Phoenix Amongst The Ashes
Metal Blade Records
I may be going out on a limb here but I’m guessing the new Hate Eternal album Phoenix Amongst The Ashes is going to be on the top of many a metal best-of-2011 list. Hate Eternal are one of those bands that elicit “this is their best record to date” every time they release an album. The secret behind this metal giant is Eric Rutan, former member of Morbid Angel and Ripping Corpse, who handles most of the music and lyrics for HT. Rutan has always had a good idea about what makes a great Death Metal record. He’s able to marry simplistic songwriting with incredibly technical playing. The full throttle dance between those elements is what makes gives Hate Eternal not just heaviness, but actual weight.
Phoenix Amongst The Ashes is the sonic equivalent of getting mugged, fast, harsh and with no apologies. This album cares more about bludgeoning you to death than just about anything else. Phoenix Amongst The Ashes is angry music created by angry people for an ugly world that gets worse everyday. It may not have the same unified anthem that punk rock does, and Death Metal may enlist juvenile imagery and subject matter, but in the end it’s all about screaming out what we need to in order to keep moving down life’s path.
“Rebirth”, the first track on the record, is an unusual way for Hate Eternal to begin an album. It’s slow and methodic, coming across like Slayer’s more deliberate thrash parts. Don’t fret; it doesn’t stay that way for long. Rutan and crew switch into thousand-mile-an-hour gear and begin barking out lyrics with furious delight. From that point on the new direction ends and the remaining tunes all shoot out of the gate like a missile powered by nuclear crack. Rutan barks, growls and the barks some more. What he’s singing about, I don’t know, but there’s no denying that he means it.
What I find so intriguing about Phoenix Amongst The Ashes is how much Hate Eternal has going on song to song. The weight behind the tracks comes from how intricately Hate Eternal weaves their music together. Imagine an incredibly strong fabric that’s actually millions of tiny stitches all pulling on each other to create the strength. The drums are constant but not without purpose, they set a granite base for the rest of the band to stand on. Obviously the star of the show here is Rutan’s guitar work.
This is an album for guitar lovers, for those who practice scales and arpeggios until their fingers bleed. Rutan plays against the bass, around the drums, off of himself, constantly bobbing and weaving through the structures with a level of guitar riffing that manages to now get boring. Rutan is also aware of the song, he knows what each tune needs and plays it accordingly. Even non-guitar players would be hard pressed not to appreciate the work.
As impressive as it is, Phoenix Amongst The Ashes never connects on an emotional level, outside of basic anger, something that’s more a fault of the genre than the album. It’s a constant circle that has no end in sight. Death Metal is extremely repetitive and often boring, something fans are rabid to protect. With such inflexible parameters a band like Hate Eternal, who can do interesting things within them, is something to be appreciated whether you like metal or not. For the Death Metal obsessive, Phoenix Amongst The Ashes will be another notch in the belt of a band that seems to be able to do no wrong.
CRAVE ONLINE RATING 7 1/2 OUT OF 10