Released: 2015, Napalm Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Despite coming up at roughly the same time, Warsaw-based black/death metallers Hate long have lived in the considerable shadow of their brothers in arms from Poland’s north, Gdansk-based Behemoth, even as their respective sounds developed into something strikingly similar.
Perhaps because of that, there seemed to be a concerted effort to make Hate more “Behemothy” for their last album, Solarflesh, in 2013 – from the leather kilt and cloak fashion sense and more dramatic instrumentation, all the way down to such song title eccentricities as swapping “of” for “ov,”for instance. For a band who’ve been around for 20-some years, it was a rather dubious strategy.
But subsequent, and unfortunate, circumstances have brought changes. The death of bassist Sławomir “Mortifer” Arkhangelsky while on tour in 2013 and the departure of longtime drummer/songwriting contributor Stanislaw “Hexen” Malanowicz seem to have prompted frontman/guitarist Adam “ATF Sinner” Buszko and guitarist Konrad “Destroyer” Ramotowski to rethink their modus operandi for Hate's new ninth album Crusade:Zero.
Gone are the “costumes” and other contrivances. The sound here too is somewhat streamlined if, paradoxically, more epic, minus some of the flourishes of Solarflesh in favor of something anthemic and emphatic. Close your eyes and it's still tough to tell Hate and Behemoth apart – for the simple fact that Buszko and Behemoth frontman Nergal's voices and deliveries are nearly identical. But where Behemoth greatly expanded their sonic palette with The Satanist, Crusade:Zero sees Hate tighten the reins a bit.
After two short instrumentals to open the album, “Death Liberator” sets the tone with its mid-tempoish pace, grand scale and massive riffs that just keep pounding away. “Leviathan” follows suit, though in more dynamic fashion, breaking into a full sprint in several spots led by frisky new drummer Paweł Jaroszewicz – who served with Decapitated for a stretch and still plays with Polish grinders Antigama.
Here, however, it's Buszko's mantra-like lyrics, with lines being shouted again and again, that gives the song a distinctive punch. And it's a method he uses with some frequency on Crusade:Zero, accounting for “emphatic” feel I mentioned earlier.
“Hate Is The Law” and the title track are the two songs here that really see Hate cutting loose. Yet just when it looks like they are going to go all out, the band put on the brakes with ethereal passages or riffy bridges. Indeed “Hate Is The Law” boasts the album's catchiest hook during a stomping section that leads into the guitar solo break.
“Rise Omega The Consequence!” and “Dawn of War” offers some more of the dynamic flair “Leviathan” introduced earlier, with sudden shifts of mood and elastic tempos. But they too boast the sort of anthemic swells that weave their way into just about every track here.
Crusade:Zero has an almost “towering” feel and is certain the biggest sounding album Hate have done, even if it less technical or adventurous than their more recent efforts. But that's a good tradeoff, especially when considering all that has happened with the band since Solarflesh.