cold and distant production of the album. This is the kind of song that you don't simply listen to; you experience it. The haunting melodies and tormented screams convey the appropriate feelings. While failing in the goal of creating an album similar to Heartwork, Hypocrisy managed to record something far superior.

The album closes with the brief outro, "The Arrival of the Demons". It is eerie and sorrowful, serving as a prelude to Abducted. Listening to this, one can feel life and hope slip away, like the final gasps of breath for a dying man. The Fourth Dimension is like an epic journey for the listener, and it is in these final moments that it takes its toll and leaves you for dead...
 
(5 Dec. 2008)

 
Abducted (1996)
 

Displeased with the guitar sound that was achieved on The Fourth Dimension, Peter Tägtgren went on to create his own studio. The first album to be recorded there was the Black Metal side-project of Hypocrisy, The Abyss. Also worth noting is that this was both the name of the studio and the name of the first song recorded there (a Hypocrisy tune that was later released as an extra). As the band laboured in the studio, from March to October of 1995, the cleaner and more atmospheric guitar tone from the last album was replaced with something much harsher. It would appear that some of the feeling from The Other Side carried over into Hypocrisy, marking a change in the sound. Whatever the case, Hypocrisy's fourth full-length was released in February 1996. This album took the theme that was established on the previous record and continued with it, though only on two songs. Judging by the cover and title, one would expect a concept album. However, that would have to wait until the next release. The lyrical themes found on Abducted range from death to misery and the same anti-Christian stance that was ever-present, throughout the band's career. Lyrically, it's quite eclectic. The same could be said of the music, as well.

It begins with an eerie intro, taken from some sort of UFO program. Under the right circumstances, this has the potential to sound quite creepy. This intro, "The Gathering", leads into one of the most recognizable Hypocrisy songs ever, "Roswell 47". The song starts with a mid-paced melody that is all the more menacing due to the rumbling bass, in the background. This one also has the distinction of being a live favourite, often opening the set. Vocally, this displays even more variation, from Peter, as he now utilizes a thin and raspy voice that had not yet been employed on previous albums. It is more akin to the Black Metal style, though a little too clean for that. The lead solo goes well with the main melodies of the song, in creating an otherworldy effect. That last scream also has a way of freezing your blood.

"Killing Art" is a straight-forward, fast-paced song that returns to more standard lyrical themes. The vocals alternate between a deep and almost gargled sound and the higher-pitched rasp that has been unveiled on this record. There is also brief use of the choir vocals that add a melancholy sense to the proceedings.

"God can't help you now..."

The next song is much slower, conveying a feeling of doom. "The Arrival of the Demons (Part 2)" expands upon the outro from The Fourth Dimension. This song possesses a dismal feeling, accentuated by the soul-piercing lead solo. The vocal approach is quite varied, here, though retaining the woeful choir of clean vocals. Already, by the third song, the band has unleashed three very different songs; mid-paced and creepy, fast and aggressive, as well as slow and depressive.

"Reach for the silence
Reach for an end"

"Buried" starts with the gargled vocal style, soon to turn to the higher-pitched sound established earlier. Musically, it's kind of mid-paced Death Metal that builds as it progresses. A new riff is introduced, after a minute or so, which injects some small epic feeling into the song, as well as some strain of lifelessness that may go undetected.

The title track erupts with fury and vengeance, going straight for your throat. "Abducted" wastes no time in going for the kill, being quite violent and abrasive. The solo is one of the more intense ones, found here, as is the feeling conveyed as Peter screams, "Will they ever leave me alone?"

"Paradox" sees the return of the depressive doom vibe, this time managing to be even more cold and miserable than before. Whereas the previous songs still retained some sinister feeling as well, this one is pure despondency caught on tape. Even the vocals sound sort of half-dead and drained of life.

"Suicide, the only solution
Life is too much of hell and confusion"

Whether or not this is part of the UFO theme is up for debate, as some could stretch it enough to make that connection, though it seems to be another stand-alone track that is far more based in this hellish reality than any sort of science fiction concept. The lyrics may be hard for some to decipher, as they've never been included in Hypocrisy albums, and most online sources are based on haphazard attempts. In some sense, this is interesting as it leaves the listener to interpret on his own and to hear what he wishes, in a way. As the song progresses, the melodies have a way of tearing your chest open and ripping your heart out, destroying its withered remains before your very eyes and leaving you to die in hopelessness.

"Slashing my arms, to let the blood free
Soon to get away from the pain
I have lost all my beliefs
To a world of hypocrisy"

"Point of No Return" picks up the pace, a little bit, though taking a few moments to really get there. Midway through, there's some thrash break that leads into a decent solo. The song then ends with faster tremolo riffs, sounding like something leftover from The Abyss. Hypocrisy always featured elements of Black, Death and Doom, though this seems more overtly in the Black Metal style of guitar playing, as the song fades.

The morose and dismal atmosphere returns on "When the Candle Fades". This is is agonizingly slow, working to suffocate you and send you toward the great oblivion. Again, the vocals are more gargled and raspy. The deeper style would only surface again on the album that followed this one. Again, the concept of the album would appear to be UFOs and alien encounters, though this is only present in a few songs. The true theme of this work seems to be misery, in various forms. The pain may burn in many ways, but it's all the same. In truth, it is in these doom-filled and depressing moments that this band has always truly shined. Peter has a way of conveying feelings of misery and dread, through music.

"When the candle fades
The pain closing in
When the sun turns black
You release your blood and fade away"

"Carved Up" already appeared on the Maximum Abduction E.P., but was re-recorded for the L.P. On the outside, this song would seem more vicious and aggressive than the last one, but there's still some somber sentiment that comes through in the guitar melodies, as well as the passioned screams. As the song slows down, this feeling only increases. Despite the murderous lyrics, there's a miserable quality to the song. The lead solo only accentuates this.

"Reflections" is an instrumental track, resulting from the use of keyboards. The effect is both eerie and sorrowful, as this majestic song builds up and imbues the listener with images of tragedy. While experiencing this, one is prompted to look back on a life of misery and relive every poignant moment of despair and loss... to feel the grief of decades past as it comes alive, once more, and murders your spirit.

This flows into "Slippin' Away", which would seem quite out of place, but somehow fits into the dark mood of this record. This makes use of clean guitars and vocals, having an ethereal effect. The lyrics and delivery are utterly miserable. Life is finally seen for what it really is; a punishment. Something to be escaped. Nothing will ever improve. Death is the only salvation from this burden visited upon us all. Try as we might to fill it with some semblance of meaning, there is nothing. Attempting to understand this anguish will only make it worse. The end is coming. Better to hasten it, with one final act of defiance against this wretched curse.

"Bury the pain, as I bury this knife in my body
Slowly slipping away..."

"Drained" follows suit, being dreary and mournful. The title is very fitting, as the woeful vocals give the impression of someone who has been drained of nearly all signs of life, simply awaiting the end with open arms. The blade has penetrated your flesh and the crimson life is flowing freely. As life ebbs, you reflect on what once was; the sorrow and the loss... You've accomplished nothing and all that you thought you achieved has turned to ashes; incinerated by the black flames of despair. The only peace comes through the knowledge that it is finally over. The end has come. Death is upon you...
 
(6 Aug. 2009)

 
 

By 1997, Peter Tägtgren had become a very busy man. He had been doing the bulk of the songwriting for Hypocrisy, all along. He had also been involved with other projects, such as The Abyss (again, taking up the slack for his regular bandmates), Pain and War. As well, he was getting more and more work as a producer, since opening his own studio. So, it was at this point that he decided to lay his primary band to rest, which would allow him to focus on his new role of producer. That's what we all heard, in November 1997, when The Final Chapter was released.

It wasn't too long after this album had been released that my friend brought it over and tossed it in my stereo. I recall being fairly impressed, though it was more of a background thing as we played some stupid video game and talked about horror movies. However, it was being recorded onto a tape. The next night, with only the flames of a few candles to illuminate the room, I listened to it again, placing all of my focus on the music. As it turned out, this music was exactly what my mood called for, at the time. I listened to it again and again, continuing to do so for weeks and months afterward. I had very little melodic or atmospheric Death Metal in my collection, at the time, and The Final Chapter seemed to fill a gap. Really, it had quite an impact on me and, from this time on, I considered Hypocrisy's music to be beyond a simple exercise in listening; this was something to experience.

"Inseminated Adoption" starts the album with a rather mediocre riff and some incredibly lazy drumming that is typical of the era. However, The eerie guitar solo completely salvages this and renders the previous complaint null and void. The vocals are more in line with what was heard on Abducted, being a mixture that mostly placed focus on the higher-pitched approach. The production isn't quite as raw as on the previous album, though quite similar. The pace of the song is not what I would call fast, but it is one of the faster songs, by comparison. This isn't strong enough to stand alone, but it's not a bad intro for the album.

"I will never be the same"

The next song is where the album really begins to shine. "A Coming Race" is fairly mid-paced, but the brilliant tremolo melodies add another dimension that the previous song lacked. This song features a deeper vocal style than on the previous song, hearkening back to The Fourth Dimension. The atmosphere is incredibly bleak and there is a strain of melancholy that slowly suffocates you. The lead solo then pierces your blackened heart and injects the poison that then courses through your veins. Peter utilizes keyboards to accentuate the dark feeling created here, and does it quite well. This song is a good example of the mixing of Black, Death and Doom Metal. Really, this statement could be applied to the album, as a whole. This is definitely one of the most memorable songs of the band's career.

"We fall into our own decay"

"Dominion" is next. This song is much faster than the previous one, which should now make obvious a pattern. The album is constructed in such a manner that it alternates between the faster songs, that make use of the higher pitched vocals, and the slower ones, with the deeper growls and more depressing feeling. This song opens with a thrashy riff and a shredding guitar solo. It goes on to switch between the thrash and tremolo picking. One would think that the atmosphere would be quite different, but as the song progresses the same mournful feeling of despair returns. There is something apocalyptic about the sound of this record. One cannot but feel that the end is near.

This is followed by one of my personal favourites. "Inquire Within" starts with a dismal keyboard melody that is joined by a clean guitar. It then turns into the heaviest and slowest song, thus far, as Peter employs the deep vocals and the feeling is that of utter doom. It is during these slow songs that Hypocrisy really shine and reach their potential to inspire dark feelings of dread and hopelessness. There is also some use of clean vocals that add even more to the helpless sense of misery and ruin.

"Will I ever reach the end? Will I ever see the light?"

Of course, this is something that we all wonder. It is not necessary to view these lyrics only in the context of the concept that dominates the album. In our own way, each of us seeks an end to this miserable existence. It doesn't matter if we die tomorrow, despite whatever goals we may have set for our earthly sentences. With death, we find ultimate freedom. We achieve freedom from the mortal bonds of this shell of flesh and blood. The blood. How many times can we slice open our veins to let the blood run free, appearing so dark in the light of the moon? How many nights must we spend in agony, wishing for an end? Whether you hope to never wake again or you contemplate the various methods by which you can bring this about, all of us seek this one thing, above all else. It is of no consequence, whether or not you recognize this truth.

"I just want to get away from this hell"

"Last Vanguard" is the most intense song, up to this point. As the previous song ends, you almost feel like you're falling toward an open coffin and yet this one blasts in, unexpectedly, nearly crushing your skull. This is one of the more straight-forward songs on the album, almost feeling as a transition between the slower songs. The vocals and guitars are abrasive and razor-sharp, and it all serves well to add a sense of tension to the album.

The next song is "Request Denied" This one begins with one of the most memorable guitar melodies of the album, as this slow-paced doom track begins. The crushing riffs then fade away, leaving only a clean guitar and keyboard. The drums come in with the vocals, which are clean and dismal. As the guitars return, his voice gets a little higher and more powerful, though keeping the feeling of despair. He then returns to the very deep vocals, adding a nice effect. While listening, you can almost see your whole pathetic life flashing before your eyes. You know that the end is near; you beg for it. The lead solo, somehow, manages to bring these sentiments to life when human language is incapable of conveying such dark thoughts and fears. In the end, we're all dominated by fear. This is the strongest of all human emotions, eclipsing both love and hate. Fear drives us in ways that we are not always aware. As time goes on, we live in horror as all of our fears come true. Our nightmares become reality, leaving us in utter ruin and misery, longing for death.

"Memories of encounters
Will never go away
Scarred for the rest of my life"

"Through the Window of Time" is one of the highlights of The Final Chapter. This is, without a doubt, the fastest and most intense song on the album. The formula is broken, here, as this is a faster song but the vocal approach is deeper than on the other songs of this speed. There's a brilliant Black Metal feeling to the tremolo riff featured in the chorus, giving the feeling that they could have built the whole song off of that. Another one is unleashed, about half-way through, that is joined by a shredding solo. This all comes together to create an atmosphere of chaos and impending doom. Again, the true theme is that of finality or of the end. This isn't just about the end of a musical career; this is heralding the end of an age... the end of life.

The next song is "Shamateur", which is very dismal and possesses a tortured feeling. The vocals are much raspier than on the previous song, while the pace is like that of a funeral march. However, the slow drums are counteracted by the fast tremolo picking, though the melody that is created slithers through your mind, in a slow and methodical manner. The atmosphere is actually quite hellish, as there is no hope in this cursed reality. You are immersed in darkness from which you will never escape. The middle section of the song adds to this feeling, as the lyrics are then whispered in the background, accompanied by a few indecipherable screams. Your skies have long ago gone from deep grey to utter black, as the air you breathe is forever contaminated. Horrible thoughts plague your every waking moment, and you are even tormented in your sleep by miserable nightmares.

"Adjusting the Sun" bursts forth with great speed and energy. This one features a lot of melodic riffs that are easily remembered, as well as lyrics that seem to question everything from religion to civilization itself. There are a variety of tempos utilized, here, making this one of the more dynamic songs on the album. Again, this track seems to add to the overall tension, as things progress toward an end.

The bleak atmosphere if despair and loss returns with "Lies". A slow pace is implemented, here, as is some variation in the vocal delivery. To go along with the deep vocals, you'll also hear some faint clean parts as well. The sound is cold and desolate, much like the abyss in which we all suffer, separately. The title of the song couldn't be more appropriate. Society is built upon a foundation of lies. We're lied to, right from the start. Every time someone tells you that you can be anything you want to be, when you grow up; whenever someone assures you that they'll be there for you; anytime a significant other mouths the three words that we all so desperately need to hear; the way that it is implied that if you study hard and get an education this will somehow improve the quality of your life... nothing but lies. Throughout childhood, the lies are plentiful. They continue on, once we get a little older, but they're usually more realistic. But, at some point, we experience a moment of clarity where it all becomes so obvious. It's all an illusion, from the fictional god that many believe in to the thought that your spouse won't leave the moment things become inconvenient. There is no more "til death do us part", anymore than there is a Santa. The good guy doesn't always win, in the end, and bad things are waiting for all of us. Some people see a little more clearly what this world really is and what kind of fate awaits each of us. The rest are those who are happy in their ignorance. They'll be the first to fall, when the time comes.

"Evil Invaders" is a cover song, originally by the Canadian Thrash Metal band, Razor. Much like their covers of Slayer and Venom, in the past, Hypocrisy manage to stick very close to the original. One might say that they add a much needed dose of power, mostly due to the production. Oddly enough, it fits in pretty well with the rest of the songs. If I didn't know it was a Razor track, I'd never have suspected a thing.

"I've got nothing to live for
Only to stay as another victim"

These words carry a meaning deeper than any concept album. One can feel this with the agonized vocals and depressing guitar melodies. Finally, the end is upon us. This is the song that was intended to close out the last album from this Swedish band. As with most of the other even-numbered tracks, this one is slow and filled with a miserable atmosphere of pain and a longing for death. The main tremolo riff creates a slow melody, joined by the slow-paced drumming underneath. The first lines are spoken, followed by clean singing that gives off an ethereal effect. Then, the deep vocals arrive as Peter screams, "They've been torturing me my whole life". Again, the lyrics are quite open to interpretation, and are the only lyrics ever printed inside of a Hypocrisy album, up to this point.

"It's time to put an end to this pain
I want to get away from this hell"

The cold and miserable tremolo melody cuts into your flesh, opening your veins and allowing your blood to flow freely. Yet you are not concerned in the slightest bit. You welcome the pain. Anything, just to feel that you are still alive. Your existence is nothing but pain and grief. As the blood continues to pour out of the gaping wounds, there is no anxiety. This is what you've waited for, your whole life. The torture and the regret will soon fade with the pathetic existence that you've endured thus far. No more lies or disappointment. No more loss. The pain and sorrow slowly bleeds out of you, as you lay silent in a pool of crimson. The knife in your hand... the smile now forming on your lips. It's all over.

"I must take my life to be free
This will be my final chapter..."
 
(13 Sept. 2009)

Hypocrisy (1999)
 

In 1997, Peter Tägtgren decided that it was time for Hypocrisy to call it quits. He was busy with his new studio and seemed to be burned out, creatively. In the span of a couple years, he had recorded albums with Hypocrisy, The Abyss, War and Pain, as well as the countless albums that he was producing. To go along with this, the other members of Hypocrisy weren't really contributing much of anything. As it would later turn out, this was for the better.

After the release of The Final Chapter, as well as the great performance at the 1998 Wacken Open Air Festival, there was a strong sentiment from their fans to continue the band. Perhaps, other factors played a part as well, but Peter decided against disbanding Hypocrisy and to begin working on a new album. Mikael Hedlund and Lars Szöke actually participated a bit more in the songwriting process, but it didn't appear that this was a good idea. Actually, it would have been more appropriate if the band had died when they originally planned, as they've done nothing but tarnish their legacy ever since.

Hypocrisy was released in June 1999 and it was quite a disappointment for many fans. In trying to be somewhat objective, it's worth noting that the overall sound isn't so different from the previous album, upon first listen. Musically, there are a handful of riffs that would have fit in well, on either Abducted or The Final Chapter. However, there are so many things about this album that just ruin it. To avoid being overwhelmed by the multitude of faults that this release possesses, I'll try to simply focus on them in the order that they appear.

"Fractured Millennium" begins with a keyboard intro. This is problem number one. Now, the band had been making use of keyboards since the beginning. The difference was that they were utilized in a much more appropriate manner. This certainly doesn't compare with the eerie intro to "Pleasure of Molestation". It's way overdone, and the listener will find that, during the course of the album, there is an abundance of keyboards that seem to really take away from the rest of the music. One must keep in mind that, around 1999, the whole Symphonic "Black Metal" movement was in full swing, so this may have had some influence on the terrible abuse featured on this album.

The next flaw may be the one that really murders any potential that this album had. The vocals are awful. In some places, Peter uses the same style that he had developed on the previous couple releases. However, he also incorporates more clean voice mixed in with this, being neither clean nor harsh, but a mixture of the two. It's very weak and wretched. He avoids this on "Apocalyptic Hybrid", for the most part, but it doesn't matter so much as that song is rather boring anyway. More often than not, throughout the duration of the record, he implements his new whining style and it may be the single worst element of the album. The songwriting is pretty weak, overall, but even the tracks that could have been enjoyable end up ruined because of the unnecessary variation in the vocals.

As for the songwriting, itself, the main issue here is consistency. On Abducted and The Final Chapter, the songs all fit together well and each one served a purpose to the album, as a whole. Hypocrisy features too many throw-away songs and rehashed ideas from the past. As a matter of fact, all of the best ideas on this album were already introduced on earlier releases. Perhaps, Peter had run out of ideas. That could be one of the reasons that he wanted to put an end to the band, initially. Or, it could be that the other two members, in being forced to contribute something and wanting to make sure their ideas fit into the band's style, simply ripped off what they'd done before. Possibly, it is a combination of both. There are a few songs that could have been decent, such as "Elastic Inverted Visions" and "Until the End". I've always maintained that Hypocrisy really shined when it came to the slower, almost doom-like songs. Of course, Peter's terrible vocals and the horrid production kill any chance that these had, as well.

That brings me to the final element that killed this album, dead in its tracks. The production is too slick and modern. It's the natural progression of Peter's production style, as one can see the evolution by looking back at the previous few albums. However, though I cannot pinpoint exactly how or why, he crossed the line with this one. An album like The Final Chapter can get away with the modern sound, but the self-titled effort possesses too many faults for this to be overlooked. It could also be that the songwriting, itself, had become too modern by this point.

Though bearing a handful of decent riffs, Hypocrisy is a failure and things would only get worse. In the end, this situation can be summed up with a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche: "One should die proudly when it is no longer possible to live proudly". The Final Chapter should have lived up to its name, and Hypocrisy Destroys Wacken could have served merely as an epitaph for the tombstone of this once respectable band.
 
(27 June 2010)
















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