Hissing – Hypervirulence Architecture Review

To non-metal listeners, all metal sounds hostile. Stray far to the edges of the dissonant and avant-garde in the genre, and you’ll find a breed that even experienced acolytes can struggle with. One’s first Portal experience is a conceptual case in point. From out of this dark corner of disturbing and unfriendly sounds, Hissing has emerged. In the seven-odd years they’ve been around they have accumulated several EPs, demos, a split with Sutekh Hexen, and now two full-lengths. Hypervirulence Architecture sees the Seattle three-piece dialing down the noise in their disso-death and dialing up the, well, hostility. More ‘straightforward’ than its predecessor, it nonetheless remains a violently inaccessible slab of modern extreme music, to the uninitiated.

If anything, Hissing’s sophomore effort feels like a further step into impenetrability from the debut. Permanent Destitution was distorted and obscure, but its prominent noise somewhat softened the harshness of the dissonance and the heaviness. On Hypervirulence Architecture, even this threadbare blanket is largely removed. The discordant notes, aggressive tempo changes, and cavernous, incomprehensible vocals are undisguised. What elements of noise do remain exist either to heighten the sense of dread—as on chilling interlude “Hypervirulence”—or else add to the churning chaos with flickers of feedback and strange metallic sounds. Hissing go by the playbook of acts like Portal and Gorguts in their aversion to recognizable refrains in favor of stomach-churning fickleness. They do so, additionally, with an eerie and ruthless intensity that leaves barely a second of respite from something dissonant or unnerving thrusting itself at you. Right now, readers will be in one of two camps: those who say “no thanks” with wide-eyed, humorous repulsion; or those who laugh, with Skeletor, and say “joke’s on you, I’m into that shit!”

For those still reading: Hypervirulence Architecture’s chaos feels mechanically precise, and as a result, incredibly deadly. Like some horrific, futuristic killing machine, the music is inexorable in its violence and ire. Compositions assault first with ballistic percussion, then twisted squeals, grinds, and whorls of feedback (“Cells of Nonbeing,” “Intrusion,” “Meltdown”). Changes occur on a dime, drums refusing to sit in one rhythm for too long. Cuts like “Hostile Absurdity” employ manic speed in their climbing guitar, while “Meltdown” takes the idea to its extremes with riffs that ascend to nauseating levels. But the slow is just as pernicious as the fast. Echoing bass drum and creeping bass plucking (“Operant Extinction,” “Identical to Hunger”) unsettle and soon vindicate anxiety by lurching back into blastbeat-laden fury. The disturbing effect of aforementioned feedback-shrouded “Hypervirulence,” with its voice-modulator, crackling spoken-word is only intensified by its stalking pace. Bass and treble guitar play off each other in an analogous finely tuned dynamic of sinister lurking and urgent panic (“Operant Extinction,” “Intrusion”).

Terrifying and technical, what holds Hypervirulence Architecture back is that it’s a tad too cold and calculating. As schizophrenic as the music is, the churning doesn’t often feel like dynamism so much as the machine cooly whirling its bladed implements of death. It cuts you up, but it doesn’t hurt. To Hissing’s credit, this callous exactitude does sound pretty damn good, as in keeping with the steely modern style, the production is fantastic. With a DR of 10, the bladed edges of Joe O’Malley’s riffs are razor-sharp; Sam Pickel’s drums are crisp, and Zach Wise’s bass is prominent. Wise’s gurgling howls, however, remain shrouded, placing the emphasis on the nightmarish instrumentation, and so enhancing the music’s inhumanity. This in turn has a paradoxically thrilling and numbing effect; the music is intense and impenetrable, but its spiritless violence leaves you bleeding from only shallow wounds.

Hissing has attempted to take their music to “trance-inducing, mercurial, and mind-altering sonic dimensions.” To an extent, they have succeeded. Hypervirulence Architecture is ruthless, and ruthlessly executed. The step toward more ‘straightforward’ dissonant death does feel like a step back from the Lovecraftian horror of the debut. But a step back from greatness still keeps it in the upper echelons of modern extreme metal, and this very nearly received a higher score. Listen, or don’t, at your peril.

Rating: Good
DR: 10 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Profound Lore Records
Websites: hissingseattle.bandcamp.com/ | facebook.com/hissingseattle
Releases Worldwide: July 15th, 2022

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