After the overly brutal yet generic effort of HATE ETERNAL'S last offering, "The Fury And The Flames," fans were skeptical of where the band would end up going. HATE'S music was tightly knit and brutal - just the way uncompromising Death Metal should be, but after "The Fury...." it seemed like they overstepped their boundaries and went too far. Now, three years later, they unleash their fifth full length album, "Phoenix Amongst The Ashes."
From the looks of the album cover and the track titles, it would seem at first glance that this is going to be another "Fury And The Flames" kind of album, featuring one excellent and brutal instrumental before about eight tracks of downright pummeling Death Metal glory; all well-produced by the band's mastermind guitarist and vocalist, Erik Rutan (formerly of MORBID ANGEL fame). However, "Phoenix..." rings more like "I, Monarch," the band's third album. It is very heavy and features that slick, clean sound where everything can be heard almost crystal clear. The drums are the loudest bit on the album as they just blast away like bombs on a track like "Hatesworn." Other times on a track like "Thorns Of Acacia," they sound more like machine gun fire with how fast they are going. The guitars buzz away and cut wide swaths of musical fury, changing from heavy chugging riffs to more seamless and lengthy guitar solos - one cannot deny the beautiful introduction of "The Art Of Redemption." There is a certain amount of technical beauty in the mix though so it doesn't seem mindless or montonous. Even though it may feel like the drums overtake the music as a whole, the guitars come in second best, especially on a track like "Haunting Abound," which is one of the biggest rhythmic chuggers that the album has to grant while still retaining a heavy, uncompromising atmosphere of pristine Death Metal glory.
Vocally, those who have heard HATE ETERNAL before know what to expect. Erik Rutan's growls are not as deep as they usually are - this is partially due to the production so he can be heard a lot easier - but they still cut deep to the heart. Mix that with some higher pitched snarls and sometimes it will feel like a DEICIDE album...although HATE ETERNAL is much more technical and varied than the former. At the same time though, one might say that the vocals can get a bit lost in the background when everything is just firing off like mad; this has always been a slight flaw in the HATE ETERNAL catalogue. In trying to make everything be heard, something always tends to end up being slightly cut out. The bass is almost non existent - sadly - because it keeps in formation with the guitar so it is hard to pick out, but it adds an extra layer of brutality to the music. The vocals, overall, are one of the things that make HATE ETERNAL though; especially on the last track where the band experiments a bit. "The Fire Of Resurrection" slows things down quite a bit for an almost Melodic Doom/Death Metal track with the lengthy guitar chords. The drums have this fantastic rhythm to it and the vocals almost snarl more than growl, especially when layered. This will certainly end up being a highlight for listeners of the album.
The sole instrumental, "Rebirth," is a great showcase of musical skill for the band. Opening rather than closing the album, it is a great statement for HATE ETERNAL to let fans know they are back and better than ever, and with the slow, churning crescendo that eventually explodes into the second track, "Phoenix..." certainly proves that. It is certainly another step in the right direction by merging technical brutality with just speed and heaviness to make this one of THE Death Metal albums of the year for 2011 (despite that there is still half the year to go). Original fans will certainly be pleased with it while new fans, or those who just like Death Metal in general, will find it a great place to begin with for the band's career. It has the fury of the earlier albums while merging the excellent production and sound of the later albums for those who really enjoy studying the music forms without the distraction of static or distortion. Prepare to be blown away before the fury of the "Phoenix Amongst the Ashes"!
(Online June 1, 2011)