Hypoxia – Abhorrent Disease Review

Look, Jack, I love forward-thinking freakjazz just the same as you. My loins glisten just the same as yours at the dulcet tones of avant-garde doomfolk. Ambient ethno-funeral grind floods my dopamine receptors just as it does yours and hers and theirs and every one of our simian ancestors that ever fell down from a damn tree, saw their distant cousins swinging with wild abandon from prehensile tails, and thought, “Well, I guess let’s see what intelligent music that gal at the record store might recommend today.”

Release date: April 26, 2019. Label: Selfmadegod Records.
But if you would just can it for ten seconds, could I remind you of one of life’s pure pleasures? Recall to your sophisticated simian attention an image of death metal. What does death metal look like to you? What is your Platonic ideal of metal in its deathy form? If you said Rodin’s The Thinker, please get out. (If you said it in French as Le Penseur then please get even more out. Just, get all the way out.) Yes, it is okay that sometimes death metal is smart, but please focus – we’re trying to do something here. The image of death metal that I would prefer your addled ape brain might have summoned looks like this:

A water balloon filled with liquid concrete being shot into a Rube Goldberg contraption that’s nothing but two junkyard dogs punting it back and forth to each other and sniffing themselves while waiting for the return.

Scientifically, can we not agree that this is death metal? The disgusting miscreants (wonderful, elegant people, I’m sure) of New York’s Hypoxia would like to help convince you of the truth of this science. You see, death metal, like science, exists in eternal truth outside of your opinions of it. This is all As It Should Be.

But to the point: Hypoxia sounds like a bunch of proud malingerers around the living legacy of True Ignorant New York Death Metal (TINY-DM), and that, friends, is I think just what you need in your life on this day and all days. TINY-DM is a grand tradition that clots and snarls and thwups and whorfs around such names as Malignancy, Internal Bleeding, Pyrexia, Mortician, and of course Thee Lords And Truest Kings, Suffocation – if you know these names and know these sounds, you don’t know them with your ears, but rather with your bruised shins and bloodied nose and palpated organs. This is purely physical music that moves bodies to pledge fealty to the eternal gospel of the lurch.

On their excellent second album Abhorrent Disease, Hypoxia reaches peak power when they spin out into chunky breakdowns that fall somewhere between pure knuckle-walking thunk fests and carefully plotted choppering tradeoffs between Carolina Perez’s drums and the guitar lines. On “Dark Desires,” for example, Perez’s fills accent the riffing on offbeats like some kind of sewer-ooze breakbeat. On “Unhallowed Unforseen,” her snare-cracks egg the whole scene forward down a sinuously catchy melody. Even on a relatively straightforward track like “The Awakening,” the mid-song solo section that opens up around 1:52 or so finds the band’s guitars doing smarter things than you might expect, but then it’s followed up by “Despise,” which takes an almost obscene pleasure in grinding things slower and letting session player Michael Poggione’s bass rattle the walls.

Though they tilt a little bit both to the brutal and technical side of death metal, Hypoxia is neither as gargle-blurred as so much brutal death metal, nor as coked-out frantic and spit-shined as so much tech death. Instead, their sound hews much closer to slightly older school hallmarks of the genre. That is, the band’s instrumental approach favors precision and knotty fretwork, but the overall goal seems to be a slow motion sort of pummeling whiplash, which means that Hypoxia sometimes sounds like the tech-y rudeness of Dying Fetus filtered through the swamp-ass trudge of prime Obituary. Mike Hrubovcak’s vocals are excruciatingly articulated, and he moves from mostly scuzz-gut growls to slightly pinched raspier high tones with… well, not ease, but at least with genre-appropriate discomfort.

Abhorrent Disease, like the influences it so proudly and grimily wears on its sleeve, is not an album particularly interested in nuance. It Don’t Care. But, crucially, the reason the whole thing works so well is that just like the very best of TINY-DM, it is very smart about exactly how stupid it is. That is to say, these cats know just what they’re doing to tickle your idiot lizard brain, and if your idiot lizard brain could do one smart thing in its entire goddamned life, could you please just turn off the ambient ethno-funeral grind for two seconds and get crushed to dust by this just like you should?

Posted by Dan Obstkrieg

Happily committed to the foolish pursuit of words about sounds. Not actually a dinosaur.

  1. Fredrik Schjerve April 16, 2019 at 7:58 am

    I don’t usually do much of commenting around here anymore, but sometimes you just gotta tip your hat to a good review. Yes, reviews should totally be as entertaining as the art it examines!


  2. Review of the year, every year. I imagine there’s some tongue in your cheek in this piece, but even so it soothed my aching anus after a 2018 of riffless afro-norwegian folk funk.

    Also, this is one hell of an album. It’s hard to find anything that stands out to me anymore after an endless stream of death metal adjacent slams, blasts, grunts, burps, and blorches. Both in my own life and in the world at large. But this cuts through the mire.


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