Hypocrisy – Worship


Peter Tägtgren has no time to sit still. Hypocrisy released their last album in 2013, but since then he produced records for Sabaton, Immortal, Carach Angren and Discharge and co-wrote two Lindemann albums with the Rammstein frontman. As one of the godfathers of Swedish death metal and an elite songwriter/producer extraordinaire, Tägtgren’s association with Nuclear Blast goes back to the early days of the label. This is now album number thirteen for Hypocrisy, and the frontman shows no sign of losing his political cynicism and penchant for conspiracy theories on Worship. Anyone who’s scanned the bands lyrics from the last decade can guess where Tägtgren stands on the question of Covid-19 vaccines.

On a musical level, Worship sounds like a stadium death metal effort. The opening title track starts with cascading folk guitars like Metallica warming up to unleash ‘Battery’ and even steps on the distortion pedal to fret the same passages with high voltage harmonies. Hypocrisy have never been afraid of wearing their influences on their sleeveless jackets, but they know the dividing line between inspiration and imitation. Here the main rhythm launches into a Cannibal Corpse stomp instead of a thrash attack and changes to a futuristic death metal groove, like on the band’s underrated Catch 22 album from 2002. Listen to the frenetic plectrum attack on the guitar strings as they modulate to yet another fast tremolo riff – this could be Edge of Sanity at their peak.

But what distinguishes Hypocrisy from their contemporaries thirty years into their career? The way they incorporate a dense atmospheric layer of noise behind the thick walls of brutish guitar is one thing. Tägtgren’s determination to get the most from his six strings with the least number of notes is another. In this regard, he’s like Devin Townsend. The excellent ‘Chemical Whore’ takes aim at America’s most hated philanthropists, the Sackler family, who made billions selling the OxyContin painkiller and profited from the opioid public health crisis that followed. Tägtgren’s voice is more like a blood-thirsty growl here. The chunky metallic groove underneath the slurry of moody guitar slides makes this the most memorable song on the album. It’s successor, ‘Greedy Bastards’, is more subdued in its chorus delivery, but the mid-tempo misanthropy will remind you of modern Carcass.

The controversy leading up to this record centres on whether the band penned an anti-vaccination song with the anthemic ‘Dead World’. Make what you want of the offending passage: “There is no justice, there is no truth/ Of what they’re saying and what they will do/ With aluminium in our veins/ We will drop dead soon/ Governments around the world are about to succeed/ With their evil plan, exterminating humans.” The band offer a morsel of ambiguity in the lyrics, but their previous obsession with alien abduction and their anti-illuminati stance marks them out as conspiracy theorists in earlier works. If you let this spoil your experience, then, you shouldn’t be listening to metal. The brutal chugging guitars and violent snare beats are exhilarating, like a glass of ice-cold spring water when you wake up from a hangover.

Repeat listens to this album make you realise that Hypocrisy have more in common with their fellow Swedes in Tribulation than their contemporaries from back in the day, like Entombed and At the Gates. ‘Children of the Gray’ comes close to ripping off the intro to Megadeth’s iconic ‘In My Darkest Hour’, but the old school heavy metal posturing and atmospheric guitar tone reveal an impressive song writing formula. And when Hypocrisy play melodic death metal, they do it like a band from 1994 with no inclination to go overboard on the Iron Maiden worship. ‘They Will Arrive’ starts with a murderous roar and thrives on alt-picking thrash rhythms and a lethal stomp of drums. Hypocrisy have a sense of the epic but want to fertilise it with the filthiest of death metal transgressions. Perhaps they go too far on ‘Bug in the Net’ with one eye on Nightwish’s audience. You can never doubt you’re listening to a European band with Worship.

The message of this album is clear, and it’s the only weakness of the listening experience. Don’t vote for politicians – they’re all corrupt bastards; don’t trust corporations – they’re all evil profiteers; don’t give an inch to government – they’ll turn you into robotic slaves. You can’t run for office on that platform and expect to be taken seriously. But you’ll find much to admire if you look beyond this and absorb the thrill of the metallic onslaught.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 26/11/2021

Record Label: Nuclear Blast

Standout tracks: Chemical Whore, Dead World, We’re the Walking Dead

Suggested Further Listening: Tribulation – Where the Gloom Becomes Sound (2021), Strapping Young Lad – Strapping Young Lad (2003), Ewigkeit – Depopulate EP (2021)