The Underworld, London, UK
6th June 2008
All live pics and review by HannTu
Hate Eternal must be known to most death metal fans, and with the pedigree of their current and former members, it is not surprising that they remain stalwarts of the scene, producing four solid albums, with the occasional ‘incredible’ and ‘mindblowing’ track scattered among them. In the adulterous world of death metal, many well-known and well-respected musicians have passed through the Hate Eternal ranks, including Jared Anderson (RIP), Tim Yeung, Derek Roddy, Kevin Talley and Doug Cerrito. But the constant is frontman and guitarist Erik Rutan, legendary guitarist of thrash/deathsters Morbid Angel and (the lesser-known) Ripping Corpse.
For their latest album, FURY AND FLAMES, he recruited Cannibal Corpse bass god Alex Webster to replace the sadly departed Jared Anderson. In a move that surprised many fans, he also recruited drummer Jade Simonetto, whose previous experience in hardcore bands seemed to be ill-suited to the rigours of death metal drumming, especially at the pace that Erik and Hate Eternal play at. However these fears were unfounded, both on the album and on tour – Jade is a great drummer and he fills the drum stool that luminaries like Derek Roddy and Tim Yeung once occupied without any problems.
I have to say I did not enjoy the latest album as much as I did the previous three. At the best of times, Hate Eternal are about as bass-heavy as a lot of other death metal bands, but the heaviness was cranked to ridiculous levels on FURY AND FLAMES, resulting in a dull muddy mix that obscured the fine drumming and Erik’s evil riffing and soloing. The snare thuds rather than cracks, the crashes and cymbals fade rather than explode, the toms boom and the bass drums rumble like earthquakes. Alex Webster’s bass lines can hardly be heard, let alone recognised. Also the album runs along at pretty much the same pace, with no room for chugging or breakdowns – pretty much a bullet train carrying 500 tons of sludge hurtling along at 250 mph. As far as the instrumentation goes, there’s hardly any dynamics on the album. The only thing that is good about the album is that Erik Rutan’s double tracked vocals sound as violent, as angry and as menacing as ever. And the song ‘Tombeau’ is probably the album’s best track, showcasing different moods and speeds and dynamics, with some actual worthwhile solos and identifiable riffs.
I arrived late, missing opening bands Man Must Die (apparently shit according to my pals), Skeletonwitch (fucking amazing) and Cephalic Carnage (meh). I entered the gig with trepidation. This wasn’t only because of my opinion of their latest album. I had also been assured by many people that Hate Eternal were one of the ‘worst’ bands live. This wasn’t because they were sloppy, unskilled, or lacking in anything musical. They were however apparently very ‘boring’ and ‘staid’ on stage.
This is a fair accusation. However, I prefer to say it in a more positive way. Yes, the band shows very little movement onstage, and the band rips through the setlist in pretty much the same way they rip through albums – stuck in 5th gear with no clutch. Erik Rutan has very little interest in speaking to the crowd, confining himself to “Are you alright? Let’s get this going.” Bang! and into the next song. The technically demanding nature of their songs mean that the players headbang and that’s about all.
But it was a privilege to watch one of the most proficient death metal guitarists play technical guitar and sing at the same time. Metal shows entertain and enthrall on many levels. While Hate Eternal may fail on the showmanship count, they still entertained on at least two levels. The brutality, ferocity, anger, atmosphere, pace and volume of the band’s playing certainly got the crowd seething, with the mosh pit looking as manic and as dangerous as I’ve ever seen it. The crowd was in the zone and out for blood. Erik’s eye-popping vocals whipped them up to red-hot levels, and if you weren’t moshing, windmilling, headbanging or air-drumming furiously, it probably meant you were dead or unconscious. Do Not Pass GO and Do Not Collect £200.
But on a second level, everyone there appreciated the musicianship on display. To play Erik’s riffs and sing at the same time is a fucking difficult thing to do. The drumming was top notch, and the crowd reserved a special acknowledgment for the youngster from Montreal behind the kit. They know the shoes he had to fill, and to mix it up with the likes of Shaune Kelley and Erik and still hold your own is an achievement.
The abiding memory I have of the gig is towards the end of the show, about three songs from the end, when both musicians and crowd were tired and shagged out. Erik paused for breath, took a sip of water, retuned his guitar and turned back to the crowd. With his straggly mane of hair, the sweat literally cascading off every inch of exposed flesh and streaking his black BC Rich, he faced the crowd squarely and asked “More?” With the deafening response, the band cracked into action with hair and sweat flying. The crowd went apeshit ballistic mental. Again.
There’s nothing like death metal to get your heart pounding. And Hate Eternal do it with the best of them.
Thanks to Andy Turner at Metal Blade UK for the photo pass!
Hate Eternal – www.myspace.com/haeteternal
(yes the web address is misspelled!)