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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.