Long story short, I’m in a bad mood. Mostly first world problems, but still enough to leave me in dire need of catharsis. Fortunately, death metal giants Hate Eternal have dropped Phoenix Amongst The Ashes on my doorstep like a bloody hammer. So for the next 40 minutes or so, the whole world can just go to hell. (Considering Hate Eternal, I’ll be right there with you.)
After a few customer services calls and a third of a bag of Oreos, I’m feeling a little more calmed down. Hate Eternal, however, have not eased up one bit since their incarnation in 1997 (and Erik Rutan’s deviation from Morbid Angel the year before). Since then, the band has been among the forefront of death metal gems, having more personality than Necrophagist but less apologetic than Carcass, personifying the spirit of pure, unabashed death metal. Three years after the much debated Fury & Flames, Rutan and the latest lineup of Hate Eternal return with a tight and terrifying new album.
The music itself is the kind of straight-up death metal you’d expect from an o.g. like Rutan. While there are riffs that are reminiscent of his ‘Angel days, Rutan has never been one to rest on his old school laurels. Particular songs like “Thorns of Acacia” and “The Art of Redemption” present fine examples of how long of a way Erik and his guitars have come. It takes a seasoned veteran of the death metal scene to learn and master the tricks of the new(er) technical school of Death while still keeping the sound of death metal’s first wave alive and well. There are just as many nods to (self-titled) Strapping Young Lad and Decapitated in Phoenix Amongst The Ashes as there are echos of the likes of Decide and Immolation. All that’s missing is something borrowed and something blue.
The band may initially come off as just another monstrous bunch frothing at the mouth for cookies, but with a guy like [Erik] Rutan, you’re guaranteed a sonic assault with substance.
If there’s one thing about 100% USDA prime death metal, it is the lack of melody; maybe I’m the uncultured swine in this case, and a bit out of my comfort zone, but I tend to link a good melody or hook to a song’s general sense of personality. With that in mind, though, I can safely say that there is personality in Hate Eternal. The band may initially come off as just another monstrous bunch frothing at the mouth for cookies, but with a guy like Rutan, you’re guaranteed a sonic assault with substance. Tracks like “Hatesworn” show that it’s not so much about the general tune of the song, but the craftsmanship amongst the interlocked, ironclad series of riffs in the song itself. That is not to say you don’t get some moments of wrathful grandeur in the album, even if you do have to wait until the climatic finale, “The Fire of Resurrection.”
Whether your thoughts on Hate Eternal’s recent, pre-Phoenix endeavors warrant a pun revolved around this album’s title, the point is that Rutan and the guys have dusted off their shoulders and are flying high once again. Metalcore amateurs and death metal journeymen alike would be wise to take lessons from one of the genre’s grandmasters now that school’s apparently back in session.