Review Summary: There’s a lot to like about Hate Eternal’s latest bundle of savage, yet precise death metal unless you have an urge for something more adventurous.
In hindsight, I think I was a bit harsh on Morbid Angel’s 2017 comeback record, Kingdoms Disdained
, and in a probably less shocking than it should have been twist, it’s Hate Eternal that have made me realize it. Frankly, Upon Desolate Sands
is Kingdoms Disdained
done right. While it does make me appreciate the latter a bit more in retrospect, it also highlights the integral issues still present there. Hate Eternal package up a very similar death metal epic with their latest, characterized by meat grinder compositional efficiency and tonal barbarism, but with the (somewhat) subtle dynamics and consistent songwriting that was missing with the death metal giants’ reappearance.
The narrative of Hate Eternal to now is that their career has been that of a consistently “good but not great” band whose musical progression has been measured in inches instead of miles. 2015’s Infernus
was a slightly different story, demonstrating a significant jump in terms of overall quality. It wasn’t a showcase for dramatic improvement in any one area, but was punctuated with little leaps in many areas (production, composition, dynamics, restraint, etc.). That said, through now seven albums their path has been a short one from being an alright death metal band to being a truly good death metal band. And that is where Upon Desolate Sands
leaves us; stranded in a humble little oasis in the midst of the desert that Hate Eternal will seemingly never escape.
I don’t know if that totally made sense, but the point is that Hate Eternal once again made micro improvements with an enjoyable sound while solidifying the fact that they will probably never become more than what they are. There is much to love in the savage precision and razor sharp grooves that exist in every single song here. Erik Rutan’s guttural growls burst through the tumult of beefy guitars and blistering drums with a Godzilla like presence, a volcano of primal force amidst a world being brought down to ashes. The production, while not the most organic thing on the planet, puts a lot of heft behind all the instruments and everything that needs to be heard clearly, can
be heard clearly. There is no hint of inconsistency within the album, because every song is the same meticulous exercise of Hate Eternal’s sound. That does not have to be a bad thing. People speak of albums interchangeably as though perfectly distinct songs is the ideal of every artist and style, but within the bounds of a group like Hate Eternal I'm not looking for that. I want a succinct collection of barbaric death metal songs and that’s what has been delivered.
In a way, Hate Eternal are kind of the quintessential everyman if the quintessential everyman was a death metal band. They’re not exceptional. Indeed, they’re exceptionally unexceptional. It’s a 9-5 job with these guys, but a healthy one, a 9-5 job that is satisfying enough to empower them to take a few small steps forward every once in a while. And the exceptional, essential kicker with the everyman is that sometimes he’ll traipse into a story unexpectedly and put a god to shame.