Reviewed: [April 2019]
Released [2019 Willowtip Records]
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
After issuing their debut EP Hive in 2015, New Jersey devils Hath spent the next four years honing their craft and beefing up their lineup and sound, with second guitarist Peter Brown coming onboard last year as the band got to work on their first full-length. And with Of Rot And Ruin, the time and effort have paid off handsomely.
While Hath might not have the most original or groundbreaking sound here – echoing Morbid Angel, Zyklon and Behemoth, among others – they boast a seasoning and confidence that grabs your throat from the get-go and only tightens its tenacious grip. The songs are well-scripted and impactful – if sometimes a bit long – and the performances are vicious and well-honed.
After a somber tolling bell, Of Rot And Ruin gets off to an impressive, epic start with “Usurpation” that offers a little bit of everything – tangled, snarling riffs; tornadic drumming; elegant, dive-bomb solos; tag-team attack-dog vocals; a quick “clean” sung verse; and a dramatic sweep throughout to set it apart from your average, workaday bluster. “Currents” is more standard death metal – despite its Spanish guitar intro – with its guttural vocals, and thicker, chuggier groove, but retains the grand scale and scope.
The rest of the album offers much the same, with seven of the nine tunes topping six minutes and the titanic “Rituals” clocking in at nearly nine as it ebbs and flows between moody, quieter passages and explosive bursts. The shortest actual song, “To Atone” – the 2:25 “Kindling” is an acoustic interlude – is, not surprisingly, the most intense on the album, dropping the tuning a bit and concentrating its energy to maximize the impact of its corrosive 3:31.
The clean passages – which actually are usually done as dirty/clean harmonizing between guitarist Frank Albanese and bassist Greg Nottis – become a bit predictable and overused as the band inserts them into nearly every song, and often delivers them in much the same fashion, which is perhaps my one complaint about the album. Even so, it’s something a bit different, and can be quite effective, as on the breathier passages of “Accursed,” when given a bit of a spin.
Oddly enough, the most melodically inclined song here, the closer “Progeny,” which mixes Opeth-like progressive riffiness with black metal ferocity, leaves out the cleans, but doesn’t suffer a bit for it. Indeed it may be the album’s best song, although that’s a tough call since they’re all pretty rock solid.
Of Rot And Ruin is a stellar “debut” by a band that definitely have gotten their shit together. Hopefully Hath can get out there, do some touring and build on their already considerable strengths, because the future looks very bright for these guys.