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After standing on the verge of breaking up for some time around 1997, Hypocrisy needed something strong to mark their comeback. Therefore they dived into writing new material, and the result was an album that was originally meant to be called "Cloned", but for various reasons that title was dropped so the band made the decision to simply call it "Hypocrisy", to further underline its character of a new beginning. The "farewell" tour that followed the release of "The Final Chapter" and the devotion of the band's fans worldwide filled Peter, Mikael and Lars with new energy, and harmony inside the band was re-established when all the members (and not just Peter) began to contribute with ideas for the songwriting again.
With this album, the experimentation that began with "The Forth Dimension" and was later more developed with "Abducted" reached a new peak. Diversified song structures paved the way for bold and unusual arrangements, with Peter stretching the limits of his voice to fit the particular mood of each of the songs. Of course, the sound was once more excellent, as in everything produced in the well-known Abyss Studio.
"Hypocrisy" begins "Fractured Millennium", a perfect album opener with its great buildup at the beginning: first, eerie keyboards set a kind of sci-fi atmosphere (typical of post-1994 Hypocrisy), then the powerful bass and drums join the melody, and finally the guitars kick in, announced by an abrasive pickscape and accompained by Peter's raucous, inhuman scream. It's clear from the start that the band took more time to work out the arrangements of the songs (which were already excellent on the previous efforts), and even the sound manages to be better than in the past: the guitars are still acid and overpowering but not as sharp as they were on "Abducted", the drums have more power, the bass is thicker and the keyboards are given a more rounded and full presence. The vocals, however, are a story of their own. As said, on this album Peter tried to experiment on his voice, probing different solutions for each and every song. He uses several kind of voices - rasping screams, deep growls, clean chants and more - but instead of using one instead of the other, he often uses two or more of them together, adjusting their levels in the mix so that one of them dominates over the others but leaves them still very audible. This adds a new dimension to the sound, and indeed "Hypocrisy" has an aural depth unparalleled by any other album at the time, which fits perfectly the more intricate song structures.
"Fractured Millennium" itself is a mid-tempo in the vein of the band's "hit" "Roswell '47", but this time the melodies, while still being catchy and powerful at the same time, are more complex and mature in their key changes, the guitars create layers and layers of distorted melodies and Peter's vocals complete the job - there are clean vocals hidden in the chorus. This song has really a lot of stuff going on, despite its accessible nature, which is quite an achievement.
For a complete contrast, "Apocalyptic Hybrid" hits the listener like a train with its frightful speed and aggression. This song is best described as a relentless maelstrom of riffs flowing one into another at breakneck speed; the guitar work is insane, the drums never slow down, the vocals are sinister menacing. The display of musicianship shown here is totally amazing, this has to be one of the most frantic and mercless numbers Hypocrisy have ever put out - and yes, I'm counting the first albums too.
"Fusion Programmed Minds" lets the listener recover with some seconds of laid back distortion as an intro, but soon explodes into a Maiden-esque galloping groove that sustains the whole song. Peter sticks to sharp screams on this one, although on the chorus he tries a kind of semi-clean rasp that really gets me. The riffs are great, once more, so the song is a winner on the musical side too.
"Elastic Inverted Visions" is a track written by the band as a whole, and showcases some of the album's best melodic ideas so far; opening with a simple but really cool clean guitar line, this song becomes another great Hypocrisy mid-tempo with layers of guitars and keyboards building a great atmosphere. Peter shines once more, as he uses clean but aggressive vocals paired with hsi tradeemark screams, and even goes into a dual voice clean part during a quiet break.
The speed goes up again for "Reversed Reflections", another Classic Metal-influenced track built on some seriously kick-ass riffs, perfectly balancing melody and crunch. This is where Peter begins focusing more on clean vocals, and does a great job at it, as a good deal of melodic depth (like in the bridge) is provided indeed by his multi-tracked voice.
"Until the End" is one of the slowest moments of the album, but doesn't definitely lack in power thanks to its great riffs and Lars's clever bass drumming, which stays quiet during the verse, becomes faster during the bridge and reaches a peak in the chorus - and the rhythm always stays the same. The vocals are mostly clean and again multi-tracked to create beautiful harmonies, with Peter coming up with a low and sorrowful voice in the chorus (kinda reminds me of Andrew Eldritch of the Sisters Of Mercy); sorrowful is indeed the best adjective to describe the mood of the song, moved on with a slow and depressive pace by majestic keyboards and sad guitar melodies.
"Paranormal Mysteria" brings the groove back with a vengeance, an almost Black Sabbath-ish idea perverted by the band's post-Death Metal sound; wicked riffs rule the scene with little room for keyboards (which however fit perfeclty whenever they come in), and Peter's eveil screams return to the front, although there are brief (and wonderful) clean breaks to be found.
After such a streak of mid-tempos and slow meditations, the impact produced by "Time Warp" is even stronger than it would normally be. Although less frantic than "Apocalyptic Hybrid", this clearly Thrash-influenced assault is loaded with speed and anger; Peter's voice is clean but ferocious, and paired with some sharp-edged screaming outburtsts (the gradual switch from clean to screaming voice in "you're sucked into the time wwwWWWWAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRP!!!!" gets me every time). The riffs are some of the most powerful to be found in the band's cataloue, the drumming is relentless... yes, it's a great track, one of my favourites actually.
In complete contrast with the former assault, "Disconnected Magnetic Corridors" sticks to a slow tempo all the way through, but the variation that the rhythm doesn't bring is provided by the very complex melodic apparate. The riffs are linked to each other via very unusual and almost awkward key changes (and often loose harmonic structures can be found within one single riff), yet the superb arrangement makes the whole lot flow on very smoothly. The song has an almost psychedelic edge with its ethereal riffs and vocals, and every single instrument provides intricate melodic lines that blend in together wonderfully: the guitars and keyobards soar all over the place, the multi-tracked vocals summon unforgettably beautiful lines and Mikael's powerful bass creates the shape-shifting backbone which keeps the weird harmonic structures from clashing into cacophony and leads the song into ever unexpected directions. It's also interesting to note that this song, despite the very laid back drumming, was written by none less than Lars, who had also contributed with "Time Warp", just to show how much the whole band's involvement into the songwriting process breathed new life into the band's already wide-scoped sound.
"Paled Empty Sphere", the "official" closing track, was penned by Mikael and Peter like "Until teh End", and once again is a rather slow and melodic number, although not as overwhelmingly sad as the former. This song retains a pretty oniric atmosphere from the beautiful intro (featuring just quite keyboards and clean guitars) to the intense chorus; once again the arrangement is fantastic, as the guitars and keyboards grow louder along the way and reach a peak in the chorus, as Peter's clean vocals do. Great melodies, and great atmosphere. Tenth winner in a row.
There is, however, one more track to be found: "Self Inflicted Overload", which was listed as a bonus track on the first pressing of the album but actually appears in the subsequent regular copies anyway (luckily). This song is a pretty straightforward heabanger, really great to listen to; it's clear why the band decided to include it as a bonus track and not as part of the official tracklist, because it doesn't really fit with the rest of the songs. Peter's vocals are once again harsh for this one, although his high pitched screams at the end ("you won't get me aliiiiiiiiiiive"!) are something you don't want to miss.
With this album, Hypocrisy wanted to impress, and they sure did impress me. It's easy to get into, but offers something new with each and every listen thanks to its multi-layered song structures, and once again is a flawless display of mature musicianship served with the best production one can imagine. It's a great start if you are getting into Hypocrisy, and essential for any fan of the band. This is an album that deserves to be owned by any Metal fan, actually, so I'd better end this review here and let you go and get it.