Thursday, 28 January 2021

Hyperia - Insanitorium (2020)

Country: Canada
Style: Thrash/Death Metal
Rating: 8/10
Release Date: 14 Jan 2020
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram | Metal Archives | YouTube

Here's another submission I planned to review ages ago and never got round to. Sorry, folks! I picked this up from Vlad Promotion at the same time as the excellent Anubis EP right before my server went down, so it got stuck on my tablet where I'd keep on finding it at two in the morning and it would be impressive all over again. So, before I run out of January, let's review the thing.

Hyperia are about as hyper as their name suggests. They play blistering thrash metal at a serious rate of knots, but with vocals that delve into death and whole melodic sections that venture deep into the territory of power metal. The first things to grab me were the clarity of sound, the sheer speed and an impressive guitar sound, not only from lead guitarist Colin Ryley but rhythm guitarist David Kupisz, and they were easily enough to hook me into this album. Then Marlee Ryley opened her mouth and I was beyond sold.

She has a kaiju of a voice that's about a hundred times her size and she continually explores different styles as if they're going out of fashion—she can steer through thrash, death, heavy, speed and power in a single verse—but it's made all the more glorious for a deliberately unpolished delivery. I clearly recognise and acknowledge her technical ability—when she wants to hit a note, she hits it like a Tyson punch, and her breath control is amazing—but she's as interested in energy as she is technique so she doesn't so much sing here as unleash her voice like a dragon and let it ravage the countryside. And we can't help but pay attention.

Hyperia have only been together since 2018, presumably formed by the Ryleys, who were a symphonic power metal duo called Sahasrara, which may have evolved into Hyperia, and played together in a folk/melodic death metal band called Skymir. There are a few earlier releases, an EP and a couple of singles, but all that material is on this album as well, so it's the result of a few years of band evolution even if it plays very consistently indeed.

In fact, it plays so consistently and so energetically that it's easy to just get sucked in like a 42 minute mosh pit, from which we emerge utterly cleaned out but half wondering what just happened. Hyperia start out by throwing us into a Mad Trance with only a memorable sample from Psycho to prepare us, Norman's old quote about his mother setting us up for Marlee Ryley's vocal delivery: "She just goes a little mad sometimes." Then it's speed metal riffs that only get faster, with early Helloween melody in abundance; that voice erupts out of the speakers, treating us to twelve seconds of sustained scream in the chorus; our heartbeats speed up to match Jordan Maguire's beat, our necks report for duty... and forty odd minutes later, we emerge battered and bruised with a big grin on our faces.

Eventually I racked up enough listens and partial listens to be able to focus on some little details like whodunit and wot they dun. I ended up thinking of this band like a cross between the sheer speed and energy of Nuclear Assault and the melodies of Helloween. Think Game Over meets Walls of Jericho, an impressive dream combo for me. I say those two because there's nothing as epic or slick here as we got on The Keeper of the Seven Keys and there are the twin senses of immediacy and fun that were obvious on Nuclear Assault's debut but not so much as their career ran on.

Lyrically, there's a strong focus on insanity, so much so that it's not too much of a stretch to read this as a concept album, featuring a serial killer locked up in an asylum, her blood lust still echoing in her mind but kept in check by a straitjacket, her fractured mind channelled instead to ponder on her past in her padded cell. The cover art and album title fit wonderfully, though I get the impression that the lead character thinks of her work as art, so I'd have gone with something like "Tangled Red Thoughts".

The intensity speaks to me so much that this is a gimme for an 8/10. If this had been released in 1987, I wouldn't have kept it far from my turntable. Writing in 2021, the only comment I can throw out that's even remotely close to a negative is that I'd have appreciated more genre hopping in the music. It's in the vocals throughout and it's there at points in the music as well, like a section of folky jauntiness in Unleash the Pigs, but there's infinitely more thrash and speed than death and it seems like that could have crept in a little more, as could the lively folk metal. But hey, I ain't complainin'! I'm diving right back in again. See you in 42 minutes!

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