Review Summary: Blackened engineering
I've been awaiting the reappearance of Seattle-based dissonant collective Hissing with some anticipation. The trio's 2018 debut full-length release, Permanent Destitution
, made a positive impression on me for basically two main reasons: it was around this time that I dove deeper into dissonant waters and, obviously, for its intrinsic attributes. These factors - novelty and quality, when combined, trigger an inner mechanism more susceptible to new musical experiences, amplifying and enhancing them. The band's Portal(ish) formula, which, in their own words, seeks to explore the inhuman outer limits of black and death metal, while not entirely original, successfully embodies a dissonant hybrid approach that has been gaining traction for some years now. As a matter of fact, the style is now so widespread and embedded in the various extreme metal sub-genres that it has become an all too familiar face, fully impregnated in their genetic codes; almost institutionalized. Hissing's sophomore studio album, Hypervirulence Architecture
, thus presents itself as an old acquaintance in a recognizable outfit. Its hybrid character that orbits black and death metal is still very much present, but now with a somewhat more pronounced differentiation. While the first two cuts, 'Cells of Nonbeing' and 'Hostile Absurdity', feature an OSDM vibe through their filthy, cavernous tremolo picking, the last two mirror a more dissonant blackened Portal-esque tone, closer to the black arts. Although there's obviously a space in between, where the band's creative core lies, I couldn't help but feel this slight stylistic contrast.
The trio clearly move at ease and within their comfort zone. The stable lineup and established identity provide solid foundations for the music to flow smoothly and confidently. The constant crescendos and tempo variations, though not surprising, ensure the proper dynamics while lending an organic flavor to some segments, such as the drumming in 'Operant Extinction' which operates freely over the ambient soundscape. The psychedelic-ish title track also emphasizes this more atmospheric side, simultaneously spawning a midway pit stop that lets you catch your breath before diving back into the blackened downward spiral. Hypervirulence Architecture
is thus a journey of subtle contrasts that avoids overly stagnant territory. Yet despite its dynamic and tangible virtues, it rarely catapults us into truly memorable dimensions, somehow failing to surpass its predecessor convincingly. Something that surprised me since the band had, and still has, some margin for progression. Both Zach Wise's bold bass lines (complemented by Sam Pickel's loose, dynamic drumming) and the album's overwhelming cavernous sections are indicators that point in the right direction. Building blocks if properly cemented will not only strengthen Hissing's sound but also grant it a more distinct and charismatic personality.
Although Hypervirulence Architecture
doesn't (yet) have what it takes to put the trio at the top of the food chain, it doesn't relegate them to lower divisions either. It's a solid sequel that, while not a resounding triumph, does unveil some interesting ingredients that could lead to greater creative success in the future. In the meantime, extreme metallers and connoisseurs of blackened engineering should not sleep on it, as it is synonymous with dissonant fun.