Hate Eternal Phoenix Amongst the Ashes
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02. The Eternal Ruler
03. Thorns of Acacia
04. Haunting Abound
05. The Art of Redemption
06. Phoenix Amongst the Ashes
09. Lake Ablaze
10. The Fire of Resurrection
There can be no doubt that Erik Rutan is one of the most important and influential members of the death metal world. From his work with Morbid Angel, to his numerous credits as producer for bands such as Cannibal Corpse, Six Feet Under and Goatwhore, to his hellish mop of hair that masks his face during performances, it's tough to point to anyone else as more noteworthy and recognizable in the genre's ranks. Yet with all of that considered, perhaps his finest work has come fronting Hate Eternal, the band he formed in 1997 who would go on to realize their recording debut two years later with Conquering the Throne.
There has been much change in the death metal genre since Rutan first began cutting his teeth on the stuff. For one, it's a more widely embraced style of music than ever before, and two, it's become something of a highly polished, aesthetically perfected style of music, so much so that most of what comes out now totally lacks bite. Hate Eternal, while not exactly victims of lo-fi production themselves, always managed to stay above the trends and dictated their own terms. It didn't always work – 2008's Fury & Flames was fairly uneven, though its heart was in the right place – but one never could doubt Hate Eternal's intent. They were true death metal through and through.
Now comes the band's fifth album Phoenix Amongst the Ashes, one that reduced them to a trio, and lucky for all of us, it is one of their finest records to date. The guitars are thick and battering, the drum work jars your rib cage, and Rutan's hellbound growls are as menacing as ever before. Starting with "The Eternal Ruler," a monster that explodes out from under eerie intro piece "Rebirth," the mud and violence is on full force, and the thing doesn't let up until the music stops. "Haunting Abound" has spiraling, dizzying guitar lines, and the thrashing eventually feels like a powerdrill; "The Art of Redemption" has a spastic personality, and it just might excite those who've sworn allegiance to math monster Meshuggah or the black metal experimentalists Krallice; "Hatesworn" is thick and pounding with a chorus that contains an actual hook; and closer "The Fire of Resurrection" opens with military-style tapping and eventually sounds like a metallic epitaph.
Rutan didn't really need another triumph to pad his already impressive resume, yet he's conjured one. Hate Eternal is one of the most important, vital "true" death metal bands in existence, and while not all of their albums are classics, they form a solid artistic foundation. Phoenix Amongst the Ashes is the band's strongest achievement, and it's one of the best albums the genre has spawned the first half of 2011.
Bottom Line: I'm so overwhelmed by the amount of death metal albums in my e-mail and that have arrived physically for review, that weeding out the good ones is nearly impossible. Yeah, who wouldn't want that problem, right? But it's nice to know you can depend on a veteran act to show everyone else how it's done. Phoenix Amongst the Ashes is a great album from a stellar band, and it's more proof that if Erik Rutan's name on it, it has a good chance of being worth your time.