Review Summary: Fancy thinking the beast was something you could hunt and kill! You knew, didn't you? I'm part of you? Close, close, close! I'm the reason why it's no go? Why things are what they are?
I'll level with you: nearly all of the albums I've heard described as extremely angry usually have more emotions and connotations put into them than just anger. Converge's Jane Doe
is angry, sure, but it's also heartwrenchingly sad. The Dillinger Escape Plan's Calculating Infinity
is royally pissed, but it's not without its analytical, cold atmospherics. There's really only two albums I've heard so far in my own musical journey that I'd consider made almost solely from pure, unadulterated rage, the first being Pig Destroyer's Terrifyer
, and the second being Dragged Into Sunlight's Hatred For Mankind
Like all albums which have such a distinct and palpable atmosphere, there are a number of contributing factors that shape and ultimately define the final product. In the case of Hatred For Mankind
, these factors include overall sound design, song structure, the mindset of it's creators, and its very reason for existing. To understand this reason is to understand what the members of Dragged Into Sunlight set out to do when creating this record.
In a nutshell, from band member quotes compiled from various interviews, Dragged Into Sunlight sees Hatred For Mankind
as both a means of satisfying intense frustration and vexation, and also a particularly grim and galling look into the darkest parts of the minds of men. Their name itself is supposed to represent being thrown into the real world and realizing it for what it is; namely, a violent and unfair trudge through hell.
The band themselves are made up of four individuals (their identities purposely shrouded in a Deathspell Omega-esque manner) who purportedly grew up on all types of extreme metal, punk, and noise music, giving them a wealth of influences to choose from. At the time of creation, the band states that they were all together in the exact same mindset; they were all extremely frustrated with certain aspects of their lives and needed an outlet. They were also frustrated with the state of extreme metal at the time, and wanted to inject something that brought it back to its roots: dirty, hateful, loud, uncompromising, and impactful.
With the help of legendary producer Brian Anderson, the band was able to make Hatred For Mankind
sound like a living, breathing monstrosity. It sounds undeniably dirty, with a gross film over the guitars and a sharp punch to the drums, with the bass churning hungrily underneath it all. While riffs and solos are not too hard to make out, the drums dominate the mix, meaning that during moments when the drums are blasting away and the guitars are riffing simultaneously, it all congeals into a massive wall of disgusting noise that bulldozes its way through everything.
The production effectively accentuates just how meticulously twisted the songwriting is. A mixture between just about any extreme metal genre you can name (mainly blackened death, death-doom, and sludge), the way the songs flow from one progression to the next is seamless and natural, with just the right amount of space and time given to each section before moving on to the next. Perhaps the best example of this is "I, Aurora", which segues between all manner of tempo and style while keeping the quality of every section extremely high.
This quality exists because of what I consider to be the most important piece of this puzzle: the performances themselves. It's not often that you're able to tell just how incensed a band is when they play, especially if it's not any of the aforementioned records or something like Cryptopsy's Blasphemy Made Flesh
, but here you can tell with an almost disturbing ease. The riffs are played with an equal amount of technical proficiency and raw power, but you can tell just how emotional the playing is due to many so-called "missteps".
Perhaps a pinch harmonic doesn't materialize right. Perhaps the guitars start sliding a split second before they should. Perhaps near the end of a riff cycle the last couple of notes are kind of disjointed. It's all so devastatingly human that it's hard not to be captivated. The drumming is among the most violent ever recorded, and that's due to the notion that the drummer is quite loudly and obviously beating the ever living daylight out of the kit. It's about as subtle as a train wreck and it couldn't be any other way. Even the slowest, most crawling performances are laced in a sick rage that easily rival the faster performances.
The most obvious and yet the most incredible performance, though, comes courtesy of the vocalist. He sounds equally made up of one part righteously angry human, one part rabies-stricken beast, and one part tortured banshee. His range is absolutely incredible, but he usually sticks to one of three styles: a low and intimidating growl being the least used (and least unique), an extremely high shriek that strikes immediate fear, and his favorite and most effective style, a ferocious, feral bark that sounds as if he's gnashing his teeth while vocalizing. The speed and effectiveness with which he's able to cycle between the three is very impressive, especially during the final moments of "Volcanic Birth".
The aforementioned notion of the band intending the record to be at least in part a look into the dark side of man is supported by the many samples of serial murderers, including the likes of Maury Travis, Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, Edmund Kemper, Kenneth Bianchi, Leonard Lake, Aileen Wournos, Richard Kuklinski, Joel Rifkin, Wayne Henley, and Gerard Schaefer, all of whom were responsible for the deaths of at least seven people up to around two-hundred (there was also a sample from Joseph Garner, a man who killed his father after going provably insane. Not exactly a serial murderer by any stretch, but the sample fits well). This concept is hardly a new one, especially in the world of extreme metal, but it is the music behind this concept, the execution of said music, and the resulting atmosphere that make it one of the most resounding and resonant of its kind.
The atmosphere is centered around the unstoppable anger of the record, but the atmosphere does have moments where there are feelings adjacent to the anger, as even in spite of the members basically only putting rage into it, what comes out of it is a little more varied. There's moments of pure dread, of satisfied vexation, of crushing hopelessness, of incensed misery, and of uneasy anxiety. It all congeals into a mass of suffering that keeps the heart racing throughout, and when combined with the sparse, but very effective lyrics it conjures some grisly images.
"Misery floods the void. The wage of sin plagues mankind again. Scissors cutting through flesh, straight into bone".
"Watching, waiting, visible. Skeleton witch, starved for weeks".
"Dead in the woods, limbs bound with roots, buried beneath rocks, graveless remains. Ouroboros. Black sun. Forked tongue. Emptiness".
Vague and relatively simply-worded though they may be, there's still something very disturbing about them, especially when compounded with the aforementioned quotes from serial murderers that crop up in places that add to the lyrics, as if they're both an extension of what the killer is saying and a condemnation of the worst mankind has to offer. This condemnation, this affirmation that man is a source of humongous evil, is ultimately what the entire album is all about, and there's one moment in particular that exemplifies this perfectly, hidden subtly in the most sonically uneventful moments of the record.
At the beginning of closer "Totem Of Skulls", the listener hears from Gerard Schafer, a man who was proven to have murdered two women but is highly suspected to have murdered thirty-four, with certain evidence claiming over one-hundred. He relates:
"Everything, well I shouldn't say 'everything'... 'much of' what you see on television shows man as a negative creature, where there's so many good things about man that could be on television, but they're not quite as interesting as the bad things. Now I'd like to do something with my life that exemplifies the good as opposed to the bad".
The track is merely just a long, tense, ringing drone that weaves inside a sort of static accompanied by a low, whispering, unintelligible voice and occasional rings of a deep bell; this lasts for five minutes almost without changing much at all. It may sort of seem anticlimactic after everything that came before it, but its thematic potency is still very strong. It's as if they're giving you time to reflect on everything you've just heard, and to subject this quote that they put at the beginning of the track to scrutiny through the lenses of what you've just heard. Basically it's asking you if you can believe man isn't a negative creature and that someone as destructive as a Gerard Schaefer can really exemplify anything other than evil. Of course, through the lens of this record, the answers you'd understandably come to are simple: you can't and they can't.
This is backed up by what Schaefer says at the end of the track, a sort of callback to the same (although shortened) sample heard in "I, Aurora". In short, he and Ted Bundy shared a cell and the media had the number of victims for Bundy at thirty-six, while they had Schaefer at thirty-four. Bundy would needle Schaefer about any other people he might have killed, their bodies remaining unfound in "private graveyards". Schaefer would respond by saying that he was "the best" and that he had a much higher count than Bundy did, which would drive Bundy into a frenzy. He stated that Bundy had killed his victims in a similar way as the media said that Schaefer did, which Schaefer interpreted as a "tribute" to him. All the while, he has a tone to him that suggests he enjoyed messing with Bundy in this way.
Given this context, it's clear that Schaefer didn't actually want to "exemplify the good", even after being put in prison. He carried out killing and talked about killing as if it were a sport that one could be "the best" at. He believed that someone would kill other people as a tribute to him, and he found it amusing. Thus, the entire point the record was trying to get across is solidified: man is truly a negative creature and those who would embrace the most extreme negatives can never be anything resembling a "good person". In the end, I'd wager that Schaefer knew that, and poetically met his end by someone else embracing the negatives; he was stabbed to death over a cup of coffee by a fellow inmate shortly after the interview these quotes are from was recorded. He died as he lived: someone dedicated to the reckless contempt of his fellow man, someone dedicated in one way or another to the hatred of mankind.