Sunday, August 14, 2011

Zweizz & Joey Hopkins - "Zweizz & Joey Hopkins" (2011) [Jester Records]

RIP Joey Hopkins (1982-2008)

I still remember when this album was announced a few years ago. Yes, two of the underground avantgarde/metal scene's most formidable of juggernauts, Norway's Svein Egil Hatlevik (also known as Zweizz, formerly of Fleurety, DHG, et cetera) and the United States' own up-and-coming Joey Hopkins (Midget Factory, Alien Syndrome 777) had begun collaborating on a new project. Having heard Hopkins's music on the massive, free Ulver tribute, My Own Wolf, released in 2007, I was more than excited to hear his thoughts collide with Zweizz's irreverent chaos.

Sadly, tragedy struck on December 31, 2008, when Hopkins was found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning. He was 26. Not wanting Hopkins' talent and vast imagination to go to waste, Zweizz marched forward with having the album completed and released nearly two and a half years after Hopkins's death, resulting in this all-too-fitting posthumous testament in his honor.

Looking back on Hopkins and Zweizz's own projects prior to this release, what has been presented is exactly what I had expected (which is a good thing). A cornucopia of strange sounds, digital, analog, alien, explode forth from every open pore; tumbled together and set forth into the void so that they may manifest in the perceptible sphere. A heaving mass of blackened electronica, IDM, circus music, various world musics, soul, jazz, and some sounds that could be original to this very recording, this is without a doubt one of the strangest but most intimate listens I've ever had. Though most bands who go about the whole "tortured sound circus" sound (I'm looking at you, Mike Patton) have an air of "trying too hard" surrounding their recordings, what we have here, while broken, difficult, and obscure, flows without seams in a manner that could only work on this recording. With guest slots on nearly every song, including a rather memorable appearance by none other than Jester Records labelhead Kristoffer "Garm" Rygg on the track "Goat," it is blatantly obvious that this was a labor of love between two close friends and collaborators, willing to "pull out all the stops" to create something so fresh, mind-bendingly original and new.

Though I found myself enjoying this album, I did state earlier that it was a difficult listen. Zweizz and Joey Hopkins together touch on some heady, obscure areas that might confuse the average music fan but, in the end, it wasn't made for the average music fan. Though Zweizz and Joey Hopkins will be their one and only collaboration, this brilliant album is a monument to Joey Hopkins's career, imagination, and life, ended much too soon. Do yourself a favor and buy this from Neuropa Records as soon as you can.


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