Review Summary: ambitious death metal compositions full of devilish riffs and unrelenting drums
With the abundance of music and reviews online today, discovering a band at a live show seems unlikely, but it is possible. Most veteran headliners still tour with one or more supporting acts, providing valuable exposure for both the artists and their potential new fans. Some opening acts crash and burn; others simply underwhelm. Every so often, a relatively unknown band seizes their moment and makes an impression. Fans may have noticed one such group on Morbid Angel’s Kingdoms Disdained
tour last year.
Hate Storm Annihilation
is a three-piece death metal band from Chicago, Illinois, formed in 2012 by guitarist/vocalist Craig Schmuhl and drummer Konstantin Dermendjiev. The duo recruited bass player, Spencer Metela, in the summer of 2016 to complete the trio. The band officially arrived in 2014 with its debut, Storm of Flames
. Four years later, they released their sophomore album, Following the Path to Eternal Fire
. While the group stays true to the style and sound of its debut, significant progress was achieved during the four-year gap between releases.
Following the Path to Eternal Fire
takes the fundamental building blocks of death metal and expands them into ambitious 10-minute compositions, full of musical variety and songwriting creativity. The majority of the album focuses on aggressive themes that are connected by more subdued yet eerie diversions. These lighter passages scarcely lighten the mood, though, creating more of a sinister calm-before-the-storm effect. Whereas the debut’s vocals were somewhat devilish, Craig’s growling now sounds legitimately diabolical at times. As potent as before, Konstantin pummels his drums into oblivion discharging blast beats and double bass rolls like shrapnel, occasionally producing the rattle of a snake ready to strike. The bass could be more elevated in the mix, but it adequately underpins the low-end of the album’s tone. Overall, the album captures the ominous mood of wandering along a dimly lit path through trees infected by whatever demon that is on the cover art.
After a brief (but unnecessary) introductory track, the album gets straight to the point: The Devil Exists
. This is a brutal opening track that wastes no time building into a riff that sounds like it escaped from Slayer’s Seasons in the Abyss
. The Spirit of the Black Flame
and The Nameless King
are similarly strong, loaded with satisfying riffs, growls and drumming. The longest song, Ancient Sorceries Used to Condemn the Souls of the Dead from Passing onto the After Life
, is an epic journey with traces of Hooded Menace
-style doom/death and a Nile
-like chorus. Both the title track and the closer, The Incoherent Chanting of the Chronicler to Which This Tale Ends
, help conclude the album as powerfully as it began. Each arrangement possesses a unique personality that emerges in the details thoughtfully bestowed by its musical creator. Even so, no track breaks character, maintaining the pervasive mood of this grim tale. Certain riffs sound particularly basic and captivate less than others. However, the strength of the songwriting more than offsets these shortcomings, rarely dwelling too long on any one riff or theme. The vocals are moderately intelligible and the album seems to tell a story, but it’s hard to say without the lyrics.
Following the Path to Eternal Fire
is a great album that elevates both the band’s songwriting and sound beyond its debut. In a world where death metal tracks average four and a half minutes, the lengthy arrangements presented here are more impressive for their creativity than for their length. The variety of musical elements captures the listener’s attention sufficiently to enjoy this release from beginning to end over multiple spins. Following the Path to Eternal Fire
demonstrates the upward trajectory and growing talent of Hate Storm Annihilation
as they continue blazing their trail toward eternal fire.