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What seems to be a natural progression for Hypothermia, their latest album Skogens Hjärta (not sure what it means) sees the band opting for a cleaner, post rock sound than their usual depressive and distressed funereal blackened dirges. Whilst keeping their usual levels of depression, the band chooses to present them in the context of a post rock packaging, allowing the band more leeway in terms of creating a powerful and provocative atmosphere.
First and foremost, post rock is a genre that is most notable for it's heavy reliance on the musical technique known as a climax. A climax is a build up and then sudden release of energy that has become increasingly prominent in the scene, with several note worthy metal bands using this technique as of late. Bands such as Isis and Agalloch have been known to integrate this into their music with great success. So how well do Hypothermia mix it in the context of a depressive black metal record? Hypothermia do it really well, the music works great when infused with various post rock elements, it allows for a calmer, more laid back Hypothermia to shine through. A side to the band that has been touched upon before but never explored to the point that Skogens Hjärta has.
Whilst Hypothermia still retains a little level of black metal, most profoundly in the guitar tone and production. The sound is more clean cut, more relaxing and soothing, dissimilar from the suicidal dirges of the past. The band still retains a certain distinct aura of depression, yet somehow it is not obtrusive, it's subtle, in the background, creating calm melancholic underlinings to the music. The music as a whole is very simple, there is no need to be complex or technical on Skogens Hjärta, the music is emotionally vulnerable on its own with this simple delivery of post rock arpeggios mixed with a little black metal influence to create a simple yet extremely powerful sound. The music is of course highly repetitious by nature, a few simple riffs flow along calmly, being repeated until they finally wear out their welcome, which can take more than just a few minutes. The minimalism is great, allowing the album to retain a strong sense of atmosphere and emotion that would have been hindered with a much more complex display of musicianship.
Skogens Hjärta retains a fully instrumental alias throughout the entire duration, it allows the music to do the talking. Although I would of course have loved to have seen a vocal performance by Kim Carlsson I'm perfectly happy with the decision to keep it instrumental. It keeps it simple, allowing the music to speak for itself, therefore giving the album room to connect with the listener on a much more personal level. The atmosphere is utterly phenomenal in my eyes, it's nothing short of powerful and is an utterly enthralling listen. It's far removed from Hypothermia's usual dark and oppressive atmosphere, taking a far more dismal and dreary tone to the music. It feels lonely, isolated, yet strangely comforting, as though after years of struggling with depression the thought sets in to embrace it, to love it, to become one with the sadness within and to let it overflow and consume you. Skogens Hjärta can toy with the listeners emotions as easily as a cat toys with a ball of yarn.
For those avid Hypothermia fans out there who might be looking at this review feeling disgruntled at the change in style, hold it right there! This is still clearly Hypothermia, the music still retains their dense atmosphere of negativity, it's just wrapped up in a cleaner and fresher post rock passage. All bands need to adapt and evolve to stop their sound from stagnating, from going stale. I for one am glad of the change Hypothermia adopted, their sound comes from the heart, and not from genre conventions they feel like coating their music in, the core of their music has remained the same and I am very thankful because of that. Hypothermia throughout the course of their career have created some of the most emotionally naked pieces of music I have ever had the pleasure of listening to and they're not about to stop. Hypothermia are as hard hitting and devastating as possible, all with the added bonus of taking a post rock side to things. A very welcome change in my opinion.
Out of all of Hypothermia's albums and various demo's and splits, they have definitely matured and peaked into a something much more refined, beautiful and meaningful. This album consists of just one track, which clocks in at 1 hour and 8 minutes long. There are a few black metal bands who have done similar things and tried to capture a pure single piece of music in an hour long track, but this one is one of the best I've heard.
Hypothermia have lost the raging guitars and (at many times, poor) vocals to make way for music which sounds more like a story that sucks you in, draws you until you become part of the music itself. One obvious difference in this track is the change of genre. They are no longer reproducing the same kind of black metal that they have done in the past, but instead seem influenced by - and I say this tentatively - post-rock and shoegaze. I say this because of the way the music lulls the listener into a suspended state, achieved by slow repetitive riffs with very simple melodies and patterns (much like many post and shoegaze bands do) except Hypothermia do it over the course of an hour instead of a few minutes.
This may seem like the album is boring and quite lacking in content, but it's quite the opposite. Even with the post and shoegaze elements this album is still clearly a black metal band with heaps more creativity in them that when they started out almost 10 years ago. The way this music keeps you attentive yet holds back just enough to avoid the hour becoming tiresome is quite phenomenal. There is very little filler music as there is in many other hour long pieces and there is no hint of a 'riff salad' or silly abrupt changes, instead you sit back and enjoy an hour of organic, almost living (yet still ever so bleak) music.
Hypothermia have done an excellent job in creating an hour long piece that is captivating yet not over the top. They have done something on this album that they have not achieved with any of their other music and which triumphs over many other attempts of hour long pieces of music. This is definitely the key album in their whole works. My only floor would be that their is too little black and too much post, aside from that, this is a beautiful piece of music and it's more than worth the time to sit down and listen to it.