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I’ve been listening to Hypocrisy since they released “Abducted” back in 1996 and I must say I was one of the few who never thought they were betraying their fans by playing songs that combined more and more melodic elements into them. I do understand, however, that anyone who started his or her journey through this band’s musical realm with any of the two first releases might have felt it a bit strange as they evolved throughout the 1990s. The thing is, they did release an album or two that had their share of ballad-like tunes, maybe a bit over the desired balance between heavy and melodic which make the Hypocrisy sound so unique. Beyond all that, there is this album.
When I first heard it, I was expecting something in the vein of the self-titled album, or even in the vein of “The Arrival” – a couple heavy songs, very well structured, with crunchy riffs and easily reminded choruses, complemented with slower songs that will allow you to hum along while recovering your breath, before some mild to serious had banger comes along. Yes, I confess that is what I was expecting.
But… is that what I got when I heard this album? Hell, no! From the very opening lines of “Valley of the Damned” to the fading notes of “The Sinner” (for the who don’t have the bonus track, then it is “Sky is falling down”) this whole album brings an astonishing assault on one’s ears, relentless aggression impregnated with awesome melody, very heavy, very fast-forward, very brutal sounding. Bear with me, it is not a brutal death metal album, no way. It is still a melodic death metal work, but one that pushes the notion of “melodic” forward. There are no easy going tracks here, every single track is a full death metal charge. And yet, amazingly enough, Peter and company manage to keep a superb sense of melody attached to the very fabric of each song. The album that best compares to this in terms of structure should be “Into the abyss”. Nevertheless this album doesn’t have mellow themes such as “Deathrow”.
The one song that has a slowed down tempo is “The Quest” and it is still a pretty heavy song, double bass drums and all, with Peter screaming his lungs out, only slower. The rest of the album? Very heavy, very intense, probably one of the heaviest melodic death metal albums ever.
I should also state that Horgh adds a lot to this album with his drumming, especially the way he uses the double bass drumming – very methodic, yet very balanced and (yes, I’m using the word again) heavy.
Mikael does a terrific job; sometimes you can hear his bass as though it were a second guitar. Awesome!
Peter is flawless throughout the entire album: spectacular riffs, over the top solos, and a very strong and versatile voice. Probably the best Hypocrisy studio album to this day.
The long-awaited eleventh album, the successor of the virulent, crushing Virus: A Taste of Extreme Divinity had huge shoes to fill and a legacy to hold together. After a rather long period of many repeated listens and analyses, I can safely say that this album lives up to Hypocrisy standard and, while not quite on the level of the band’s best albums, is a monumental piece of work by itself.
A comparative analysis between the album opener, Valley of the Damned, and its predecessor, the classic Warpath, works as a good comparison for the albums themselves. Aggression, power, strength, harshness and, most important of all, excellent songwriting, all those elements are present in Valley of the Damned. The song is, by all measurable accounts, great, but at the same time it doesn’t feel like a legendary Hypocrisy opener as was Warpath or several earlier numbers.
A Taste of Extreme Divinity feels more direct than every other album in the band’s career, having a particularly loud production and an emphasis on creating a wall of sound. Technicality, especially concerning Horgh’s highly impressive drumming skills, which are used to their fullest capacity for the first time on a Hypocrisy record, is emphasized on the album. His beats are always interesting to listen to and awe-inspiring, while several moments such as on Weed out the Weak and Tamed (Filled with Fear) are pure highlights largely due to his outstanding work. This attention towards the drums’ quality doesn’t conflict with the extremely proficient guitar playing, which Peter Tägtgren never abandons throughout the record. However, what he keeps in terms of high-quality riffs and in the infusion of an atmosphere of aggression, he abandons in pure technicality and flashiness (no major solos are to be found here). This is in no way a problem however, as Hypocrisy has always been about writing appropriate, powerful music and not about showing one’s skills off.
Another major defining element of Hypocrisy’s signature sound (with the exception of the first two albums of course) is Peter Tägtgren’s unrelenting vocal work. In this case, the totality of the vocals are pure harsh growls, which in his particular case are impressive in that, after a certain number of listens, every single word becomes imprinted in the listener’s mind. He has the rare gift of being able to make the most inhuman of growls and yet make his lyrics understandable: for example, I know their classic Fire in the Sky by heart without ever having actually read the lyric sheet, and several of the songs here are developing in a similar direction.
A Taste of Extreme Divinity is a perfect example of a grower, an album which will sound decent, perhaps even unimpressive yet with a few highlights, yet with subsequent listens will become more and more enjoyable until reaching a level of proximity with the listener that all classic metal albums possess. This was the case here, as I know consider almost every song to be a killer and a highlight in its own right whenever listened to individually. These include the first six tracks (with the very slight reservations towards the previously mentioned Valley of the Damned) as well as the memorable and intense Alive, the slow-paced The Quest and the all-round beastly Tamed (Filled with Fear). Unfortunately, the title track isn’t quite as good despite some extremely solid riffs and vocal lines towards the middle, as it attempts to be a more brutal death metal track and ends up feeling insufficient. Similarly, Sky’s Falling Down is a pretty good song, with a lot of excellent moments, yet the driving force of the song simply doesn’t feel right due to that imperfect, almost awkward beginning, and a strange overall structure.
Lyrically speaking, this album may very well be the band’s most varied. All the themes of previous records surface here, from war (Valley of the Damned) to gory criminality (Hang Him High), wanton violence (Weed out the Weak), all inconspicuously mixed with the band’s signature fascination with extraterrestrial influence (Solar Empire, Global Domination) and some anti-Christian sentiment (Alive). All these themes are approached intelligently and originally, and they make for genuinely interesting lyrics to read and analyse.
Upon first experiencing it, A Taste of Extreme Divinity may be disappointing to a considerable number of Hypocrisy fans due to its apparently being generic in comparison to its predecessors. However, that’s a potentially shallow viewpoint because all Hypocrisy albums are meant to be enjoyed after a number of spins, which is when their brilliance can be rendered fully apparent. Although it’s not as brilliant as some of the other’s other masterpieces, this is a great album and it certainly proves Hypocrisy’s capacity of writing high-quality music even today. That, and its cover art is exceptionally powerful, evocative and just plain appropriate for the music within.
Anyone who’s anyone should be quite aware of the wacky, strange road HYPOCRISY’s undergone since their inception. From half-way decent REAL death metal with Satanic undertones to the patron saints of the melodic Swedish sense with an obsession with aliens, Freaky Pete and company are anything if not glib. And while these few twists and turns have been abound to turn heads time and again (“Catch-22” being the biggest example), these Abyss Studio troublemakers continue to plug along with seemingly no other reason than self-gratification.
Which brings us to this new recorded work.
For better or worse, HYPOCRISY still has the tenacity to couple brutal heaviness and harmonious leanings in that trademarked Swedish fashion that’s been their bread and butter during their post-Magus Caligula years. Such is the case for “A Taste of Extreme Divinity”, taking in the elements that made the Tagtgren-led albums as entertaining as they were, where the dark and atmospheric side of “The Arrival” meets the unrivaled chaos of “Into the Abyss”, for example. That combination of wrecking-ball guitar tandems, intergalactic synth usage, Horge’s galloping percussion usage and Freaky Pete’s patented, yet still strong after all these years, demonic growls still shows that the mighty HYPOCRITES can still be considered alien kings among men in the melodic death metal world. Definitely more entertaining than your everyday whatever-core band and with plenty of lasting appeal, “A Taste…” should give the metal crowd plenty to shoot for…from “Valley of the Damned” to “Weed out the Weak” to “Global Domination”, where a demonic dominance from the mountains of Mars is as practical as anything realistic one can think of.
So all in all the latest HYPOCRISY was quite the entertaining chapter in their ongoing legacy. Taking all that has made their existence as great as it’s been and enveloping the listener with cavalcades of riffs definitely gets a thumbs up in my book.
Allright, here I go with my first review on this site. Nice meeting y'all and stuff...
Now, about Hypocrisy's latest output.
Let me first say that I am a huge Hypocrisy fan, and I've followed and loved their music through most of their career. That statement, along with the rating I gave to this album, along with the hype that goes around the record might seem contradictory to the reader. Believe me, it isn't. It isn't a case of failed super-high expectations, either. I don't expect Hypocrisy to make an album as good as Abducted or The Fourth Dimension, and I certainly don't expect them to re-play their Penetralia-era music, as they can do neither of those things. I just expect them to put out a decent record that contains good and imaginative songwriting. Hell, they can play pop music for all I care, as long as they do JUST that.
Needless to say, I don't think they've done that here. My case is that this is a marginally mediocre record that very few people will give repeated listens over the years, and not even the dozens that have written hyped-up reviews for it over the past few months. That's what will happen, and it'll happen for good reason.
First of all, the songwriting. The disc suffers the same fate as a large number of so-called "comeback" albums. The band gets the sound, the style, the aggression down, but after a long career of writing and playing music, they just... don't care as much anymore. They come in the studio, play the first thing that comes to mind that resembles some of their early work, and that's that. Sorry folks, I've listened to metal music all my life, and that's just not good enough.
The songs on this album are unimaginative, unmemorable, and completely uninteresting. Read the good reviews written for this album. Almost all of them praise the aggression, the loudness, the speed... all of which are often good, but massively overemphasized aspects of metal music. But come on, who cares how they play those songs if the songs themselves aren't even remotely good? If I record a loud and fast album that plays tremolo D-flat from start to finish, who will listen to that? Isn't there supposed to be more to good music? (yes there is). Are we all turning into drones that eat-up anything that blasts fast and loud? (yes, we are).
The second (and bigger) problem is the production and mastering: It's TOO LOUD. Albums have been mastered louder and louder over the years, but this must be one of loudest productions ever put to disc, even compared to the metal releases of the past few years (at hindsight, Virus suffered from the same problem as well). This loudness comes with a massive cost: Everything is massively distorted, there's no definition, all instruments have been mushed into a jointly beating static, drums have no kick whatsoever, and your ears will hurt along with a headache if you turn up the volume for an extended period of time (which doesn't happen even with the most brutal but well-produced albums). If this is what the metal world demands by valuing "loudness" to such an extent, then they are getting exactly what they deserve: An ear-hurting mushiness of non-music.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'd like to shelf this one and give The Fourth Dimension another spin.
Last year Hypocrisy corrected a previous 'mistake' by re-issuing an improved version of their controversial Catch 22, and as if to beg additional forgiveness from jaded fans, they have now released their best album in...many years. A Taste of Extreme Divinity offers exactly what you want from this band, whether it's the old school, pummeling death metal of their origins (Obsculum Obscenum, The Fourth Dimension) or the more atmospheric touches they would carry with them into the 21st century.
This album may not be loaded with the most memorable riffing of their career, but it is tight as fuck and every song offers at least something to clench your fist or bang your head against. "Valley of the Damned" is a meat grinder, with thrashing rhythms and classic, simple melodies for added depth, in true Hypocrisy style. "Hang Him High" opens with a nicely sampled quote from Richard 'The Iceman' Kuklinski, before rolling out another of the band's myriad slower paced hymns, anchored in sinister grooves, chimes and melodic riffing. "Solar Empire" is another such piece, with some of the best moments on the album. The album continues to shift between this style ("Global Domination", "The Quest") and faster, old school tracks ("Weed Out the Weak", the title track, etc.)
I can't remember the last time I had this much fun with one of Peter Tägtgren's records, and if you're a Hypocrisy fan (from any era), you'll easily find fulfillment. It culls all the strengths of the band's back history and prepares to crumbles the walls of the decade to come.
Highlights: Hang Him High, Solar Empire, Global Domination, The Quest
I haven’t heard a Hypocrisy album since 1999s self titled release. I liked that album a fair bit but for whatever reason, lost all touch with the bands subsequent albums. I heard vague rumblings about having gone nu-metal and Slipknot inspired somewhere along the way but was happy enough with the IVth Dimension and Abducted to really bother checking out the band’s current stuff.
So anyway, Hypocrisy’s latest album A Taste of Extreme Divinity sees the band carrying on like its business as usual. I’m not really sure what the years that I missed out on led to for this band, but the new album sounds pretty much like the logical follow up to the self titled album. It’s Swedish, heavy as fuck, melodic without breaking into any Gothenburg clichés and above all, when the mid paced death metal happens, it sounds just like Hypocrisy used to.
Stand out tracks include album opener Valley of the Damned which charges out of the speakers like it has a point to prove and comes with some very cool riffs while Solar Empire moves between mid paced and heavy to fast paced and heavy while always being catchy and some great vocals from Tagtren. Weed out the Weak is more super fast vintage Swedish death metal and sounds like a faster Desultory. Tamed – Filled with Fear is another terrific song coming in at the end of the album with its catchy as fuck groove, melody and a chaotic almost black metal like section. Taste the Extreme Divinity is more death metal that works really well and something Hypocrisy used to do superbly in the old days with the mixing and matching of mid paced tempos with all out blast.
The band sounds great on this album. There is no changing with time like In Flames, or a redundant formula like Dark Tranquility. Right from the opening riff of Valley of the Damned, you know this is Hypocrisy and they aren’t really doing anything new here but man, they’re doing it well. I’m quite happy I checked this album out and for long time fans or newcomers to the band; A Taste of Extreme Divinity should be well worth your time.
Originally written for http://www.kvltsite.com
Hypocrisy have had a varied history that has seen a lot of band members come and go. They've also endured some career-ending issues that did, for a slight time, put the band on ice. And I think most of us applauded when they returned, releasing a quite different self-titled album, the heavy Into the Abyss, Catch 22 (with all the criticism that came with it), the somewhat more streamlined yet definitely metal The Arrival, and on forward towards what is considered their best recording, Virus. All of these Hypocrisy albums, not to mention the ones before the band went on hiatus, had different sounds, different elements, and progressed a bit while still maintaining the Hypocrisy guitar tone, ear for subtle melody and great production.
So, it confuses me that A Taste of Extreme Divinity brings nothing new to the table. Instead, the songs have ideas and elements from other songs picked and chosen from previous albums, making this the album that Hypocrisy would've sounded like if all of those elements were there from day one. For the record, the production is still top-notch, but I doubt anyone would expect a "Saint Anger" from Abyss Studios.
Album opener The Valley of the Damned is definitely a fast, angry and heavy slab of aggression, with a decent mixture of Hypocrisy's notorious melody thrown into the mix. And Peter's vocals, usually the higher-register growl / scream, show some impressive low-ended pitch, almost as if we've rewound the clock 15+ years when he took over vocal duties.
This is where things get problematic. These are all decent songs, but they don't always stand out like they have on other releases. Want some chanting, clean vocals and a spoken intro? Try Hang Him High. Do you kind of miss the stronger song writing from Virus? Solar Empire will help you with that. Need some high speed music with some real melody? Weed Out the Weak will be right up your metal alley, then. As a matter of fact, every song on here seems like it was written with another era or even specific song in mind. If you're anything like me, you will consider this a killer album that could easily sum up the career of Hypocrisy if you can't take them all with you. It's also good for someone who has heard little to no Hypocrisy, as this will give you a taste of what their back catalog is like. Everything from Penetralia to Virus is covered in A Taste of Extreme Divinity. This is neither good nor bad; just an observation.
With all that said, there are some definite points of interest here. Taste the Extreme Divine could be in their top 3 best songs since they regrouped, starting with a crushing rhythm that ushers in an interesting lead fill, some blast-beats and almost black metal riffing before the vocals kick in. And it doesn't let go of your throat until the song is over. No Tomorrow hearkens back to the slower moments of The Final Chapter, and the aliens make way for their return in the lyrics. The post-chorus riff in particular seems like a The Final Chapter outtake.
The Quest is among their slower songs, once again recalling slower moments from The Final Chapter or Abducted. And finally, Sky is Falling Down is not the usual Hypocrisy album closer - this one is more on par with the beginning of Virus (Warpath) as opposed to the ending of it (Living to Die). There are no clean vocals, and this certainly doesn't sound like it could possibly fit on a Pain album after making a few alterations. Living to Die and All Turns Black were both mellow endings to their respective albums. Sky is Falling Down is an epic, kicking and screaming closer to a great album.
One bad thing for some people, that I can thankfully look past, is the inevitable Catch 22 comparison in Alive. But there are some interesting vocal effects (meaning, not natural), and the chorus riff is pretty damned catchy. Of course, I can look at Catch 22 with different eyes now, so this isn't too bad to my ears. It could almost be "the single" if it weren't for the anti-religion stance in the lyrics. The only other bad thing I can think of it that Global Domination sounds like filler to me: it has no memorable or defining moment for me.
In a nutshell, this is filled with great riffs, superior drumming, real death metal vocals, and some fucking amazing leads. This isn't Virus II: this is Virus contaminating all of Hypocrisy's previous releases and injecting it painfully into your ear drums. And you know what? Most Hypocrisy fans wouldn't have it any other way. And yes, this is the second album to have all the lyrics printed on the inlay, and they aren't half bad for a guy who lives in Sweden.
Do you remember when melodic death metal was awesome (this obviously applies to fans of melodic death metal so if you’re saying “no” then why are you reading a review of a newer Hypocrisy album?) back in the mid and late 1990’s? When bands like In Flames were still relevant, Dark Tranquillity hadn’t yet become a formulaic band, when At The Gates were breaking new ground? A time when even second tier bands like Sacrilege (SWE) and Gates Of Ishtar were awesome? Well I do, and that sub-genre got over saturated really fast and the quality suffered tremendously as a result. By the time 2002 or 2003 rolled around, I was sick to death of it aside from my all-time favorites. Between then and now, I have heard few melodic death metal albums that have not only held my interest but blew me away or at least surprised me with quality. A Taste Of Extreme Divinity can now be added to the list and can stand right alongside a slew of killer 90’s melodic death metal albums.
There’s plenty of blazing on this album and it starts right away with the opening track, 'Valley Of The Damned', which sets the tone nicely for what is to follow. It kicked me on my ass from the first riff and left me excited for what the rest of the album had in store. That is exactly what I expect out of an opening song. As with past Hypocrisy albums (at least for me), where the band truly shines is in their mid-paced songs and this record has some fantastic ones. 'No Tomorrow', 'Alive', 'Global Domination' and 'Tamed “Filled With Fear”' are true highlights on this album. They’re catchy, they’re heavy and they serve well to remind one of Hypocrisy classics like 'Roswell 47', 'Fire In The Sky', 'Deathrow (No Regrets)' and to some extent, the fantastic 'Elastic Inverted Visions'. The great thing about that is that these songs don’t just remind you of the glory days—they stand up to them. The blazers like 'Valley Of The Damned' and 'Hang Him High' will remind you of faster, bludgeoning tunes like 'Warpath' or maybe 'Killing Art' and are every bit as good, if not better. That said, there’s plenty to like on this record if you liked Virus and there’s plenty to like on this record if you liked Abducted, The Final Chapter and/or Into The Abyss. Lyrically, this album retains Tagtgren’s favorite themes that we’ve all come to know and love since the great days of Abducted.
As for the production, it’s what we’ve come to expect from Peter Tagtgren. It’s not anything that will really wow you or turn you off of the album so don’t expect to be blown away in that department. It’s a good production job, on par with past releases like Virus, The Arrival, Abducted and Hypocrisy. Like those albums, the production of A Taste Of Extreme Divinity is crisp without compromising heaviness or atmosphere—it’s a signature Tagtgren production job. No complaints there.
For those of you still hoping that Hypocrisy will churn out something like Osculum Obscenum again, don’t bother with this because those days are long gone. For those of you that were hoping for perhaps a blend of Virus and their work in the late 1990’s, this is definitely for you. I can confidently say that this is Hypocrisy’s best record since their Hypocrisy offering. Into The Abyss was a pretty good album but I’m liking this one a lot more already. It rolls over Virus with ease in my opinion, though that was a good and welcome Hypocrisy record. This is the record I’ve been wanting from Hypocrisy for a long time. This is what should have come after Into The Abyss. Not the abomination that was Catch 22 nor the (although decent) we’re-trying-to-regain-our-footing album The Arrival. No, no…definitely this. This is an easy contender for album-of-the-year. Buy or die!
*Originally written by me for www.metallusmaximus.com