Out of Abyss

Black metal's dark lord steps up By YASHIN BLAKE

Rating: NNNNN

Hypocrisy with Soilwork, Killswitch Engage, single bullet theory and Scar Culture at the Reverb (651 Queen West) Sunday (May 19). $20.25. 416-870-8000.

peter tägtgren drives himself hard. As the leader of Swedish sonic devastators Hypocrisy, he’s released seven studio albums in 10 years. Throw in a couple of EPs, a live album and a best- of with Hypocrisy, plus five CDs with Pain and Abyss. Then add running the Abyss studio, where he has produced albums for death metal and black metal royalty including Immortal, Marduk and Dimmu Borgir, and you have a huge creative inferno.

I caught Tägtgren on his cellphone in Sweden en route to the airport for the beginning of Hypocrisy’s first full-scale North American tour and asked him his secret.

“Just an inner burning for music. I love creating music in one way or another, either playing it or producing it. I’m driven by things I don’t know or things I haven’t done, because it’s a challenge to see if I can do them.”

Tägtgren’s vocals, guitars and keyboards join Mikael Hedlund’s bass and Lars Szöke’s drums on Catch 22, Hypocrisy’s latest CD. The album showcases the remarkable variety in the band’s sound. The changes and breaks that hold each song together bring the headbangers through a spectrum of melodic moods at different speeds with varying degrees of aggression.

All this is executed with supreme confidence. Catch 22 does not come across as an uncertain hodgepodge, but stands as an example to other death metal acts that it isn’t always necessary to blur past the listener as fast and hard as possible from the first note to the last note on a CD.

“I wanted to make it catch your ear the first time you hear it. That’s why I put clean vocals under growl vocals — so you could make out some sense of melody,” Tägtgren explains.

“We tuned the guitars down even lower because we wanted that American dirty rock sound. But the drumming and vocals are so aggressive, it sounds like Dave Lombardo on cocaine and a possessed Glenn Benton on vocals.”

Tägtgren’s recent major challenge has been getting out the album by the industrial band Pain just as Hypocrisy’s schedule is getting crammed.

“Hypocrisy just finished a European tour with Immortal. Now it’s the North American tour, then a shitload of festivals all summer in Europe. Then there will be a tour with Pain.”

The new Pain CD’s street date is scheduled right in the midst of all this — early July.

But Tägtgren is not in a rush to make another Abyss album.

“Nah, nah,” he said as soon as I asked about this band. “The last album was the ultimate Abyss album. We got all the black metal stuff out of our system, so doing another one would be just doing it for the money, and we never did that.

“I never liked to hear a band do the same album twice. You have to fuck around. If I do the same stuff I’ll feel I’m not growing as a songwriter.”

So, as Hypocrisy make their way to Toronto for this Sunday’s date with Killswitch Engage, Soilwork, Single Bullet Theory and Scar Culture, what’s the hardest-working man in the metal biz listening to? “Johnny Cash. I’m taking a break from distorted guitars to reload my batteries. I’m gonna do that all summer, except when I’m onstage, of course.”

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