I've been reviewing so many albums lately by established bands who broke up every time the wind changed that it seems almost surprising to find one that's never called it quits, though I believe it came close for Hypocrisy in 1997. They were formed back in 1991 and guitarist Peter Tägtgren (and soon vocalis) and bassist Mikael Hedlund have held their spots in the line-up ever since. Drummer Reidar Horghagen, who joined in 2004, is only the band's second and Tomas Elofsson is the fourth guitarist to play alongside Tägtgren. He's been there since 2010, meaning that he's played on two of their thirteen studio albums.
I remember Hypocrisy starting out as brutal death metal, due apparently to Tägtgren's residence in Florida for three years during the eighties. However, I also remembering them shifting towards the Gothenburg style more favoured in their native Sweden, though they're from a long way away in Ludvika, and this feels like a strong mix of the two styles, with the melodic side front and center but some brutality left in Tägtgren's vocals and the somewhat downtuned back end. This is a little lower and a little slower than melodeath tends to be, though there are faster sections too. I much prefer melodic to brutal but I like this mix too.
Worship kicks the album off well, with an intro reminiscent of Cyclone Temple and plenty of faster sections with incessant double bass drumming. It's a good song, but Chemical Whore is better and Greedy Bastards isn't bad at all and Hypocrisy aren't resting on their laurels after all these years, that's for sure, even though it's been eight years since their previous album, End of Disclosure. If they felt like they needed a break, they've benefitted from it, because this feels like they have all the energy and drive that they had back in the nineties.
If there's a downside early on, it's that the lyrics are utterly routine cynicism. They revolve around social issues but are always told from a very simplistic us vs. them mindset, whether they're about religion or drugs or climate change or the economy or whatever. There are occasional moments of lyrical style, such as when Children of the Gray begins with "What a beautiful day to die", but they mostly remind of rebellious teenage poetry and that's unfortunate, given that Tägtgren's vocals are so easy to understand, even though he stays harsh throughout.
There are eleven tracks on offer and they're agreeably varied without ever drifting too far from a central Hypocrisy sound. Dead World is a bit more brutal, complete with a bleak scream to open it up, though it also wanders into groove metal. We're the Walking Dead is a solid slow chugger, not my favourite approach for melodeath but done well here. What's totally up my alley is the thrashy Another Day and the oddly infectious Children of the Gray, my favourite song here after Chemical Whore. In fact, the whole second half is a strong, consistent ride, all the way to a peach of a closer in Gods of the Underground.
I'm impressed by how much this one is growing on me. I've always liked Hypocrisy but they're one of those bands who I can listen to and enjoy, then move right onto something else. They aren't one of those bands who I replay frequently or even seek out. Maybe it's just been too long since I gave one of their albums a listen, though, because this feels stronger than I remember them being. It's not the greatest melodic death metal album ever recorded, but neither is it something to dismiss either. It sounds good on a first listen and then grows each time through, especially the deceptive second half.
Hypocrisy have been away for a while. I'm a little surprised by how happy I am to hear them back.