It’s hard to believe that Mexican Electro Industrial duo Hocico have been going for 26 years. It’s pretty astonishing actually, especially considering how many bands and artists have had such a short life-span in comparison. It could also be argued that musicians have a hard time retaining their quality over such a long period of time. With Artificial Extinction being their twelfth studio album, do they still have what it takes?
Thankfully, the short answer to that question is very much a yes. Erk Aicrag and Racso Agroyam have yet again produced a record that is filled to the brim with darkness and a vicious rage. Twisted electronic anthems are pretty much what they’re known for, and there’s no shortage of that here! Yet there’s something slightly more experimental going on behind the curtain. Other genres creep in unexpectedly, and there are moments of brilliance within the transitions that you wouldn’t usually expect.
“Dark Sunday” opens the proceedings, as a menacing ambience begins, backed by echoing synth melodies. It builds upon this, into a harsh, pounding beat that is ear shattering ‘There is no god here today’ quips Aicrag in a viscous tone, as layers of electro blare all around. This is not only the main theme of the track, but it feels like it runs deep throughout the album’s core. It’s a true ear-worm, and probably the most traditional sounding Hocico track on the entire record. “El Ballet Mecanico” starts with creepy otherworldly vibes. It’s as if being lost in desolate alien landscape and you’re sure something is stalking you from the shadows, just out of your line of sight. The track progresses into a slow and sombre harmony, that eventually becomes a corrupted glitchy landscape, as if Trent Reznor has infiltrated the recording studio. Title track, “Artificial Extinction”, continues the glitch-laden themes from the previous interlude, before perfectly aligning with a catchy drumbeat. Out of nowhere, a chorus of synthetic melodies burst in, reminiscent of hard dance club hits, adding in anthemic qualities. The track constantly toys between these two dynamics, and at times it feels like a rave taking place within a virus infected virtual world. Ominous tones kick in for “Blinded Race”, and it’s akin to opening themes of 80’s cyberpunk films (think Bladerunner, and you’ll be on the right track.) A very slow piece, but what it lacks in pace, it makes up for in atmospheric qualities. “Shut Me Down!” wastes no time in kicking in. The beat is unrelenting, pace is brisk and rhythm is bulky as hell, to the point where it may feel like your headphones are about to explode under the pressure. There’s something slightly exotic to the overlaying refrain at times, which works in perfect contrast to the visceral, razor-sharp edges that the rest of the track is driven by.
It’s once again unsettling and… is that creature stalking us from the shadows again?
Heavily subdued electro sounds begin, and you know that “Psychonaut” is about to get very harsh. It does do this indeed, as a wall of bassy sounds kick in, backed by a pulsing beat that is so beefy that it would make rooms reverberate with the sheer force of it. The main hook here is bound to be a massive crowd pleaser, and I can see this one filling up dancefloors at alternative club nights. Hell, it feels as if this track was made for that! “Damaged” becomes a stand out track from the get-go, with it’s very drum and bass style structure. Here, Hocico have moulded this genre into their own, their flavour of brutal, gritty electro blending in seamlessly with it. The inclusion of these themes only make things feel even more chaotic, at times reaching almost destructive levels. “Breathing Under Your Feet” slows things down a bit again, but it retains the atmosphere, driven by creepy ambience. It’s once again unsettling and… is that creature stalking us from the shadows again? Melodic tones are used in a clever way to give it a memorable beat, and superb sampling keeps it menacing. “Cross The Line” begins with samples that are heavily distorted. The transition into the melody from this is seamless, and quite genius too. The pulsating feel makes it hypnotic, continuing the melding of drum and bass elements from earlier, as background arrangements have a space-like mood to them. Aggression powers in, to the point where it almost sounds as if there are guitar riffs in the background at some points. “Palabras de Sangre” begins with some intense ambient noises that are an attack on the senses, as deep bass slowly pulses in, which builds into the main hook of the track. The way in which this is presented feels as if it’s an industrial tribal war march into a battlefield. The layers in this here are executed in an extremely pleasing way. It’s even mesmerising at times, and there’s a ton of detail that can be picked out. A slow droning tone signals the beginning of the end in“Quiet Zone (In Dead Silence)”, as it intertwines with some lighter notes. The mood here is dark, which is very fitting (it is a Hocico album, after all) and the qualities within it’s slower pacing have a reflective mood to them. It’s almost old school in it’s presentation, before it fades into nothingness.
This in an album that retains their dark pitch-black core sound, whilst dipping their toes into some fresh concepts.
I have to admit, I do miss the days where Hocico had a much rawer sound. Don’t get me wrong, this record is gritty as hell, to the point where I’m honestly surprised that the disc isn’t formed of gravel! The production quality in their music has become cleaner in more recent years, so it could be argued that they’ve lost some of their edginess. Although I do feel as if I’m nit-picking quite a bit here, because I think Artificial Extinction is a fantastic album. In fact, if it were to be rawer on the production side of things, then it’s likely that a lot of the intricate layers would be lost in translation. I should probably be thanking them for the high quality, really, and artists should always strive to improve, so it only makes sense. The realisation here is, that they’ve adapted and grown.
This in an album that retains their dark pitch-black core sound, whilst dipping their toes into some fresh concepts. It is interlude heavy at times, but those interludes build up an extremely rich atmosphere, which is more than enough to keep listeners transfixed. Plus, when the bulky razor-edged tunes kick in after these, it makes them all the more satisfying. There are some strong dancefloor fillers here too, particularly “Shut Me Down!”, “Psychonaut” and “Damaged”. If these tracks aren’t still on club playlists in a few months, I’ll honestly be quite surprised. They’ll have club-goers burning up dancefloors… quite literally!
They’ll have club-goers burning up dancefloors… quite literally!
The prowess that Hocico hold is shown clearly throughout the course of the 57 minutes of this record’s run time. There is a fantastic level of creativity, whilst remaining true to themselves, to who they are. Yet the music here feels more sinister and creepy than ever before. Considering how many tracks they have under their belt, that’s quite an impressive feat. They once again have proven themselves to be the masters of dark, twisted electro industrial beats. This is definitely their best yet!
Final Verdict: Twelve albums in, and Hocico’s music has somehow become darker and more sinister than ever, and it’s superb. Experimental, whilst retaining their pitch-black core sound, Artificial Extinction is their best yet!