Phoenix Amongst the Ashes
posted on 5/2011 By:
I’ll be up front from the start and say that, like any self-respecting death metal fan, I’m a big supporter of Hate Eternal. I’m also in what seems to be the small but devoted camp that feels that Morbid Angel were at their creative best with Erik Rutan on board, and it’s not difficult to see how Rutan was able to take certain elements of Morbid Angel’s sound on Domination and Gateways to Annihilation and mold and transform them into a unique, highly contemporary and disturbingly fast brand of death metal. Whereas Morbid Angel took a turn toward what I will call ‘refined accessibility’ in the mid 90s, Erik Rutan and crew have made it their business to be anywhere from intimidating and frightening to downright near-unlistenable. And it’s not surprising in retrospect that in “God of the Forsaken,” the one song for which Rutan received credit on Gateways to Annihilation, it is difficult not to hear primordial indications of the Hate Eternal template.
And when I say "unlistenable" I mean it in a positive sense, making reference to Fury and Flames which was not a bad album, but was intense and overwhelming to such a degree that I can only listen to it when, say, I want my blood pressure elevated and my mind wiped clean, which isn’t too often. After losing blast-machine supreme Derek Roddy and being preceded by a stellar freshman debut and two excellent follow-up albums (King of All Kings and the nearly flawless I, Monarch) Fury and Flames understandably presented a difficult situation for the band. And now, thirteen years deep into the bands’ history, we have Phoenix Amongst the Ashes, and not to mince words here, but Hate Eternal has hit it out of the park, straight back, 415 feet. Home run.
If you want to get academic about it, a death metal release might get graded based upon performance in a number of different categories made up of such subjective terms as ‘brutality,’ ‘technicality,’ ‘heaviness,’ ‘aggression,’ and ‘subtle or understated melody.’ This schema would exist as subcategories in our rubric here at MetalReview of performance, songwriting and production. It could then be said that the better an album is, the higher the marks it will have. Not really rocket science, but what I’m getting at is this: on Phoenix Amongst the Ashes, Hate Eternal has achieved the top score in all imagined categories, from brutality to technicality and including high marks for a large helping of creatively layered melodies that introduce a variety of emotions to music that is prone to being raw and sharp, like a glass-embedded cudgel.
Intro “Rebirth” sets the tone with a succinct, minute and a half of brooding sludge which then explodes into “The Eternal Ruler,” the album’s first proper song. Quickly it becomes clear that the challenging production behind Fury and Flames has been scrubbed clean and honed to a fine point, revealing with clarity the violent riffage beneath Rutan and company’s maelstrom. Relative youngster Jade Simonetto established himself on Fury and Flames as a force to be reckoned with and showed that, instead of trying to fill Roddy’s shoes, he would be trying on an entirely new pair. Simonetto’s dominant style rests somewhere between the standard blast beat and an acid-jazz improv session, and his work on Phoenix Amongst the Ashes is more focused than on Fury and Flames, coinciding with the more focused song writing that runs throughout the former.
The opening segment of third track “Thorns of Acacia” brings to mind the band circa King of All Kings, as do several other moments across the album, but entwined with these familiar sections of ferocious speed and aggression are more moments of exploration and experimentation than I’ve heard on any earlier Hate Eternal record, and the risks taken have paid off. Track five, “Haunting Abound,” might be the most maturely written song by the band in the sense that dynamics, melody, and feeling seem to guide the listener from section to section, each with its own theme, like a symphony from hell, if hell is about being sucked into a black hole. Toward the end of the album we have “Hatesworn,” a complete bruiser of a track, which is due in part to the opening chug-laden groove that rhythmically guides the bulk of the song and seems a nod to Rutan’s time in Morbid Angel.
It’s not hard to find something positive to say about each track, but to wrap this up, I’ll just mention that the first minute or so of “The Art of Redemption” is probably the perfect sonic equivalent of having a tooth drilled without anesthesia, but in this case, for some fucked up reason, you keep coming back for more and liking it. But hell, the whole album is kind of like that, and on Phoenix Amongst The Ashes, Hate Eternal has travelled ever further down that unending, asymptotic path toward perfecting their art.
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Fury And Flames
2/19/2008 Hate Eternal
6/28/2005 Hate Eternal
King of All Kings