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NECROMONICON - 96%

Transphilvanian, March 23rd, 2010

Hypocrisy are a band now rather well known for their later modern melodic death metal approach, but as with many bands their classic albums seem to have been hidden in the fog of the more popular old school death metal bands. The bands second album stands among, if not on top, of many of the well renowned early 90's classics.

This album is essentially an amalgamation of styles found in the early 90's underground without forgetting songwriting and coherency. More than ever these days it seems that in order to "progress" or "branch out" you have to add a ukulele solo or simply play in a time signature nobody actually wants to hear so you can be technical. However sometimes it is more important to adapt an idea and actually concentrate on making it work. Here we have an effort that is part American death metal, part Swedish death metal with a dash of black metal but most importantly intelligently written and still as dark and vicious as the aforementioned styles.

Guitars are clear but chunky and play a combination of tremolo and technical death metal riffs similar to Deicide's early efforts. The guitar playing creates a dark atmosphere as well using excellent pacing, sometimes crushing strums resembling doom metal, at other times fast and technical in accordance with the blast beats and at other times speedy melodic tremolo lines producing a feeling akin to black metal but more likely an influence from the earlier Swedish death metal bands. Throughout the album these dark and foreboding riffs keep what feels like a chaotic and random maelstrom in check. The songwriting always brings back earlier themes but constantly keeps you on your toes, with some very notable epic structures normally ending with a newly developed motif, sometimes played by the guitars but at other points bringing in keyboards which adds more to the dark atmosphere.

Drumming on this release is not noticeably tight but has its own personality, you can really feel the urgency in the blast beats, which are not over done but used very effectively to highlight the more crushing moments. The drummer can slow down for the doomier sections, such as the track "Attachment to the Ancestor", as well as bound along with the more thrashy sections in the album, for example the title track. The drumming is integrated well and becomes part of the overall sound in contrast with a lot of drummers who feel it necessary to draw attention with pointless and flashy fills. The vocals are also a great aspect, providing low and hoarse growls combined with a high pitched shriek, similar to the vocal style Glen Benton used to use, complementing the feeling of darkness the rest of the instruments provide.

One downside to the album is the annoying addition of the cover song placed directly in the middle of the album. This is a certain pet peeve of mine because I feel a cover has to be very well selected and executed to fit in with the themes and atmosphere of an album to make it work. The track present here is the hugely influential classic, "Black Metal" by Venom and it is covered only acceptably well. This would not be a problem to me but the song itself, although its influence cannot be overstated, is rather rock based in song structure and has nothing to do with the twisting and turning songs on this album, nor the albums incredibly dark atmosphere. As I said the cover is not amazing but not awful, however essentially ruins the flow and atmosphere of the album for no real reason.

It seems to me this album is not appreciated as much as other early death metal albums because it does not fit into one scene. Similar to "The Red in the Sky is Ours" this band made simple but effective changes to their sound from the norm but this meant they did not really fit in with the technical and chaotic death metal from the U.S.A, nor did it fully fit in with the tremolo laden, punk influenced sound of bands from their own native land, Sweden. The album has all the dark atmosphere, epic songwriting and pummelling riffs a death metal fan needs, so all I can suggest is that if you enjoy the darker side of death metal and have no qualms about some epic and black metal themes creeping in and out then this is an album you need.