Review Summary: Atmospheric Depressive Post-Black Shoegaze . Yeah.
What I find really great in an album is when its cover art suits the music it contains. My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless
- fuzzy, pink, lush and hard to fully understand with a passing glance - is a perfect example of such an album, as is that of As The Roots Undo
; organic, striking and chaotic. This does not have any effect whatsoever on the enjoyment of the music, but whenever I find an album such as this, it impresses me that the artist was able to so accurately match visual art to their sonic art. This is the case with Hypomanie’s eponymous EP: a gray, depressing, gloomy and hazy scene greets you as you open the case - then it introduces itself to your ears.
Hypomanie is a one-man music project from the Netherlands that plays a mixture of depressive/atmospheric black metal, post rock and shoegaze. Hypomanie’s real name is unknown, and visitors to his MySpace page will see that the project’s only member is named “S.,” whose "members" box claims that “He Loves You.” I’m sure he’s a really down-to-earth guy in real life.
The jangly pickings of a lone guitar would fool many listeners into thinking they had just bought a post rock record. The subsequent addition of typical post rock percussion would not convince you otherwise, either. It seriously sounds like Tortoise or Mogwai or even Slint could have written it. The ostinatos and melodies are indeed archetypal post-rock but luckily are done very well. The production gives the picking an icy cold feel, and the addition of passionate-as-fuck
black metal vocals gives one a chilling sense of desperation and anguish that trumps the occasionally derivative nature of the EP’s post rock elements.
In a technical sense, the EP is pretty average. S. plays the drums, guitar, bass and keyboard on the record, but none with a significant amount of skill, except perhaps guitar. This doesn’t make much of a difference to the music though, as the songwriting is of a high standard. A particularly good example of this is the song 'Innocentie' which begins and ends with a music box playing a well-known lullaby and a baby crying. Most of the song (sans baby noises and so forth) is heavy, fast paced atmospheric black metal utilizing typical black metal elements and typical post rock elements. The reason it works is because it is so well put together: the slower, less heavy parts are added at just the right time, the vocals bestial. The shift from such intense music to a baby crying over a lullaby is superb.
What took me by surprise in this EP is how smoothly the transitions from pleasing post-rock and shoegaze grooves to black metal sections are. Listening to the song 'Heimwee', I caught myself listening to a segment that was laden with atmospherics akin to black metal (the first of the record) and thinking “when did that happen?
” The post-rock introduction slowly becomes more raw sounding and loud, until you’re suddenly listening to atmospheric black metal. The prevalence of this technique could either add or detract from the listening experience depending on your taste. If you like being shocked by your music, you’re not going to find what you’re looking for here.
I’m not going to say that Hypomanie’s blend of post rock, black metal and shoegaze never gets boring, because it will. Even the most well-done post-rock and black metal will get boring if it’s all been done before. On here though, it doesn’t, because it’s only 29 minutes long, and its execution is what keeps it fresh with each listen.