Sunday, June 27, 2010

Hypocrisy - s/t (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, their 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.