Whenever an established band goes through a line-up change, it’s only natural for the fans to get slightly nervous. That’s understandable especially when the line-up change consists of more than one member. Now, in HATESPHERE’s case, the line-up change wasn’t simply one member. In fact, since their last album they only have a single member left to follow up on their sixth release. So then, as logic goes, one should be very nervous.
But fear not, HATESPHERE followers, even though the band has exchanged four people in its ranks, “To The Nines” is far from being a disappointment. I would understand why some individuals would still find “To The Nines” as being a let down though. Over the last few albums, HATESPHERE has moved away from their concrete thick combination of Thrash and Death Metal and moved towards a more modern sounding Groove oriented approach to their Death/Thrash assault and it continues to bloom in that manner on this album. So some fans are going to already find something to loathe about it. Even I would agree that HATESPHERE hasn’t been as strong as they used to be leading to this point.
Here’s the ace in the sleeve though. Main songwriter and guitarist Peter Hansen (the only remaining member) has built a group of musicians around him on this album that fully supports this directional move and approach to the music, thusly erasing that tension of band members playing music they didn’t necessarily sound comfortable in. What it did on “To The Nines” was improve the overall feeling and tighten the sound up amazingly. Strong choices for the band!
There is still quite the core of Death/Thrash within the record though, as can be heard in the opening two tracks “To The Nines” and “Backstabber”, but the band seems even more comfortable in their more groove oriented attempts like the riff pumper “Clarity” or the drum driven “The Writing’s On The Wall”. It helps to have that combination of the more intense and chaotic tracks with the slower swing oriented ones. It’s a balance that the band has never really seen before.
I also must mention that although, every new member brings something very solid to the mix, it is the more modern roar of new vocalist Jonathan Albrechtsen that really struck me. He nails his beastly attack on the album with a modern sense that will split some fans. He was a definite plus for me.
I still miss the use of soloing and melodic leads from the band though. Occasionally one will come ripping through the riff and double bass heavy music, my favorite one still being the ending of “In The Trenches”, but the brief burst of soloing makes each one all the more memorable in the end.
HATESPHERE could have fallen on their asses with the massive line-up changes but in the end I think it did the band more justice then perhaps another disappointing album. It was a surprise for me for sure, and hopefully a surprise for those of you out there who have stuck to the band through thick and thin.
Songs to check out: “To The Nines”, “In The Trenches”, “Clarity”.
(Online June 8, 2009)