HISSING – Hypervirulence Architecture (2022)REVIEW

Insidious tumult in the unsteadying tributaries of arcane precedence. — The way I see the continuum of the last twenty years of death metal abstraction is admittedly guided by a loosely feathered together temporal order wherein twenty years worth of deconstruction of ceiling-cracking non-traditional rhythmic elaborations of technique built a unique form of death metal impressionism, or, sensorial extremism which represented a much needed nuke to the foundation of the sub-genre. It wasn’t a single-handed feat but it was clear what monument’d been towering over all then and now. Some sought to hex the listener directly with Fibonacci spiralized descent, others sought to rethink the fabric of the medium entirely into cinematic and lucid torrents, and some years later Seattle, Washington-based esoteric blackened avant-death metal trio Hissing have made a case for similarly profound deviance in aiming to unravel the fantastical, illusory platitudes of avant-garde death metal in an entirely destructive manner. Their serrated twisting of the knife seeks to assassinate the skeletal bracing of tradition itself yet it costs itself plenty of flesh in the process of dowsing denouement. Fair enough if that means next to nothing sensical to you, but in terms of modern death metal’s visionary abstracters these folks do have something compelling to show within their trembling, invaginated sluicing of rhythmic collapse on this second full-length ‘Hypervirulence Architecture‘.

All this talk of abstraction might lead you to think that Hissing are a sort of quasi-psychedelic vision of black/death metal, a bestial morass of exaggerations aimed at reality but instead I’ve interpreted ‘Hypervirulence Architecture‘ as naturally reactive realism, improvisational in the sense that it allows the emotional turmoil of the current hypersensitive human experience flow around in distempered fluxion, inspiring emotionally distraught rhythmic temperament. There is a grand stroke of mentally taxing Hell mulled over, revealed and set into muscle memory here on this second Hissing album, a very public and destructive sensationalist angle seeking to shatter back at the wall of noise of every day life with their own grinding, unforgiving animalistic massif. The same grating sonic arthouse skulling of death metal was present on their debut full-length ‘Permanent Destitution‘ (2018) to some degree, and generally speaking my review of that record could largely be repeated here in description of ‘Hypervirulence Architecture‘ as a discography appropriate piece, but it is important to suggest that Hissing are ‘themselves but irrevocably changed’; This second album means something different, lives within and accepts a new reality, a timely state of mind moored in mass mental dissolution parsed over the course of the last two years. There is hysteria, overwhelming morbidity, and six hundred days worth of daily disgust packed into these ~39 minutes — but sure, the mirror of the abyss will stare back however it sees fit.

The low end on this album is melted into the mix here and largely in support of bass guitar definition, higher frequencies are naturally lent to the rhythm guitar/crash dynamic in the form of a hail of frazzled spikes, strong articulation with mid-tones without losing the murky, bestial character one would want from Hissing at this point. The result is an album which still “reads” consistently in phrase, in terms of its general rhythm/lead guitar voicing, even at car stereo attenuator low-level volume; Blasting ‘Hypervirulence Architecture‘ at high volume reveals bassist/vocalist Zach Wise as a sort of half-buried corpse in terms of presence, shouted atop a tile floor with outward-oozing resonance with the bass performances springing about just above and abounding the distortion-shocked grind of the guitars (see: “Intrusion” b/w “Identical to Hunger”). By direct comparison with the v-shaped mud-slinging rub of the previous album there is a columnar, cross-sectioned sound design herein where the root-tones and the upper atmosphere are all included and somehow without Albini-esque room noise create a proper illusion of synchronized performance in related space-and-time.

When it comes to the band’s actual blasting prominent bass guitar swerving twists their overall aggression away from the typical hi-fi bestial blackened death pouncing a bit, just as intense in terms of snare-slapping show stopping burst metal but not quite as even-handed as Of Feather and Bone‘s skin-scarring and not exactly as morbid and colorless of a morass as Knelt Rote‘s ‘Trespass‘ but somewhere in that realm of slithering and slapping unrest-core beats. The ten and a half minute mid-album peak of “Operant Extinction” emphasizes the brutally unfocused reap one would expect from Hissing but also a strong example of the more accomplished blurring, swerving rhythmic edge of their sound. It is likewise prominent feature of the tormented yet patient rhythmic map that’d been slightly obscured previously thanks to instrumentation that telegraphs motion more clearly, accentuating the complexity of arrangement this time around, which finds the band reaching beyond hypnosis towards crazed, chaotic work on the very edge of art-metal. This ends up being peak immersion beyond the grand grinding finale, the final sentence, of “Meltdown” at the endpoint. In plain English? Hissing are still brutal, but the rhythm section has seen some considerable introspective breakthrough on this record.

By contrast with the patient, spaced valleys of “Operant Extinction”, “Hostile Absurdity” presents an abysm of brutality, descending guitar runs and grinding blasts before we hit ~1:59 minutes in where the up front nature of the piece acts in service to the impact of its careening riff, the implied motion of the hand upon the guitar voicing is that of scowling mental dissent. Much in the way that noise rock and grindcore create erratic and frustrated shapes from syncopation so do Hissing frame their blackened death metal sound design around emphasis of syncopated rhythmic sensation, moments of sporadic emotional birth which constitute the “wrack for relief” efficacy of noise rock/post-hardcore by way of dissonant extreme metal. Side A of this record is the true basal skin layer of the band revealed as emotionally reactive music, it could be all about muscularly harassed tremolo picked crunching away at irrational numbered guitar runs but this time around it seems they’ve found a direct channel to a darkest, personal core-rattling experience herein. This’d have been reasonable enough doom-scrolling for a sale on my part, the first three pieces on ‘Hypervirulence Architecture‘ present an admirable evolution, or, refinement of aberration and “sell” their sound quickly. The scrape of “Hypervirulence” helps to rounds out the panorama to the point of being a bit extra, presenting a jaw-wrenching unsatisfying bite from the husk of their dark ambient/noise talents which can be sought out in greater depth via 2019’s ‘Burning Door‘.

The major argument for Hissing‘s second full-length could easily surround their experimentally insightful nature, an against the grain current which bears earnestly incensed results, but this wouldn’t provide tangible rationale enough to give it a listen without some manner of ear for the riff, the in-the-pocket rhythmic showcase that can only come from bodies in rooms jamming instruments, rehashing the peaks and spilling blood together ’til the picture was exactly right. There is a real morbidity to the experience of ‘Hypervirulence Architecture‘ that wouldn’t quite have the aberrant impact it does without the well developed sound design on hand, though, so I would consider the greater render vital sinew connecting the reconfigured skeleton of avant-garde bestial death herein to its muscular tic. The only criticism I’d lob at this record is that it is perhaps too much of a pleasure to listen to, that it manages to communicate such lucid, dreadfully tumbling anxiety and mayhemic mindset without so much as a stint needed to keep their core motion in tact, and to the point that the prime atmospheric value becomes luxurious flow, an experience which is intoxicating rather than harrowing. It is a fine enough problem to have. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (84/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
TITLE:Hypervirulence Architecture
LABEL(S):Profound Lore Records
RELEASE DATE:July 15th, 2022

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