July 6, 2011 | , | 5

Hate Eternal, Phoenix Amongst the Ashes

Holy fucking shit. Phoenix Amongst the Ashes, the mighty Hate Eternal’s latest full-length dose of unrelenting death metal, is as near a perfect album as you can hope to experience. But then again, what would you expect from Erik Rutan — a living legend on the soundboard having produced classics from Cannibal Corpse, Goatwhore, Nile and more? The appropriately titled album could be seen as retaliation to the relatively lackluster response the band’s last album, Fury & Flames, garnered from media and fans alike.

Where Rutan faltered on Fury & Flames — essentially throwing too much at the listener at any one time — he has more than made up for with the material on this latest endeavor. It seems as though Hate Eternal is Rutan’s project to push death metal into realms of technicality and brutality that have yet to be explored and while Phoenix Amongst the Ashes goes far beyond the call of duty in both areas, it also shows a measure of maturity in it’s ability to reign in the experimentation and production without overwhelming the listener to the point of exhaustion. Now, that’s not to say that there are portions within the album that are more than enough to put the casual listener into epileptic seizures, it’s just that there is a feeling of restraint which lends a feeling of constant tension within the music. It’s a feeling that at any one moment the vicious death metal you’re hearing could go other-worldly and leave your brain a puddle of viscous goop in it’s own cranial serving bowl.

Album opener, “Rebirth,” is a one minute instrumental that helps set the tone for what you are about to be bludgeoned to a welcomed and gleeful pulp with. “The Eternal Ruler’ let’s you know right away that the issues with Fury & Flames are things of the past and Rutan has pushed all the right buttons and twisted all the right dials in honing his killing machine into a tactical missile of hate. I mean, how else can you handle the amount of double kick drum powered by Jade Simonetto that sonically pummels your eardrums relentlessly throughout this track and the rest of the album. Everything throughout the album is delivered at just the right levels, leaving the listener deep in the layers of vehement vocals and blasting destruction that the band lays down.

Rutan’s twisted riffs and Simonetto’s pile-driving drums dominate “Thorns of Acacia,” a song with ties to earlier Hate Eternal material but with a good bit more experimentation and a guitar tone that rears it’s ugly head several times throughout the album — holy sweet mother of all things religious and stuff, this song is massive. “Haunting Abound” takes the brutality and adds to it some of the most mature songwriting that Rutan and crew have delivered to date. The staggered drumming and twisting riffs combine for a song with an experimental sound, but doesn’t take away from the base death metal the band utilizes. Again, another standout song on an album chock full of them.

If you’re not prepared for “The Art of Redemption,” let this stand as your warning before getting to this point in the album. The guitars at the start of the song will grate at first, but then needle their way into your very DNA. I don’t know how to describe the sound other than that I thought it was a sound effect added post-production at first. It’s not, and it will fuck you up especially with the soaring and searing leads. The title track contains a chorus that you’ll more than likely be growling along with in no time, not to mention even more twisting, spine contorting riffs than you can count. I’m impressed with Rutan’s vocals throughout the album — they’re down right bestial.

I don’t want to leave any track out of this review, but it’s already getting lengthy and you’ve probably grown weary of my blithering. Just know that every song on the album is killer, especially the later songs. From the over-the-top technical wizardry of “Deathveil” to the bruising “Hatesworn” to the melodic and atmospheric album closer, “The Fire of Resurrection,” Rutan and crew have served up a heaping pile of blasting death metal that’s sure to stand alone at the top of many top album lists a year’s end. Phoenix Amongst the Ashes is going to be one of those releases that I’ll be holding onto tightly for months and years to come.