The Porcelain Throne: Hypocrisy
We haven’t done one of these in awhile! Luckily, dedicated Toliet fan TheGranulatingDarkSatanicMilfs remembered this little column and provided all the details you need to get into this iconic band.
Back when I decided to plunge myself deep into the abyss of extreme metal (and thus giving up any hope of ever becoming an esteemed member of society in the process), Hypocrisy was one of the first bands I started listening to. In some way, they are an excellent gateway band, at least in the sense that they are accessible enough for newcomers but also respected enough among the old farts. In other words, this shit is easy to get into if you are coming from Metallica land, but at the same time, you won’t get disapproving looks if you show up at a metal show rocking an Osculum Obscenum shirt. I always thought the band was pretty popular for that reason, but a search of the Toilet yielded only articles about actual hypocrisy (among them a pretty great (NSFW) one about the obnoxious Metal Sanaz) and none about this band, so I decided it was time to grace the Porcelain Throne with some love for the sweet, melodic, atmospheric, and at times, grammatically challenged death metal of Peter Tägtgren and the boys.
Mandatory band history lesson: The band was founded by the aforementioned Tägtgren, better known as “the Dave Grohl of extreme metal”. Seriously, if you are remotely into death/black/power/thrash metal, there is a pretty big chance you have Tägtgren in your collection, either as a musician or producer. Aside from his work in Hypocrisy, the guy has his industrial side project Pain and has been involved with Bloodbath, Lock Up, The Abyss, Marduk, and Rammstein’s vocalist Till Lindemann. And if we count his work as a producer, the list is ten times longer (Immortal, Celtic Frost, Children Of Bodom, Dimmu Borgir, Amon Amarth, Rotting Christ, Sabaton, to name a few).
Hypocrisy was originally conceived as Tägtgren’s solo project upon returning to his native Sweden (having lived in Florida for a while, hoping to join the death metal scene there). He recorded a demo, got offered a contract from Nuclear Blast (who has gone on to release all of Hypo’s material to date), and, adopting the role of guitarist, acquired bassist Mikael Hedlund, drummer Lars Szöke, guitarist Jonas Österberg, and vocalist Masse Broberg. Then came:
The Early Years: Penetralia (1992) & Osculum Obscenum (1993)
Hypocrisy’s first releases were pretty much standard old school death metal. Perhaps due to Tägtgren’s time spent in the States, the albums’ sound and style has more in common with Floridians like Malevolent Creation and Deicide than their fellow Swedes like Entombed and Dismember. And, despite both being excellent albums, neither were particular breakthroughs, mainly because, as good as they were, they were undeniably late to the party; traditional death metal had already reached critical mass by then, and bands were starting to embrace a more progressive edge (Death), more melody (Carcass), or more groove (Obituary). Österberg only stuck around for Penetralia and Broberg left after Osculum dropped, joining Dark Funeral two years later.
Peter Takes the Mic: The Fourth Dimension (1994) & Abducted (1996)
Since Broberg bailed on the band halfway through a European tour, there was no chance to look for a vocalist, so Tägtgren took over the position in addition to his role as guitarist. I must say, it was for the better. No disrespect towards Broberg, but Tägtgren is one of the best death metal vocalists out there, capable of a great degree of expression with his voice; the accusation that “all songs sound the same” certainly holds weight against some death metal bands, but not Hypocrisy, and Peter’s vocals are a big part of the reason why.
Aside from the change in vocalist, these albums saw big changes in the band’s sound. The lyrics started to shift from Masse’s old satanic/antichristian themes towards Peter’s interest in science fiction, extraterrestrial life, and conspiracies. The music started to move towards a slower, more atmospheric style, injecting more melody but thankfully without reaching the saccharine heights of some of their countrymen like In Flames. While there are still scorchers like “Reborn” and “Killing Art,” the move toward this new sound is best exemplified in tracks like “Apocalypse” and “Paradox.” Abducted’s three closing tracks even drop death metal completely, adopting a Pink Floyd-ian spacey, melancholic sound. The album also features their most well-known song, “Roswell 47.”
The Golden Years: The Final Chapter (1997) & Hypocrisy (1999)
For some reason, after the tour for Abducted, the band decided to split up, but not before recording one last album, the then-appropriately named The Final Chapter. It turned out to be the band’s first true classic, a perfect amalgamation of melody, atmosphere, and brutality. Every song in here is a winner, from the mid-paced riffing of “A Coming Race,” the oppressing melancholy of “Request Denied,” and the crushing speed of “Adjusting The Sun.” The album closes with the brilliant title track, which sounds like what John Lennon might have done had he lived long enough to hear death metal.
Predictably, the response of the band’s following was immense, which made the band reconsider their retirement. Their self-titled 1999 effort proved to be another masterpiece, with the atmospheric bliss of “Until The End,” the Iron Maiden-esque galloping twin lead fury of “Fusion Programmed Minds,” the heavy yet oddly catchy “Fractured Millennium” and even some hardcore punk influence on “Time Warp” (not the Rocky Horror Picture Show song of the same name).
A Small Decline: Into The Abyss, (2000), Catch 22 (2002), & The Arrival (2004)
Let’s get one thing clear: there is no such thing as a bad Hypocrisy album. However, the three albums that followed Hypo’s two masterpieces found the band producing some good-but-not-great material. Into The Abyss and The Arrival have some of the band’s best songs in them, such as “Deathrow (No Regrets),” “Fire In The Sky,” “Unfold The Sorrow,” “Eraser” and “Dead Sky Dawning.” However, there is a certain sense of complacency marring some of the songs, almost like Hypocrisy on autopilot.
Catch 22 is an odd duck. At the time of its release it was derided as a nu-metal album and Tägtgren indeed acknowledged that Slipknot had been an influence on the writing. Sure, the songs were simplified, but there is plenty of good riffing on “Destroyed” and “Hatred,” and “On The Edge Of Madness” is pretty much a more mainstream take on Hypo’s atmospheric burners like “A Coming Race.” Still, this album doesn’t always receive the level of unabashed vitriol records like The Unspoken King and Illud Divinum Insanus are often subjected to (Catch 22 was pointlessly rerecorded in 2008 in a much heavier style; I still prefer the original version).
Back to (Heavy) Form: Virus (2005), & A Taste Of Extreme Divinity (2009)
Lars Szöke (whose drumming style was always somewhat straightforward and simplistic, much like a certain other Lars) left the band following the release of The Arrival and was replaced by the mighty Reidar Horghagen (known to everyone other than his parents as “Horgh”), whose main band, Immortal, had just gone tits up the previous year. Having such a powerhouse on the kit inspired Tägtgren to write some of the most punishing material of his career. This resulted in Virus and A Taste Of Extreme Divinity, two albums that perfectly marry the brutality of the Broberg days with the melody and atmosphere of the following years, and are among the best of the band’s catalogue. Crushers like “War Path,” “Craving For Another Killing” and “Weed Out The Weak” find Horgh blast-beating and double-kicking with pummeling fury, while also showing restraint on less frantic numbers like “The Quest” (which also has brilliant bass work) and “Living to Die.” Gary Holt of Exodus/Slayer fame even shows up to lend “Scrutinized” a sweet toxic-waltzing solo.
Sadly, it seems Hypocrisy is not much of a priority for Tägtgren these days. It’s been more than three years since 2013’s End Of Disclosure, a somewhat pedestrian affair more in line with The Arrival than it’s two immediate predecessors, saw release. This year he released a new album with Pain, Coming Home, and the supporting tour will no doubt take a good chunk out of 2017, so it is quite possible we won’t see a new Hypocrisy release in quite a while. But for now, let’s give these mighty atmospheric death giants their well-earned place on the Porcelain Throne.
Thanks again to TheGranulatingDarkSatanicMilfs for this fantastic addition to the throne. Do you know everything about a band we don’t talk about enough? Get to writing and send it over to firstname.lastname@example.org.