Steady as they go, HYPOCRISY are one of those consistent, reliable death metal bands that rarely receive the credit they deserve. These four reissues shine a dark light on the Swedes' early years. All four are rightly revered underground classics, and collectively they serve up a timely reminder that Peter Tägtgren's crew evolved early and often.
Having spent several years in Florida as a teenager, Tagtgren witnessed the death metal explosion firsthand, and he brought back plenty of musical knowledge to invest into his band's debut. "Penetralia" (1992) sounds rough and ready in comparison with HYPOCRISY's now trademark melo-death sheen, but the seeds of a more expansive vision were being sown. Songs like seething opener "Impotent God" and the full-pelt "Jesus Fall" blended the ugly intricacy of the Floridian scene with the Swedish underground's sharper, faster and grittier approach. But lurking within the likes of "Burn By The Cross" and the still exhilarating "Take The Throne" were hints of a more distinctive and more atmospheric thread running through Tägtgren's songwriting. That ambition blossomed on "Osculum Obscenum" (1993). A righteous, old-school death metal classic, HYPOCRISY's second album turned out to be a transitional work, but few albums from this period have so many good riffs and as much infernal atmosphere, as exemplified by the face-ripping horror of the its title track. As song titles go, "Exclamation Of A Necrofag" hasn't aged especially well, but it was a simpler time. The song still rips either way.
A spirited cover of VENOM's "Black Metal" aside, "Osculum Obscenum" was a big step forward, but nothing compared to the huge leap HYPOCRISY made on "The Fourth Dimension" (1993). Slower, heavier, palpably creepier and worlds away from the straight-ahead death metal of its predecessors, the Swedes' confusingly titled third album is an underrated gem. With doomed-out and menacing fare like "Slaughtered" and the magnificently morbid title track, HYPOCRISY revealed a new and vastly more imaginative side to their music. Again, it later transpired that "The Fourth Dimension" was another transitional affair. Two years later, the band released what remains their most definitive work. Yes, "Abducted" (1996) was more melodic, better produced and more streamlined than any previous album, but beyond an obvious musical shift, Tägtgren was audibly cementing an entirely new aesthetic for his band. With heavy sci-fi vibes in and old-school guts 'n' Satan shtick most definitely out, "Abducted" heralded a new dawn. At times fiercely catchy, songs like certified banger "Roswell 47" and the PARADISE LOST-like "Paradox" dripped with gothic intent while simultaneously sounding like the future. Meanwhile, the proggy, meandering "Slippin' Away" was the first of many inspired curveballs. 27 years on, "Abducted"'s still a strong contender for HYPOCRISY's best album. The real triumph is that the band have been on great form ever since.