Hate Eternal, Rutan rise from death metal’s ashes

Erik Rutan basically IS death metal.

He plied his trade with Morbid Angel and Ripping Corpse, worked with some the best of the best in metal (Cannibal Corpse, Nile, Goatwhore) as a producer, runs Mana Recording Studio in Florida, and even hopelessly roots for the Philadelphia Eagles year in, year out. Well, at least they make the playoffs regularly, which is better than, say, the Detroit Lions. Rutan even fled from his comfort zone musically recently when he produced some songs for indie rockers The Mountain Goats, a band led by professed metalhead and Decibel contributor John Darnielle, for their latest album “All Eternals Deck.”

But when Rutan isn’t relentlessly busy with all of this, he has his own band Hate Eternal, a beastly death metal outfit that has put out five of the heaviest, most dense albums in the genre. Their latest “Phoenix Amongst the Ashes” is their latest — it hits shelves a week from today – and it is one of their most varied, melodic and riveting releases to date. As much as I like Hate Eternal’s back catalog, I sometimes find it a little too cement-thick to visit regularly. I kind of had to be in the mood to be suffocated by their dried-mud walls of death metal, and their albums weren’t those I could listen to repeatedly without feeling just a bit of monotony.

But “Phoenix” is a new animal altogether. The band is down to a trio now, with Rutan joined by new bassist J.J. Hrubovcak and drummer Jade Simonetto, who returns from 2008’s “Fury & Flames,” and their 10-track new opus is the most satisfying of their catalog. There’s definitely that Hate Eternal feel, so you’ll certainly know it’s them and Rutan’s monstrous growl/scream mix from the start, but it’s more spacious and, dare I say, atmospheric. It’s uncompromisingly heavy, but it’s extremely interesting and creative as well. I already have listened to this album a ton of times, and when I’m done, I think I’m going to listen again. I’ve never reacted that way to a Hate Eternal record before.

After brief intro “Rebirth,” a fitting way to describe the band, it’s head-first into “The Eternal Ruler,” a crushing, sooty song that sets the tone for the ominous entries that lie ahead. “Thorns of Acacia” has a pretty weird, off-kilter melody built into and buried beneath the song, but it’s present enough to set this track apart; “The Art of Redemption” opens with Rutan blazing through a mind-blowing techy guitar sweep, like he’s trying to show Krallice and Liturgy that he hears them, he’s paying attention, and he can still play the game; the title cut is thick and nasty, with Rutan rousing the masses with his repeated shouts of, “Rise! Rise!”; and “The Fire of Resurrection” opens with military-style drumming before folding into something that winds up being one heck of an album epitaph. As the final moments of this track burn off, you’ll know you just heard something special.

It hasn’t always been easy for Rutan, as he’s commonly had to replace band members, sustained painful injuries, and had to deal with the tragic death of former bass player Jared Anderson, but he’s carried on and forged through, just like a determined death metal soldier. Rutan is one of the most important figures in metal, and it’s great to hear him and Hate Eternal sounding better than ever before.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.hateeternal.com/

To buy “Phoenix Amongst the Ashes,” go here: http://www.indiemerchstore.com/item/11946/