Friday, December 5, 2008

Hypocrisy - 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. Peeter'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...