Review Summary: A heavy heart yields fierce anger as Hate Eternal’s Fury and Flames takes modern death metal to new levels of uncompromising intensity.
This album was inspired by and is dedicated to my lost brother, best friend and bandmate Jared Anderson. I owe so much to Jared that words cannot describe. His encouragement over the years and support of me and the band helped fuel the fire and keep it aflame and I shall always be grateful for all of his support and contributions to Hate Eternal and to me as a friend. I could never have done it without Jared Anderson. -Erik Rutan
In mid-2006 Erik Rutan began thinking about the next Hate Eternal project. He had been talking to Jared Anderson, his friend and original Hate Eternal bassist about possibly rejoining the band. Not only were they the two founding members of Hate Eternal, but they had spent time in Morbid Angel together as well. Then on October 14, 2006 Rutan’s world was shaken to its core with the untimely passing of Jared Anderson. After contemplating the future of Hate Eternal, Rutan decided to deal with his grief by honoring the wishes and memory of his long time friend and continue on with the band. At the onset of writing for the new album Rutan worked alone, but it wasn’t long before he needed to start putting together a new line-up. Rutan brought in long time friend, ex-Ripping Corpse bandmate and Dim Mak guitarist, Shaune Kelley on second guitar and they worked on writing music together for the first time in more than twenty years. Canadian drummer Jade Simonetto (Camilla Rhodes) actually contacted Rutan via Myspace in the summer of 2007. After posting videos on YouTube of himself playing Hate Eternal songs for Rutan to check out, he got the opportunity to audition for the band and landed the spot as permanent drummer. Lastly Rutan filled the bass position by recruiting another old friend, Cannibal Corpse bassist, Alex Webster. With a line-up intact Hate Eternal hunkered down and got to the business of making some new music. The passing of Anderson had a profound affect on Rutan and was coming through the music the band was making, influencing the overall vibe of the project was taking on.
Anger as a response to grief over a personal loss can make one furious at the world.
The opening track to Fury & Flames “Hell Envenom,” grabs you like a madman, yelling in your face, with all the pain, misery and anguish that you know Rutan was experiencing when he wrote it. The first thing I noticed was the stark departure from the sound of Hate Eternal’s previous efforts. Gone is the band’s razor sharp, clinically sterile trademark sound. It has been replaced with a more organic and forceful dose of superiorly crafted heaviness. Rutan has been quoted as saying, “It’s a very dark and heavy record – not just heavy as in ‘heavy metal,’ but heavy-hearted as well.” He understates the sheer heaviness of Fury & Flames as this album easily crushes everything the band has done in the past. The album’s heaviness does not slow it down though. Despite its gargantuan weight the music moves at an incredibly fast pace that is maintained start to finish. It is quite simply inexorable. This album is so fiercely intense that it is nothing short of awe-inspiring. While earlier work has been an equal mix of chaos and cleverly designed hooks, Fury & Flames focuses less on all out technical precision and more on controlled mayhem brimming with anger and outright aggression. The music is built on riffs that are immediately more urgent and mature than what Rutan has written in the past. This time around the riffs are more aggressive, darker and imposing. Fury & Flames is more of a band album than an Erik Rutan showcase. Rutan pushes his current bandmates to reach a level of unrelenting intensity. In the process they all give 110% of what they have, digging deep and coming up with the strength to create music extremely powerful and unyielding.
A positive way to deal with one’s feelings during a period of mourning is to express them in a creative way, crafting an honorable memorial.
Rutan’s approach going into the album was to honor the memory of his late friend and the track that best reflects his efforts is the album’s final song, “Trombeau (Le Trombeau De La Fureur Et Des Flammes).” This song captures the essence of the new approach Rutan took to his song writing. With the addition of Shaune Kelley as second guitarist there is a more varied flavor to the guitar sound than the band previously had. The wall of guitars is more multi-dimensional than in the past, which tended to be kind of thin and hollow in comparison. Like in the song “Thus Salvation,” Kelley’s playing adds more depth giving the album a more substantial sound. Rutan’s unique guitar tone, especially while soloing, is still present. Together the pair pile on massive amounts of furious shredding. There seems to be fewer solos this time around, but that just might be a result of them being shorter and more concise. This allows Rutan and Kelley to be more effective and emotive without being flashy. That is not to say there aren’t some ferocious solos. The appropriately titled “Fury Within” has one of the albums more vicious solos. Their combined efforts on “Proclamations of the Damned” achieve maximum results also. It is more about the songs than highlighting the guitarists’ technical abilities. Just listen to the dual guitar solos at the end of “Trombeau” and in “The Funerary March.”
Grief can change the way one normally acts. Allowing for the expression and experience of grief can potentially lead to healing that will strengthen and enrich one’s life.
When Alex Webster accepted Rutan’s offer to be a part of this project he knew the album was to be a tribute to a fellow bassist and in his honor, he brought the goods, in spades. Right from the opening of the first song, “Hell Envenom,” it is instantly evident that the bass did not get buried in the mix, an unfortunate quality in other Hate Eternal works. The bass is right up front with everything else. Webster’s sound is better than that on Cannibal Corpse’s latest, Kill (also produced by Rutan), the performances are stronger and more forceful. In the album’s third song “Para Bellum,” Webster displays this force as he punches home the bass lines with frenzied finger picking. That song and “Thus Salvation” make apparent the time and energy of that he must have put into developing the complex bass lines. His distinctive style is ever present in the music throughout the album. He does not let up for one minute, take the driving bass in “The Funerary March,” it is almost exhausting. To me this is some of the best bass playing I’ve heard on a death metal album. As laborious as his playing is, what is felt is the passion with which he plays. The proper combination of technicality and emotion are the key. I think this is the best performance of his career. To his credit, Webster has exquisitely paid homage to the memory of Jared Anderson.
One must give other people the emotional energy that was once given to the loved one who was lost in order to redirect that energy in a healthy way.
After landing the drummer slot in Hate Eternal newcomer Jade Simonetto spent nearly two months with Rutan jamming in pre-production. Rutan has already heaped well earned praise on the twenty-four year old in the press for his dedication to giving the best performance possible. It is obvious. You can hear it on “Whom Gods May Destroy,” Simonetto is merciless behind the kit. From the first song the similarities between his style and former Hate Eternal drummer Derek Roddy are noticeable. It might not so much be the similarities between the two as it is Roddy’s influence on Simonetto. If you liked the drumming on previous Hate Eternal albums, I think you will like this just fine. The main difference is the overall sound of the drums, it is thicker, deeper and more full. This is a testament to Rutan’s production as much as anything. Being as young and talented as he is, Simonetto will most likely be a force to reckon with in death metal for years to come. The song “Para Bellum” is a prime example of his talent. His prowess continues to impress on “Proclamations of the Damned.” In parts of “Fury Within” he unexpectedly locks into a neat little groove. Rutan’s instincts in choosing Simonetto were right on.
During grief, it is common to have conflicting feelings. Sorrow, anger, loneliness, sadness anxiety and guilt often accompany serious loss. Denying feelings and failing to work through the grief is harder on the body and mind than going through them.
Rutan’s vocal delivery, guttural and low, is pretty much the same on Fury & Flames as on earlier Hate Eternal albums with two somewhat subtle, but key differences; there is far more emotion and a new found maturity in his voice this time around. Though the approach may have been the same, the results are different; Rutan is at his most somber, earnest and genuine on Fury & Flames. The affect losing his friend had on him is felt. The pain gives way to anger and rage in “Para Bellum.” In “Trombeau” not only does Rutan sound enraged, but sorrowful. The lyrics of this album are poignantly personal too. Keeping with the theme of the album the lyrics of “Trombeau” are heart wrenching and soul bearing. Kelley also takes over the band’s co-vocal duties with piercing death metal screams (which have become a part of the Hate Eternal sound), previously handled by the late Anderson and Randy Piro, affectively adding to the mood of the album. There are many times throughout the album the vocals are almost harmonized increasing the impact they have.
The experience of coping with the loss of a loved one can lead to personal growth, even though it is difficult and trying at times.
Rutan skillfully exhibits his continued growth as a producer with Fury & Flames. This just may be his finest production work to date. The production values of Fury & Flames as a whole stand above that of Hate Eternal’s prior albums. As producer, Rutan was able to push all of the players on this album to get their best performances possible. This album is uncharacteristically loaded with heavy bottom end. It doesn’t make for a muddy or murky sound though. There is clear separation and you are able to hear each instrument. Nothing is lost in the mix. You can tell Rutan wanted this album to be felt and experienced rather than just listened to. Every nuance is audible and there has been meticulous attention to detail. Sometimes this can make an album sound over-produced or even pieced together. That is not the case here; Fury & Flames’ sound is whole and complete. There is still an edge and rawness to the sound. It would have been very easy for Rutan to over think this album because of the meaning behind it and he didn’t. He has every right to be more than satisfied with his work on this album.
One’s role, identity and skills may need to change or be readjusted after a significant loss.
My only dig on this album is the constant barrage of unrelenting ferocity doesn’t allow the listener to come up for air once, making the songs seem somewhat similar. The sameness of the songs may be a direct result of the album being so intense. That sheer intensity alone has this album besting the majority of recent death metal releases. Most death metal is habitually engaged in trying to be intimidating, seldom leaving any opportunity for true emotion. Rutan and crew have come in and cleaned house making room for plenty of it on Fury & Flames. At first the intensity does not make for an easy listen. Repeated listens though unveil a multitude of layers, leaving new discoveries waiting with each subsequent listen. Hate Eternal has created a timeless collection of death metal. Make no mistake about it, even though at the start of this album Erik Rutan was Hate Eternal, Hate Eternal is a band once again and this is a band album.
From the disorganization and sadness that accompanies grief one can attain assimilation of the loss of someone and the redefining of life and meaning without that person.
Though the album was heavily influenced by the passing of Jared Anderson, in many ways it marks several new beginnings for Hate Eternal. Fury & Flames is the band’s fourth studio album, but the first with record label Metal Blade. Hate Eternal will also be touring for the first time as a four piece with Kelley as a permanent member of the band. Fury & Flames allows Hate Eternal close one chapter and begin another, one with seemingly endless possibilities. The album will feature some amazing artwork by the very talented Paul Romano (Mastodon, The Red Chord), who also provided the artwork for I, Monarch. The name of the album itself is a departure from what has been a trilogy of Hate Eternal albums with royal titles. Initially Fury & Flames took its name from a moniker that Jared Anderson used online; it has since taken on a much deeper meaning. One cannot under estimate the heaviness of the emotion on this album. Fury & Flames is Hate Eternal’s best album to date and comes out on top of the metal world, ready to stand its ground as the best death metal album of 2008. A few new bench marks have been set for death metal with this album. It just may be the best and heaviest the metal world gets this year. Fury & Flames is something Jared Anderson would be very proud of. His memory has been well honored.