Review Summary: Hate Eternal once again create a great modern death metal album, although not without some minor problems.
In 2005, Hate Eternal released I, Monarch. That album I see as not only being the magnum opus of this band, but also as a benchmark of modern death metal. The speed, the intensity, and the creativity on that record has not been matched as of yet. Six years and two albums later, Hate Eternal come out with Phoenix Amongst the Ashes. And while not without its faults, Phoenix is a great modern death metal album for all to enjoy.
From the moment the first real track, "The Eternal Ruler", begins, the listener will immediately tell that Hate Eternal still pulls no punches and is still as fast and brutal as ever. Erik Rutan remains seated on his proverbial throne as one of the great extreme metal vocalists and guitarists. His riffs are relentless, with tremolo picking on full display here. He also once again shows his proficiency with soloing as well. If there's any one part of his guitar playing I don't like though, it's the overly long and needlessly technical intro to The Art of Redemption. Approximately one minute is spent on incredibly annoying guitar doodling, with nothing but Jade Simonetto's never ending blast beats carrying him on. Speaking of Jade, while I absolutely adore the man's speed and endurance, he could use some work in the creativity department. He's not a boring drummer, just not incredibly inventive, unlike his predecessor, the great Derek Roddy, who is the single greatest drummer I have ever seen. I'd comment more on bassist JJ Hrubovcak, but this album falls to the ever present standard idea in modern metal that the bass is a total afterthought.
If there's one thing this album is perfect in though, it's the intensity. Good Odin, this ranks right up there with the classics like Scream Bloody Gore and Winds of Creation in just how unmerciful on the ears it is. Never does a moment go by where there is not something going on. The fact that the album production is so thick and organic sounding helps it greatly; Erik Rutan is an amazing producer, and he shines through here. I had on Thorns of Acacia, and the sound was so great that my CD stack inched its way to the edge of my desk and fell off. That's how ***ing great this album sounds.
I don't think Hate Eternal will ever make another I, Monarch. The lineup on that album was perfect, and it was at the right time for all three of those men, said men being Rutan, Roddy, and Randy Piro. But on Phoenix Amongst the Ashes, Rutan, Hrubovcak, and Simonetto do a damn good job at creating a fun, intense, merciless death metal album. Not a classic, but very good in its own right.