Sunday, September 13, 2009

Hypocrisy - The Final Chapter (1997)

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 best 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 did make sure to record it 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 real. 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, as nightmares torment your nights.

"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..."