No, this isn’t the last post, and no, this wasn’t Hypocrisy’s last album, either. The Final Chapter edged out Soilwork’s Steelbath Suicide in a hotly-contested battle last week, so this false finish is our first artifact out of the gate for 2018.
My first exposure to Hypocrisy was their 1999 self-titled album, which I purchased at a Best Buy in Duluth, Minnesota (along with In Flames’ Colony and Cradle of Filth’s Cruelty and the Beast) with a fistful of teenage Christmas cash. All three records had profound effects–and I still spin them regularly to this day–but the Hypocrisy really captivated me by being so varied and outright bizarre. After that intro, I bounced around their discography haphazardly, scooping Into the Abyss upon release, rolling back to Abducted after that, then finally stumbling into The Final Chapter sometime in my early 20s.
Somehow, I had ended up in Eau Claire, Wisconsin by then. A friend from high school was going to school there and needed a roommate; I was looking to escape a vapid, ill-fitting social circle and start fresh, so I packed up and headed south. The pretense was to “go back to school”…you know, to give in to the pressures of parents and elders because everyone involved was convinced that they knew what the hell they were talking about. (They didn’t, but it wasn’t their fault. Everything is a scam.)
Like most directionless twenty-somethings, I ended up wasting a bunch of money on tuition so I could pay lip service to societal norms (“why, yes, I am in college, Random Judgmental Prick, how do you like selling insurance for a living?”) and became a drunken asshole for three-plus years while I tried to figure out who the hell I actually was.
Quickly realizing that my part-time gig as the Biscuit Guy at Red Lobster wasn’t going to fund my nightly blackouts, I acquired employment at the Menards distribution center. Specifically, “Building 10,” where we processed all the junk that the various stores in the home improvement chain sent back. Used pallets, broken landscaping block, defective products, whatever.
It was brutal, 2nd-shift work, and I was too naive at the time to realize how exploitative it was. Mandatory overtime was a regular thing, as were shift extensions to 1 or 2 am without warning. Bathroom breaks were unpaid; we had to punch out to activate the metal turnstile that blocked the entry to the restroom, which was strategically positioned across from the managers’ desks. Covering up workplace injuries was actively encouraged, not just because a lost-day injury would be a knock against our building’s safety-hours stats, but any hospital visit had the added bonus of a drug test, which basically every employee was guaranteed to fail. The consequence was immediate termination.
Obviously, I didn’t want to get fired, so I kept most of my major incidents under wraps with assistance from my immediate supervisors. Among other things: I sprained my wrist throwing pallets (which is a far, far more atrocious activity than I could accurately describe here); opened a pressure gash on my chest after a pallet got caught in an upending machine juuuust the right way and shot back at me like a bullet, literally knocking me on my ass; I broke my toe when a granite countertop in a cage full of defective products I was sorting unexpectedly cracked in half and landed on my foot.
Sorting defects was kind of fun, though, because you were basically rummaging through garbage, putting items with certain tags on certain conveyor belts for processing. And while there were used sump pumps and water heaters and outdoor grills to wrestle with, there were hidden treasures, too. Once in awhile you’d score a recently-expired bag of gummy worms, or a pair of work gloves that were in decent enough shape to be duct-taped into duty, or…a portable CD player that still worked!
Since the working conditions were so shitty, no one dared to bring any worthwhile electronics in the building. So we’d mine these potato-ass CD players from the defect cages, get a few days / hours of usage out of them, and chuck them aside when they inevitably gave up the ghost.
It was on one of these jacked-ass CD players that I first heard The Final Chapter, through a pair of foamfuzzy over-ear headphones, as I shrink-wrapped a pallet of defective air compressors.
And back then, I thought it was kind of lackluster. Not a total whiff, by any means. But in my headcanon, there were two things casting a shadow over this record: My colossal esteem for the self-titled album, and the fact that The Final Chapter was a reneged epitaph, a final album that wasn’t. Due to fan response and the reaction they received at Wacken the following year–immortalized on the Hypocrisy Destroys Wacken live recording–they decided to continue, but I couldn’t reconcile this record possibly being GOOD when it was made by a band that was seemingly out of gas. I liked the cover of Razor’s “Evil Invaders,” but dismissed most of the record as containing ideas that were better explored on later releases.
Now? It’s aged pretty damn well, actually. When this thing won the poll, I was surprised, but respinning it with fresh ears has been enlightening. The Final Chapter has always been regarded as one of Hypocrisy’s heaviest outings (arguably only eclipsed by 2005’s Virus), and that heft pushes straight-up burners like “Inseminated Adoption” and “Dominion” beyond the formulaic.
The best slice of the record is the midsection trio of “Inquire Within,” “Last Vanguard,” and “Request Denied.” The middle track is a speedy little fucker that splits a pair of ethereal, near-Floydian cuts packed with masterful lurchriffing. While I’m generally not a huge fan of mid-paced jams from death metal bands not named Monstrosity or Immolation, Hypocrisy really excels in this realm, and on The Final Chapter, they showed that they had the depth and dexterity to make it work.
Verdict: It’s good! Instead of relegating this to the lower half of the band’s discography, I’d put it up there with Abducted, but below the self-tiled, A Taste of Extreme Divinity, and Virus.
Fuck, Hypocrisy has a lot of albums.
[Before we get to the scores, a note on the anecdote I shared above: Menards has had a long history of legal bullshittery and cultural toxicity–do a quick search of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s reporting over the past couple of decades for evidence–and they’re finally facing some class-action consequences for mistreating their employees. While the CEO of the company is, like many rich old white dudes, a Trump-supporting, conservative shitheel, the fact that he wants to BUILD THE WALL shouldn’t have been the tipping point for liberals to start boycotting his business. His exploitation of thousands of workers for decades should have been. It’s not too late for y’all to scratch beyond the surface of your MSNBC chyrons, but get with the fuckin program already.]
Here we go!
While no one is ever going to call Hypocrisy a Gothenburg act because they totally have a signature sound, calling them anything other than melodic death metal is…not correct. I mean, blast “Adjusting the Sun” and tell me that isn’t some sweet, sweet melodeath right there. But Hypocrisy are def their own entity, and shouldn’t be pigeonholed.
Too much, anyway.
Artistic Badness: 5
Nothing egregious here, other than, you know, being stuck with an album called The Final Chapter in the middle of your goddamn discography.
Also, photo covers are generally tacky, even if y’all just look like regular-ass metalheads.
Yep, they looked like regular-ass metalheads. They wouldn’t make the crucial artistic decision to add a mesh t-shirt until the next album cycle:
This is a good Hypocrisy record! And since, largely, the band has transcended scene and place, it stands on it’s own pretty well. Yeah, it’s got that Abyss Studios sound were the guitars are saturated as fuck and you can barely hear the drums, but it still kicks ass.
Is it essential? Not really! But if you like Hypocrisy, this should be in your Top 5.
Play it loud, kids.