A Devil’s Dozen – Hypocrisy

Throughout the 1990s, few European metal bands were as consistently great, deceptively complex, and downright catchy as Sweden’s Hypocrisy. From their earliest, more purely death metal days of Penetralia and Osculum Obscenum through to their evolution into a deeply atmospheric melodic death metal band by the middle of the decade, all Peter Tägtgren, Mikael Hedlund and crew knew how to deliver was incredible quality. They were brutal, beautiful, and terrifying, in possession a space-frigate-full of riffs and Tägtgren’s legendary vocal abilities. Plus, by 1996’s Abducted they were setting the bar for production thanks to the man’s skills at the boards (skills you’ve heard on countless other albums, to be sure).

But here’s the thing… Hypocrisy wasn’t just dabbling in variety, they were better at all of their styles than most bands that focused specifically on said styles. Sure, neither of their early two albums can match up with an Into the Grave or Dark Recollections in terms of pure Swedeath mastery, but both are more than capable. In terms of melodic death metal, they were better than almost everyone, with only a handful of Gothenburg’s best (and okay, Heartwork) even coming close, and few of those bands maintained the touches of brutality that Hypocrisy did on even their most melodic records. Then there’s the doom/death. No one ever calls Hypocrisy a “doom/death” band, at least not directly, but they wrote some very pure, and very bleak doom/death metal that stands up with the genre’s best. Thankfully, it’s a well from which they keep drawing, with aughties comebacks Virus and A Taste of Extreme Divinity each having a monster or two in the style.

Let’s recap… In terms of pure death metal, they were better than many, if not quite most. In terms of melodeath, they’re on Mt. Rushmore. And in the doom/death arena? Hard to argue that they weren’t and aren’t one of the best.

So naturally, a lot of folks’ initial reaction when they hear “Hypocrisy” is to think of…

Alright alright… to be fair, Tägtgren built a career out of lyrics based on alien abductions, cover-ups, and conspiracies. The man saw a gap in the death metal market and filled it. Besides, in the grand scheme of death metal, hadn’t we all had enough Satanism by the time “Roswell 47” crashed? This was the decade of The X-Files after all, and I personally have never been able to separate certain Mulder and Scully plots from certain Hypocrisy songs, which is half of the fun.

And that brings us back around. Hypocrisy was and is a very fun band, but they maintain that characteristic while delivering some very deft songwriting that covers a wide gamut of extreme metal. Below is only a small sampling of their best, as one could make an argument that they have as many as eight classic (or near-classic) records. If you are among the uninitiated, hopefully this will serve as a primer. If you are a long time fan, then get to arguing, because as is always the case with these lists, we did plenty of that ourselves.

Enjoy, and try not to get probed.

[ZACH DUVALL] 

•••••

roswell 47

[Abducted, 1996]

I don’t mind telling you that one of the reasons Abducted is my favorite Hypocrisy album is the ridiculous one-two punch of “Roswell 47” and “Killing Art.” Although the album’s timing still smacks suspiciously of X-Files coat-tailing, Tägtgren and co. effectively wield the paranoia and mystery of Roswell’s UFO lore into a beautiful plateau of darkly melodic death metal, particularly in the tight intervals of the indelible chorus. After a great lingering scream of “forty-seveeeeeeeeeeeeeeen!” the band tilts into a bridge that shows one of the things they’ve done so well throughout their career: a twin-guitar figure that’s just sideways enough to set it apart from typical Swedish death metal but still melodic enough to forge the extremity into a hummable form. Alien alchemy abounds on this career-defining album.

[DANHAMMER OBSTKRIEG]

•••••

WAR-PATH

[Virus, 2005]

In 2005, Hypocrisy has all the makings of a veteran band long past their prime. And then, like a phoenix rising “from the ashes below” came Virus and “War-Path.” Never before (NEVER) had the band begun an album with such furious devastation. The blazing intro/verse tremolo riff absolutely flattened anything in its path, not to mention any doubts that this band still had plenty left in the tank. But beneath the Horgh-hammered blasts, fresh violence, and wink-wink lyrics (a new era had begun, indeed) sat the same reliable Hypocrisy that delivered a run of classics in the 90s. It’s just that, for the first time in over a decade, Tägtgren and company actually had something to prove. This was indeed the sound of a band on a war path, ready to start their second great era, and it was only the kickoff to one of their greatest albums.

[ZACH DUVALL]

•••••

FIRE IN THE SKY

[Into The Abyss, 2000]

 

Hypocrisy followed the melodic, broader sci-fi detour of their self-titled album with one that was more typical both musically and lyrically. At the center of it (quite literally) was this tale of alien abduction, the spiritual sibling of “Roswell 47” in almost every way, from the mid-paced trudge to Peter Tägtgren’s snarling vocal. Thanks to the to the cosmic ambience created by the perfectly layered synthesizers, you can almost feel yourself getting beamed up, before “running from the shadow” and “lying on a cold bed” during the ridiculously hooky double-chorus. “Fire in the Sky” comes off a lot like a mini-movie (no, not that one), and it’s just about everything you could want from a close encounter. Well, except for the anal probe, but you probably didn’t want that anyway.

[DAVE PIRTLE]

•••••

UNTIL THE END

[Hypocrisy, 1999]

 

Due to having a catalog deep in pretty monstrous albums, the pick for “favorite” Hypocrisy record typically varies from listener to listener, but for many, that pick is the varied and melodic self-titled offering from 1999. And that album’s masterful centerpiece is “Until the End.” Surrounded by songs that are far heavier (“Fusion Programmed Minds”) or even more ballad in nature (“Disconnected Magnetic Corridors”), “Until the End” is the sorrowful heartbeat of the album, pulsing in both sound and execution, speaking of inevitable death and pain as the music soothes. As the song emerges from a quiet repetition of its intro, a vicious scream delivered by Tägtgren expresses full dread of the inevitable “end,” but the ensuing melodic hook offers a kind of acceptance, painting a full range of emotions like few words ever could. When someone tells you that Hypocrisy was just all about the aliens, play ‘em this one.

[ZACH DUVALL]

•••••

LET THE KNIFE DO THE TALKING

[Virus, 2005]

 

In 2005, Hypocrisy came roaring back from some highly mediocre albums with the monstrous Virus, which completely eschewed aliens, science-fiction, and Satan to delve into even darker territory – the darkest depths of the human mind. With lots of carnage, lots of blood, and new drummer Horgh from Immortal on board, the band sounded completely rejuvenated, and Virus plays out like varying degrees of horror/slasher flicks. This track, the twisted psychological peak, is both lyrically terrifying and musically foreboding, with a few nods to fellow death metal stalwarts Morbid Angel. Whether bound to a chair or cowering in a corner, the antagonist is coming for you. With production as sharp as said knife, Hypocrisy has never sounded more menacing.

[DAVE PIRTLE]

•••••

CARVED UP

[Abducted, 1996]

 

At least two things are true of Abducted: it is a great album, and it is a weird album. After its utterly rampaging and somewhat thematically unified first half, the second half gets… strange. From the death-crunch of “When the Candle Fades” to the psychedelic goth balladry of “Slippin’ Away” and “Drained,” it starts to feel more than a little slapdash. What’s the obvious move, then? Well, apparently it’s to stick one of Hypo’s most hugely disgusting, mosh-friendly melo-crushers of all time right in the middle of it. “Carved Up” barrels forward with the precise tempo and carriage that Amon Amarth would eventually turn into their trademark, Tagtgren’s snarl dripping with gross bile before the whole thing descends into a breakdown gigantic enough to power the PA at half a dozen New England hardcore festivals. Turn it up and get hypocri-wrecked.

[DANHAMMER OBSTKRIEG]

•••••

PLEASURE OF MOLESTATION

[Osculum Obscenum, 1993]

 

Despite its unfortunate title, “Pleasure of Molestation” is a standout from Hypocrisy’s pure death metal period, and to put minds at ease, from what I can decipher, the track is not a pro-pedophilia piece, but rather a more mundane “Fuck Jesus” piece. Though its atmospheric intro foreshadows the band’s grander designs on later work, “Pleasure of Molestation” is straight-forward, brutish, and ugly death metal, built from only a handful of riffs. With no compositional twists, no technical gymnastics, scant melody, and only brief, but heroic solo serving as its climax, “Pleasure of Molestation” gets over the old-fashioned way: by sounding evil as fuck.

[JEREMY MORSE]

•••••

SOLAR EMPIRE

[A Taste of Extreme Divinity, 2009]

 

If you’re Peter Tägtgren, and by 2009 you’d long since exhausted all of the most obvious alien stories and myths for your songs, you… go to the alien stories that mix in Egyptian Mythology. Yes, “Solar Empire,” one of the many highlights from the monstrous A Taste of Extreme Divinity, is about Stargate. But you know what? That movie was fun (Spader not playing the douche? What?), and this track absolutely kicks ass, with hints of dread in the verses and a chorus that drops with all of the weight of Ra’s pyramids. Very few metal bands have ever been able to achieve something so simultaneously infectious and leveling, and no other band could ever get away with this lyrical subject matter and not be taken over by the tongue-in-cheek factor. With Hypocrisy, such characteristics are wielded like a magic wand, enhancing both the beastly, raise-your-fists HEAVY METAL aspects and the fun, all at once.

[ZACH DUVALL]

•••••

ADJUSTING THE SUN

[The Final Chapter, 1997]

 

As melo-death goes, it doesn’t get much better than “Adjusting the Sun.” Hard-charging, harmony-rich, and glistening with that Abyss Studios sheen, the track moves from strength to strength, with textbook Gothenburg riffs (Even though Hypocrisy is based closer to Stockholm), a few dizzying fretboard runs to add intensity, and a simple, but catchy chorus, sweetened with just a hint of clean vocals. Later, however, the track bulks up considerably, with some chunky grooves that have 1997 written all over them. The track’s most sublime moment, however, comes at 2:40 when the groove and the Gothenburg synthesize into a riff so good, Amon Amarth made a whole career out of it. “Adjusting the Sun” is a track that sounds very much of its time, but there is no expiration date on good songcraft.

[JEREMY MORSE]

•••••

TIME WARP

[Hypocrisy, 1999]

 

My earliest memories of Hypocrisy are of their self-titled album, and this track in particular which I first heard on a PIT Magazine sampler (and at first, didn’t even know was on this album). I also recall a much younger yet much more knowledgeable – and slightly elitist – radio colleague rendering a rather scathing opinion of it. Once I finally associated them, I never really understood why. He approved of this track, though. “Time Warp” has always jumped out in any context, with its shouted vocal, thrashing hypermelodics, and blistering guitar solo. More importantly, though, it served as my personal gateway to the band’s formidable back catalog, which shone a little light on my colleague’s opinion while opening up a whole new dimension. Even as a bit of an anomaly, it holds its own against the strongest material in the band’s discography.

[DAVE PIRTLE]

•••••

REQUEST DENIED

[The Final Chapter, 1997]

 

The thing about The Final Chapter’s “Request Denied” is that, when you first hit play, you have no idea exactly how much the song is going to level you within just a few moments. The intro is heavy, but not in an intimidating manner, and the verse is a mix of soft guitars and even softer vocals. But then the chorus just lands on top of the listener like a 50 megaton weight. Surging, ludicrously heavy doom/death riffs, drums that are simple to the point of being commanding, and some of Peter Tägtgren’s best deep growls all combine into a devilishly satisfying moment that would stand on its own if the song didn’t progress further. Oh but it does, with a brief acoustic/classical guitar interlude that gives way to a dual lead bridge which seamlessly morphs into a solo. Just when you aren’t paying attention, Hypocrisy likes to get you with some really nifty songcraft, and “Request Denied” is one of their sneaky best.

[ZACH DUVALL]

•••••

PENETRALIA

[Penetralia, 1992]

 

Like nearly all of death metal’s vanguard cohort, Hypocrisy’s debut was a notably cruder, messier, and more violent outburst than much of what would follow. Nevertheless, Penetralia‘s colossal album-closing title track has enough of both the rawness that the everything-was-better-on-the-first-demo nerds crave and the germinal sophistication that would catapult Hypocrisy into a fairly elite rank of melodic-leaning DEATH metal bands in a few short years. After its too-long atmospheric intro, the song kicks into some fiercely Kreator/Slayer-styled carpal tunnel riffing and two-step drumming, but it’s the midsection – a restrained semi-gallop that gradually builds back up with layers of guitars, guttural snarls, and a return of the keys from the intro – that reveals Hypocrisy already as a band with some progression behind their aggression.

[DANHAMMER OBSTKRIEG]

•••••

APOCALYPSE

[The Fourth Dimension, 1994]

 

The Fourth Dimension was a major step towards Hypocrisy becoming HYPOCRISY for many listeners. This was when Peter Tägtgren took over on lead vocals; this is where melody took a greater role in the songwriting; and this is where they fully indulged their DOOM side. “Apocalypse” is without a doubt one of the finest doom/death songs ever written, and likely the bleakest, most harrowing song of Hypocrisy’s career. A simple and very lonely keyboard line opens the song before other elements – monolithic riffs, Tägtgren’s unrefined-at-this-stage growls, and hints of melody – show their faces. The music is so barren, so absolutely desolate that the would-be-typical antichristian lyrics are given extra purpose by their surroundings. This was more than just another metal song rebelling against religion—this was a metal song calling out religion for what it is: ruin.

[ZACH DUVALL]

•••••

Posted by Last Rites

GENERALLY IMPRESSED WITH RIFFS

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