Review – Hyponic: 前行者 (Former Monk)

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  • Bio: "HYPONIC was formed in 1996 in Hong Kong. Their debut album <<Black Sun>>, an independent Release in 2001, was well received by metal magazines and websites." - Facebook
  • Label: Weird Truth Productions
  • Release Date: August 10th, 2016
  • Genre: Doom Metal, Funeral Doom Metal
  • Website: Visit Website
  • Rating (out of 10):

If you have never heard of the Hong Kong, China based funeral doom metal group Hyponic before, don’t fret. You are not alone. You probably also didn’t know this mysterious group is currently celebrating their twentieth anniversary either. Surprisingly enough, this incredibly overlooked group formed back in 1996 and have been in existence ever since, though their studio output wouldn’t really reflect that (which is why many into the style have yet to know who they are). Their debut full-length Black Sun was released independently in 2001 (eventually getting the vinyl treatment through Psychedelic Lotus Order in August of 2011), then two singles in 2004, then the follow-up effort The Noise of Time in November of 2015. There were a few compilation appearances over the years as well, but the current three-piece finally break their roughly eleven year studio silence streak with the long overdue third album 前行者, which translates from Chinese to “Former Monk” according to Google’s translator [which I used for this review and may not be the proper English translation], and is being handled by Weird Truth Productions. So what lies in store for the listener after all these years, and is it any good?

While still squarely in the funeral doom style, 前行者 finds the band branching out into other ideas. Hyponic focus on atmosphere this time around, dabbling with ambient pieces that weave unnerving settings, a compliment to the band’s exploration of human emotions and weaknesses. Tack on a dark, almost mechanical audio quality to the release and you are left with quite the oppressive, sometimes heated journey through one’s own psyche at its worst, and what could be considered its most optimistic. Of course, this is all handled through a steady progression through the aforementioned styles, bringing together a great deal of variety that still manages to fit together into one tightly knit experience like no other.

“前行者” introduces listeners to the group’s traditional funeral doom metal sound, stirring up a truly depressing atmosphere among the cleaner leads and harsh rasps that whip across the performance as if lost in the winds of an underground black metal album. One of the reasons it works so well is due to how raw the drum tracks are on this release. While the guitars and bass sound like they are torn straight out of the eighties, this instrument in particular sounds unnatural with how empty the bangs can sometimes be. Consider capturing the sound of crashing garbage can lids and recording the playback to become a third or fourth generation sound, and you’ll have a good idea how it all sounds beyond the cymbals that are oddly as crisp as the aforementioned vocals and guitars. It’s a superb choice that makes the slow build seem ever so burdening until the dark clouds start to clear up about five minutes in. The grey, however, never goes away…

“誅滅零八” (or “Zhumie and eight” according to Google’s translator page) keeps that sadness alive. But don’t let it fool you, as this is where things begin to get interesting. While the slower pace feels like a literal funeral march to the grave of a loved one in a chaotic setting, things take on a far more burdening level as the ambient aspects start to peak in about two minutes in to act as the grim realization that said procession was a genuine mark of the end. Deep pulsing bass notes and a slow rising clatter from the drums instantly put you on edge as the world spins out of control, gaining your composure just enough by three minutes in to carry on and say your goodbyes. From here it seems as though the band begins to explore that level of loss, sinking deeper and deeper into loneliness, despair, and even a disconnect from reality. And this is where I quit talking about this release entirely for good reason.

Full album stream available at THIS LOCATION.

While I find describing emotions, progression, building patterns, etc. beneficial to give the reader an idea of what to expect with a funeral doom metal album, 前行者 is one that I just cannot dive into without ruining it. Yes, this is going to be an effort that is more subjective than anything, but to enforce my own thoughts about it any further would be like revealing the ending of a film like Sleepaway Camp or The Sixth Sense. Other than commenting on how it feels like the soundtrack to coping, anything more than what is already muttered would more than likely hinder one’s appreciation for this release. Given the first two tracks are more like an introduction to what is coming, the above words should have little to no impact overall. However, to type this paragraph as the review would just be silly, so something had to be said somewhere, right?

Either way, many acts in the ambient and drone style claim to release albums that put you on edge, but the depths this offering treads winds up both fascinating and off-putting. Even as someone of sound mind in a well-lit room, this one had enough strength to genuinely fuck with me, bringing in oppressive and psychedelic performances that Neurosis and Sunn O))) have yet to reach. 前行者 will simply blindside you with how easily it can manipulate the way you feel well beyond that first spin through. This is something you cannot prepare yourself for as Hyponic easily bends you to their very whim with each passing track. 前行者 is one of those incredibly rare albums that, regardless of your musical tastes, is something you need to make a priority to experience from start to finish in a single sitting at least once in your life.

HyponicDigital review copy of this release provided by Weird Truth Productions via Transcending Obscurity PR.