Friday, January 9, 2015

Hipoxia - S/T

Hipoxia is a Spanish doom/sludge/drone metal band, but actually, forget about that for a second. Let’s just get this out of the way, the first track on this album has a beer keg being bludgeoned with a hammer as part of the percussion. Yes, and as unfathomably cool as that sounds on paper, it’s even better when it’s actually happening in the song. With all of the diverging paths that sludge bands may venture off into, the entire subgenre’s boundary lines can also be, unsurprisingly, sludgy. Hipoxia’s self-titled full-length is a great example of the artistic freedom that can be pulled out of sludge’s murky sub-genre blurring. Most importantly though, Hipoxia uses that freedom to hammer out a good album.

Hipoxia seamlessly mixes a filthy style of plodding doom metal with sludge, and even has some touches of Neurosis. Neurosis may at first glance seem to be an odd comparison, particularly because Hipoxia’s hawkish death growls tend to place the influences mostly in the death/doom tradition. However, the long song lengths, squeaking feedback, richly swelling guitar tones, and grand melodramatic uses of tension like we hear closing out both “Children of Winter” and “Disembodied Metamorphosis” are all fairly suggestive. This may just be sheer coincidence, but when you also consider the overall tribal feel on “Children of Winter” with its rich use of tom drums, the influence is more than plausible.

While the band blends a lot of different moods, there are no drastic or incoherent switches. It’s a gradual seesawing of different proportions of ideas that are always churning together. Aggression, power, and doom all rolled up into one mass; Hipoxia shows off a lot of ideas in this four-song 50-minute album. After a few listens though it's clear that some ideas have been slightly stretched. All of the crunchy slower riffs take their intended toll, and since none of them are bad it happens in a subconscious kind of way. You may find each part of the songs enjoyable; but towards the end of the album when your shoes feel cemented to the floor, you can’t shake the feeling that you’ve been listening for too long. This relates to the idea of Hipoxia’s murky nature. You can’t really point out any filler here, but parts of the album could have been more concise without necessarily losing any of the long enveloping notes. Those longer notes also explain how the band has the drone tag, the tendency to bathe in tones as much as melodies, grooves, or riffs.

This is a very impressive release in terms of genre-synthesis and creativity, especially when you consider that this is the band’s first full length. Hipoxia’s self-titled album combines the proud grandeur of Neurosis, aggressive sludgy filth, and pensive doom/drone all at once without ever forgetting that bands imperatively need to forge their own identity. Keep an eye on Hipoxia to see if the band releases a sophomore album, things should only be getting better.

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