Reviewed: September 2020
Released: 2020 – Svart Records
For those wanting to know more a bit more about the roots of Self Hypnosis, your starting point will undoubtedly be Kris Clayton’s Camel Of Doom outfit.
As Clayton’s songwriting became more experimental, he made the decision to shift the material into another project; acknowledging this new music as being different enough that it could be recorded under a completely different name.
Needing a partner to bring the concept to fruition, Clayton approached Greg Chandler. Chandler’s long-established reputation for recording, engineering and production, along with his involvement with UK extreme Doom pioneers Esoteric, made him a prime choice for collaboration.
For recording, the duo drafted in Lynchgate and Sanctus Nex drummer Tom Vallely to provide rhythmic thrust to the sessions – credited here as “lead drummer”, I have no doubt this is an acknowledgment to the deft ability Vallely brings to the kit. Here, he is clinical and technically impressive, his rhythms chopped and sampled to give this release an industrial flavor throughout. Indeed, alongside Meshuggah and Yes, the band list The Prodigy among the influences that brought this project to fruition (albeit an influence that is deeply weaved into the density of this release rather than an overt reference)
With the line up complete, and an eclectic musical palette to draw from, the trio have amassed a set songs that sound satisfyingly vitriolic and full of rage. They describe Contagion Of Despair as, “a scream at this decade, and everything we’ve degenerated into.”
Even though there is much fury contained on this disc, Self Hypnosis don’t rush headfirst into a frenzy. Opening track, Contagion builds on a mid-paced industrial grind, while Empowered takes a rousing tempo, carrying the listeners along until the formidable weight of Omission reminds us of the bands doom metal roots.
The production is dense and the music is layered in swathes of sonic ambience. There is a somewhat nostalgic feel to the record, one that reminds me of a sweet spot around the eighties and nineties, where the punks, goths and extreme metallers combined their ideas and blurred the boundaries to create unifying music. This could be considered an important factor when there is a common enemy to rage against.
After the savagery of Scandal, the latter half of the album is where things become more experimental. The Gothic piano that sets up Divided doesn’t really prepare you for the Mr. Bungle meets Dødheimsgard meets Killing Joke arrangement that eventually bursts from the speakers. On this track, the musicians really flex their prog’ muscles and build towards a soaring guitar melody, one that counters the snarling death metal vocals. It’s a breathtaking explosion that resolves back to the comparative stability of a piano and synth before it reignites itself into an aggressive, pulsing meditation with a final twisted flip.
The band continue to play with you; the steady march of Leeches initially feels like stable ground, until it shifts from a rhythmic march into uneasy atmospherics. For a brief moment a warm, melodic wash provides a moment of light among the density of the album, but this is shunted aside by some tortured, snarling vocals and pummelling drums, until ultimately the final track, Succumbed, crushes everything with its gloomy, sparse and despondent doom.
With Contagion Of Despair, Self Hypnosis have made an album that takes influence from a wide spectrum of sources in a very credible way. Overall, it’s a heavy record that makes it point with some delightfully vicious, metallic riffs. There is doom, sludge and death weaved into this, but also a progressive and industrial pulse that adds up to enough to make this well worth repeated listens.
Recommended. Play it loud.