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Atmospheric Bliss - 94%

MaDTransilvanian, August 15th, 2009

Of all the myriad albums which make up the genre that is melodic death metal, perhaps none strike the listener as being more varied and, indeed, unique, than Hypocrisy’s self-titled sixth album. This is the first album written after Peter Tägtgren’s initial attempt to end Hypocrisy’s existence with the aptly titled The Final Chapter, its very existence being due to the overwhelming support shown to the band by its extensive fan base.

Hypocrisy is the album which, out of the band’s career of ten released albums, along with an eleventh one being just around the corner, takes the sound of death metal drenched in superb melodic riffs creating an atmosphere of incredible depth, to its logical extreme, with amazing results. Nowhere is this achievement more apparent than in the album opener: the perfectly chosen Fractured Millennium. Starting up with an epic atmospheric intro and building up into the classic melodic death metal song that no Hypocrisy concert can do without, this song announces what is to come. In many ways, this album is the peak of the Hypocrisy sound, slowly evolving from the masterworks that The Fourth Dimension, Abducted and The Final Chapter were to create an even more melodic atmosphere. Unlike some other bands playing melodic death metal, whose music often seems to lack anything but an empty shell of what death metal represents, Hypocrisy still retain the base of the genre, evolved from their earliest albums, but with more and more melody and atmospheric infusion brought in along the way.

All of the band members are at their very best here. First of all, Peter Tägtgren must be mentioned. His songwriting is, as usual, flawless for the most part (Time Warp is something of a complete failure), his keyboard and guitar work are impressive and his vocals, excellent. The riffs are perfect for the genre they’re in: melodic death metal, atmospheric style. They’re also very memorable in almost every song, not just stale riffs which are there to fill up space instead of being genuinely enjoyable as some lesser melodic death metal acts have been known to do. Peter proves that he can either play slowly (Elastic Inverted Visions, Disconnected Magnetic Corridors) or very fast (Apocalyptic Hybrid, Fusion Programmed Minds) with little difficulty and much talent. His slower-paced songs are slightly better though, retaining much more of an atmosphere to them, with the only exception to this rule being the extraordinary breakneck-speed Fusion Programmed Minds. Hypocrisy is where Peter showcases his clean vocals off the most alongside his usual sharp shrieks and those clean vocals fit the slower songs perfectly, even making one or two of them seem like ballads, an unlikely event on such an album. Finally, Peter’s usage of his keyboards is essential to the atmosphere of the album. He can craft sounds which are melodic in nature but also evoke a wide range of emotions, from fear to awe, giving off a sense of helplessness to the listener.

Amazing as though that man may be, he isn’t the only one responsible for this album, just the leader of a talented trio whose two other thirds are Lars Szöke and Michael Hedlund. The former’s solid drumming is a distinction on its own, as he achieves a constant set of rhythm all through the album, fitting in very well with the ensemble. None of his work is even remotely technical and his drumming is far from the quality exemplified by his Norwegian successor, Horgh, but he gets the job done very well almost everywhere on the album (again, Time Warp being the faulty link). This is actually quite significant, as his talent has often waned on the other albums, especially his last two with the band. As for Michael Hedlund, his bass playing has accompanied Hypocrisy from the beginning and continues to this day, and there’s a very good reason Peter keeps him around. Well, two actually: he goes a very good job adhering his playing to the desired sound, whatever that may be (Hypocrisy’s music is nothing if not varied) and he’s, along with Peter, the last founding member of the band now that Lars has been replaced, and his presence is important in order to keep the band’s sound true to its roots, even if it is in a constant state of evolution.

Hypocrisy is almost a perfect album. There’s only one thing keeping it from being so, and that’s Time Warp. The eighth song here, it’s nowhere near the level of quality permeating each and every other part of the album. It’s more reminiscent of the most awful moments of Catch 22, if anything. Yeah, I’m referring to that pseudo nu-metal sound (more of a slight influence really) discernable in some of the songs. It’s unfortunately here, in this third and final fast-paced song on the album, although it seems that this time Peter didn’t quite manage to get it right. Drums, vocals, riffs, everything just collapses into a huge mixture of mediocrity. As awful as that song is, fortunately it only is one song and it doesn’t affect the enjoyability of the rest of the album at all. Melodic death metal never got this atmospheric or epic before or since, and anyone remotely even interested in the genre must acquire this masterpiece.