EMV RECOLLECTIONS: HYPOCRISY – THE FINAL CHAPTER

“… Hypocrisy encompassed all of the classic extreme metal blueprints in addition to having the most brutal soundwall at the time and atmospheres relating to what would become second wave Norwegian black metal archetypes.”

GENRE: Blackened Extreme Metal (first class)
LABEL: Nuclear Blast
RUNNING TIME: 54:24
COUNTRY: Sweden
YEAR: 1997
LINK: www.hypocrisy.cc

TRACKLIST:

  1. Inseminated Adoption
  2. A Coming Race
  3. Dominion
  4. Inquire Within
  5. Last Vanguard
  6. Request Denied
  7. Through The Window Of Time
  8. Shamateur
  9. Adjusting The Sun
  10. Lies
  11. Evil Invaders
  12. The Final Chapter
1021
The Final Chapter – Artwork credit: P. Grøn

The album title screams melodrama! The alarming portrait of the three sullen members amidst burning flames slowly starting to consume all space and hope, signaling termination during adventurous songwriting development. Drained. Hypocrisy’s “The Final Chapter” went on to signify a critical stage in the career of the unsung heroes of extreme metal.

This majestic album has absorbed a great deal of my listening preferences this past summer. Hypocrisy is a band I frequently listen to. I’m devoted towards the mid-to-late nineties era, when nearly every album was a leap into something fresh, incorporating multiple styles, which ultimately resulted in pioneering sounds.

The rumors about “The Final Chapter” being the band’s final album, fortunately turned out to be a sincere scream for solidarity from mastermind and often overlook extreme metal icon Peter Tågtgren. Most people can vouch for the assertion that Peter had the role of primus motor. Growing up on U.S. death metal, Mr. Tågtgren single-handedly founded Hypocrisy in 1990, and after seven intense years, I’m guessing he’d come damn close to a burnout.

Besides writing, recording, mixing, engineering etc for his main band, there was the accumulating prestige and pressure around his Abyss studio, where Tågtgren showed promise with releases like “Enthrone Darkness Triumphant” and “Secrets Of The Black Arts”. Add to that side projects like Lock Up and Pain, his most popular endeavor to date. At the release of Hypocrisy’s fifth platter, times were definitely trying on good ‘ol Peter, contemplating a longer hiatus due to lack of oversight and input from his bandmates.

It’s been twenty years and eight albums (if you include the remixed, remastered “Catch 22”). How has “The Final Chapter” aged? In my opinion, pretty damn well. I’ve always found it hard to label Hypocrisy in terms of genre tags, a simple melodic death metal seems atrocious even though melody and brutality are two colossal parts of their unique sound, both in pristine condition on this album.

Whether it’s the urgent thrash detonations of opener “Inseminated Adoption”, the Szøke penned “Last Vanguard” or “Dominion”, or the sinister, melodic black metal of “Shamateur” (also penned by Szøke), and finally my favorite trade, the dreary doom/death marches of tracks like “Inquire Within” and “Request Denied”, Hypocrisy displayed many shades of metal epicness on their semi-professed swansong. Influences from pillars of extreme metal were molded into a trailblazing sound, that was crushing in its heaviness, eerie in its melodicism and drenched in near enchanting atmosphere due to the full integration of keyboards, and who could forget that noisy, almost industrial swarm sound production.

Basically, the only thing that could fuck up the band’s newly distilled formula were bad vocal performances. The stellar quality of Tågtgren’s subhuman barks and strangely accented clean singing add forward-thinking dynamics to many of the songs. Lyrically, the paranormal and extraterrestrial themes occupied a lot of the material. Several topics had already started on “The Fourth Dimension” and were further explored on “Abducted”, but really broadened in scope on “The Final Chapter” and the band’s finest hour, namely the roaring comeback self-titled album. What was left of religious commentaries was to be found on the brilliant “Adjusting The Sun” (not føkking it, merely adjusting it).

While In Flames stayed the course with “Whoracle”, Dark Tranquillity attempted different melodic death metal textures with “The Mind’s I”. At The Gates had folded and Entombed made the renegade move by making their death metal even more grimy and punk on “To Shoot…”. There certainly was progression to be found in the Swedish death metal scene, but Hypocrisy encompassed all of the classic extreme metal blueprints in addition to having the most brutal soundwall at the time and atmospheres relating to what would become second wave Norwegian black metal archetypes.

As I have mentioned elsewhere in this piece, the self-titled album, released during the last summer of the twentieth century, was a shining beacon of extreme metal creativity in my opinion. So why not “The Final Chapter”, since it’s the very subject of this overly long and sleep-inducing drivel? There are two slight hickups: 1) the odd b-side quality of “Lies”, while not entirely bad, 2) the fumbled and misplaced Razor cover “Evil Invaders”, seemingly spot on regarding lyrical topics, but overall out of place. Then again, when I listen to ripping tracks like “Through The Window Of Time” or “A Coming Race”, I’m pressed to give in to the notion that maybe, just maybe, if there was less turmoil in the Hypocrisy camp, the said critically reviewed tracks wouldn’t have been included on the album.

Whether Hypocrisy should have come to a definite halt after “The Final Chapter” or not, no matter the internal and external factors, is another topic for nocturnal musings. History shows that Tågtgren’s death metal band slowly became a second priority once Pain really took off along with the busy schedule at Abyss Studios. At this point, there’s really nothing left to prove, and I doubt that this phoenix will rise from the ashes once more. The legacy stands. One listen through this album speaks volumes about the uncompromising sounds and epic atmospheres that were so much ahead of its time.

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