(In this post, NCS writer Andy Synn reviews the new album by Poland’s Hate, which is scheduled for release in North America on February 5.)
Ok, let’s start by acknowledging the elephant in the room, shall we? For years now (more than I’d care to count, in fact) it’s been de rigeur to punctuate any review or feature on Hate with references to… that other band. You know the one. The ‘other’ blackened death metal band from Poland. Begins with a ‘B’…
Anyway, I think that’s been done to death. We all know the similarities by now, just as we should all realise there’s more than enough room in the world for both acts to be taken and judged on their own merits. So I’m going to conduct this whole review without even once mentioning the ‘B’ word, or making reference to ‘they who shall not be named’. In fact, I’m going to pretend they don’t even exist.
Now Solarflesh is Hate’s eighth full-length album, and offers up a more refined – and perhaps even more crushing – take on a sound that the band have been developing since (at least) 2003’s Awakening Of The Liar, a hybrid of black atmospherics and brutal death metal aggression, which has slowly taken on more and more of a spiritual, metaphysical aspect as the years have gone by. Added to this is that, as opposed to… some other band… there’s always been something more intimate about Hate’s approach, something that works to set them apart, even as they give rapturous voice to their own inner demons.
Opener “Watchful Eye Of Doom” is a full-length instrumental track which focusses on conjuring a doom-laden atmosphere of malevolent, crawling guitars and strange, inchoate auras. It builds and builds towards critical mass, exploding straight into the spine-tingling introductory bars of “Eternal Might”, the first song-proper. It hammers home the sonic identity of the band with its mix of predatory vibrations and sheer aural punishment, swamping the listener in a burgeoning cataclysm of titanic guitar chords, monstrous vocal utterances and pulverising drums, only relenting its iron grip around the listener’s throat for a short, and intricate solo section that paints the song with odd, melodic inflections.
Barbed and bristling with razor-sharp hooks, “Alchemy Of Blood” develops from a neck-snapping, stuttering opening into a more demonic, haunting piece of tense melody and sudden, stabbing heaviness, whose torrent of rabid, guttural vocals is offset by the machine-like precision of the slicing guitar riffs and hammering drum work. Multiple searing solos break up the song’s almost unrelenting assault, adding colour and vibrancy to this tar-thick, blackened slab of desecration.
One of Hate’s signature weapons has always been their use of warped scales and oddly disharmonic guitars to twist their full-on death metal assault into something more alien and unusual, as artful as it is aggressive. “Timeless Kingdom” is a perfect example, beginning with a choking miasma of darkly dissonant melody, which continues to permeate the song’s storm of groaning, monolithic guitars and leviathan vocals throughout. A grandiose riff straddles the song’s mid-section like a modern day goliath, priming the track for warfare before its frenzied, climactic solo.
Hints of a Rotting Christ suffuse “Festival of Slaves”, exotic female voices and esoteric atmospherics colouring the track with unusual moods and strange designs, but the hanging chord progressions and sudden fusillades of punishing kick drums are an expression of pure, hate-fuelled aggression. The unceasing spiritual bludgeoning of the track only becomes more intense during its second half, where the band redouble their efforts at crushing the listener’s will with the steady attrition of their jackhammer guitar and drum assault.
One thing that certainly sets Hate apart from… other bands… is the more internal focus of their sound and vision. “Sadness Will Last Forever” exemplifies this with its inner dialogue of self and other, taking the listener on a darkly metaphysical journey into the soul. For all his vengeful, venomous exhortations, Adam’s vocals sound less like proclamation from the pulpit toward an adoring mass, and more like the venting of inner demons, a self-inflicted torment that one cannot but help be drawn into. At a hair over seven minutes in length, the track can afford to be patient, steadily ascending from a black abyss of lightless anguish toward a stunning crescendo of empyreal hellfire.
The metamorphic title-track transforms from a luscious display of acoustic fretwork into a solar firestorm of bleeding edge tremolo work and merciless, blasting drums, before shedding its skin once more and emerging as a brutal, bruising pile-up of sharp-edged, almost robotic riffage and finger-shredding technical guitar work. The band ease off the pressure temporarily to infuse the track with some epic, post-human dynamics, unveiling a grandiose, even extravagant use of stellar melody and style that adds a whole new aspect to the song.
“Endless Purity” blurs the line between high-art and horror, as the track shifts from doomy, doleful lows to scorching, spiteful highs, without ever losing its foundation of phantom melody. The song’s mid-paced, desolate grind is lit solely by flickering flames of occult orchestration, piercing the gloomy shadows with their obsidian light, while the vocals are less ravenous, but no less intense, in their growling, wounded glory, harrying the listener as they descend into the abyss.
The switchblade guitar work of “Mesmerized” ends the album on one of its highest notes, carving its symbol into the listener’s flesh and planting its hooks in the deepest, darkest recesses of their souls. A phenomenal vocal performance absolutely dominates the track (accented by the eerie strains of distant, ghostly female voices), but never overshadows the perfect accuracy and harnessed aggression of the skull-cracking drum work, or the blight-ridden majesty of the its majestic, malignant guitars.
Demonically precise, inhumanly focussed, mechanised and amplified, Solarflesh is a musical ritual made incarnate, captured with perfect and absolute clarity. Utterly crushing from start to finish, it could very well be the defining statement of Hate’s career, and is an absolute behemoth of an album in its own right…
Oooh, so close…
Official Site: http://www.hate-metal.com
Piqued my interest, will check this out!!
Good use of “piqued” sir.
Best review I’ve seen for this album. I’ve always tried to get into them, enjoyed a few tracks but haven’t really been very compelled to hit replay on their previous works. Great live band though! Maybe this will be the album to command my attention.
They are indeed a great live band. The one time I saw them I thought my head was going to come off I was banging it so hard.
I’ve only recently been checking out NCS on a regular basis, but you guys and gal do a great job. And you have generally good taste–that is, I agree with a lot of what you say. I am a metal DJ always looking for new music so I really appreciate the news and reviews. It’s all very informative and, with the exception of the occasional use of the term “spine-tingling,” very well written. Thanks for your passion and perseverence!
Many thanks for those very kind words!
A bit weaker than Erebos, but it might just take a few spins.
It’s definitely less immediate, I’ll give you that. Took me a few spins to start to hear how all the background elements add to the overall darker picture.
I thought the album was more complex, more varied, more atmospheric than Erebos (which was an album I loved). Lots of nice small touches on many of the songs that add color, too.
Yes, lots of interesting colour. Though it’s all shades of black.
I won’t argue with that. There’s definitely a powerful aura of infernal might that surrounds the music.
well there is a reason they are called a poor man’s Behemoth. They are in just about every way 🙂
What an unexpected, nay even inspired, comment.
This review has been very impressive and then listening is a must, after the magnificent “Morphosis” the “Hate” have created an icy and dark musical experience in this “Solarflesh” which is really well done. Sharp, cruel, great. The material uses interesting melodies that often come to talk with claims and echoing guitar riff, and then bow out and leave the songs to fade into a ritual march. Thanks for this review.