Hypocrisy, "The Arrival"
Hypocrisy has been a frustrating band to like the last few years. After releasing the stunningly detailed "Hypocrisy" in 1999, the band switched gears and released two of their least musically interesting albums: "Into the Abyss" with its stripped down thrash, and "Catch-22", with it's infamously bouncy material that brought accusations of selling-out and other nonsense. Both albums were solid releases and admirable efforts, but both albums also made one question where the thick, atmospheric brilliance heard on their predecessors had gone.
Well, today, "The Arrival" is upon us, and at first glance, it's another disappointment. The cover art - depicting three crudely drawn aliens and their space ship - is horrible. Maybe they were going for 'abductee art' or something, but the end result looks something the lonely kid in a high school art class would do shortly before being ridiculed by his classmates. It's amateurish and will probably kill quite a few record sales. It's that bad. It's sadly ironic that this less-than-convincing cover enshrouds one of Hypocrisy's crowning musical achievements, as "The Arrival" reveals itself to be the strongest material this band's put out since "Hypocrisy".
Unfortunately, starting off with the Dimmu-esque atmosphere and quirky arrangement of "Born Dead, Buried Alive" wasn't the smartest move, but it's ends up being an effective track that blends the the caustic roar of "Into the Abyss" with the disorientating weightlessness of the self-titled album and manages to respect both sounds while welding them into something new. Getting through "Born Dead, Buried Alive" pays off big time, though, as Hypocrisy comes out of nowhere with a brand new classic: "Eraser." Without question, this is Hypocrisy's best song since "Roswell 47." It's got aliens, fretless bass, a killer bridge and the most explosive fist-pumping metal anthem heard in years ("There is no God!"). It's infectously blasphemous fun that hits both the brain and the gut, and it's no surprise that this is the lead off single for the album. A stellar track from an outfit that's produced more than its fair share of great material.
Inevitably though, Hypocrisy frustrates by following up this monster with yet another question mark, as "Stillborn" barely overcomes the pedestrian grooves and 'jump da fuck up' riffs of its verse with the stellar riffing and smooth melodies of its chorus. As it turns out though, "Stillborn" is just the sound of Tagtren shaking "Catch-22" out of his system, and from here on out, Hypocrisy get down to serious business.
The remaining tracks of "The Arrival" sound like a collection of the best songs from Hypcrisy's best albums, as "Slaves to the Parasites", "The Departure" and "The Abyss" roll along slow and depressed, "New World", "War Within" and "Dead Sky Dawning" dish out more aggressive fare, and every song is filled with hooks that get buried deeper into the brain with every listen. The vocals are insidiously catchy, and the instrumentation and production are every bit as good as anything this band has ever done.
But the best thing about "The Arrival" is that Tagtren has finally found a way to write incredibly catchy material while retaining his metal integrity. With the exception of "Stillborn" and maybe two other riffs, every song on "The Arrival" comes off as pure Hypocrisy, but at a level of songwriting that's rarely heard in metal anymore.
All in all, "The Arrival" rises above past indiscretions and places Hypocrisy back where they belong: Above reproach.