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/

New release preview: Wormrot, Xerath, Leaves Eyes

Last week wasn’t a good one. Especially personally. Really, people say, “Oh, it was one of those weeks,” but it wasn’t anything like that. It was traumatic, to the point I couldn’t even bring myself to listen to any music. Like, at all.

I still haven’t really been listening to any music – it’s how I deal – and today was a pretty good mail day, with the new Autospy promo arriving in the mail, the new A Storm of Light digital promo showing up, and my package from Profound Lore of all three Krallice albums landing as well. Normally a good day, right? I don’t really want to go into detail as to what last week was like and what went on, because it’s a personal matter. No, I don’t have herpes. Just in case you’re wondering. Also, my poor wife had to have an emergency tooth pull late in the week, putting a stamp on it all. We move on a bit this week. So apologies for the lack of updates the last few days. Please know it’s because of a miserable time and not because I didn’t want to write. Tough when it’s a one-man shop, right?

So, just to get a bit of an update your way, this isn’t the greatest week of all time when it comes to new album releases. In fact, it’s damn-near barren. But there are a few things that are worth your perusal, one of which you can get for zero money whatsoever (at least for now).

First up is Singaporean grindcore band Wormrot, who are back with their steamrolling new album that is without mercy. Earache head Digby Pearson discovered the band on a mixtape and eventually approached the fellows via My Space to see if they’d be interested in signing a deal. They already had a 2009 full-length “Abuse” to their credit and a few EPs, so some exposure was all they needed. To be honest, some of Earache’s recent signings have been far more hit than miss, but they have an amazing history and are a well-known name, so what did they have to lose? Wormrot are one of the label’s most exciting new bands (along with veteran acts Hour of 13 and Woods of Ypress), and you can download this whole thing right now for free. The link’s below, but if you can part with some money to buy a real copy (if you like it, of course), it always helps if you can. That’s what keeps bands like this alive and demolishing. Plus, if you go to their shows, I hear you might get bulldozed if you aren’t safe. This is why I’m a happy old man who doesn’t mind watching the chaos from the very back of the room.

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

To get Wormrot’s “Dirge” absolutely free, go here: http://www.earache.com/dirge.html

Candlelight Records brings us the new effort from Xerath called “II,” a fitting name as their debut simply was called “I.” The UK band concentrates of sci-fi and theological-related themes, and their approach toward the genre is far more in the symphonic vein. Originally, they saw themselves as experimental film score metal. That isn’t a stretch. The record was produced by Jacob Hansen (Destruction, Heaven Shall Burn, Volbeat) and continues along the line of cinematic-driven extreme metal this band started to kick out with their debut. Vocalist Richard Thomson is more on the shrieky side, and sometimes the songs sound as if they should be soundtracking some sort of journey into and battle in the desert. Not that anything like that has happened recently. Typically this style of music isn’t really my deal, but Xerath tend to keep things more interesting than some of their other bands trying this type of thing, and if you can handle something in between Nile (for the atmosphere, not mind-blowing technique) and Dimmu Borgir (obvious reasons), you’ll probably like this. Also, is that the same girl who’s on the cover of their debut album? Yeah, probably.

For more on the band, go here: http://xerath.net/

Epic metal band Leaves Eyes are back with “Meredead,” their latest collection of songs that sound constructed for your neighborhood sea nymph (out tomorrow in the States). Their music can be a little dorky sounding, and yes, I imagine it would probably go over quite well at your local sci-fi convention, but that’s OK. Liv Kristine’s gorgeous, soaring voice is one to behold, no matter how you feel about this type of metal, and she manages to take these Viking folktale-laden hymns and breathes drama into them. I don’t really get into this style of music ever, but I always take time to hear each new Leaves Eyes release and usually enjoy them. Backing Kristine is, well, basically Atrocity. She is married to Atrocity frontman Alexander Krull, who contributes his throaty death growls to the band’s songs, and their stuff tends to be more interesting and journey-worthy than some of the other bands of this ilk. “Meredead” is the band’s fourth opus, and one of the surprising cuts on the album is a new interpretation of “To France,” a song originally performed by Mike Oldfield that was a big hit in Kristine’s native Norway. If you need a testosterone boost from your metal, this probably won’t do the trick. But if you can appreciate the beauty, melody, and tales inspired by worlds gone by, chances are you’ll grab the oars and row on with this one. It’s like a storybook in metal form.

For more on Leaves Eyes, go here: http://www.leaveseyes.de/

Thank you all for your patience and for your patronage. I am overwhelmed by how well this site has been received and visited since it debuted. Much thanks to all.