Review: Self Hypnosis ‘Contagion Of Despair’

The great Tom Waits once semi-jokingly described one of his latter day albums in a press release as ‘Cubist Funk’. Listening to this frankly intimidating new opus from Self Hypnosis, it might be no harm to re-appropriate the man’s terminology as the nearest thing I can give you to a genre tag for this unclassifiable multi-headed beast is perhaps ‘Cubist Metal’.

Self Hypnosis ‘Contagion Of Despair’

Angular and ever moving; elastic and expanding. To listen to Contagion Of Despair is to enter a sonic landscape like something from some kind of nightmarish surreal video game, or the labyrinthine underworld in Hellraiser 2 rendered in musical form. This UK based combo is made of some very familiar names but Self Hypnosis should need no ‘featuring members of’ tags to peak your interest, and comparisons to the members’ other projects (bar a shared musical density) would only confuse the matter.

From the almost Art Zoyd-esque off time prog shuffle and organ swirl that opens Contagion through to the huge dark cloud of doom inspired bludgeon that closes out final track Succumbed, the amount of ground covered – some of which is distinctly amorphous terrain – is intimidating. Each song is a miniature epic, a small dark planet in Self Hypnosis‘ distinctly self-willed universe. The relatively short Empowered (Restricted) is perhaps the best bite-sized taster of where the band are coming from. A combination of mechanistic rhythm and low end guitar riffing lay the groundwork over which a variety of textures and battling vocals that alternate between bellowing death growls and desperate cries. A tension driven killing machine of a song, perhaps the most direct and digestible moment here.

Each song is a miniature epic, a small dark planet in Self Hypnosis’ distinctly self-willed universe…

It’s a demanding listen overall and the rewards of perseverance on the part of the listener are manifold. Seventeen minutes might seem galling to those of a short attention span on paper, but Omission keeps your attention for every minute, the closest the band get to their doom origins, and an expansive exercise in mood control, moving from the hellish to the heavenly and out further into the cosmos over its’ duration. Divided is another epic but the heart of the machine, materialising with a dramatic piano intro before thrusting you into a maelstrom. Again we take a turn towards the ambient in the middle before the engine roars again.

There are many moving parts at work at any given time in each song. Spectral textures clash with hard edged jagged riffing. For music so dense with ideas, there’s a remarkable amount of breathing room, which is not an easy trick to pull off. Aforementioned closer Succumbed has an almost oceanic feel to it, a sense of both calm and desolation that’s easy to lose yourself in on a good pair of headphones. Losing yourself is perhaps what Self Hypnosis demand you do – give yourself over to the world they’ve built. It’s an arduous but deeply rewarding journey.

Label: Svart Records
Band Links: Official | Facebook

Scribed by: Jamie Grimes