Written by Andrej Simeunovic
Tampa death metal band, Hate Eternal, recently released Infernus on Season of Mist Records. This blog talks about the musicianship from new drummer, Chason Westmoreland, and geeks out on the overall production of this release.
It’s 2015 and we finally have a new album from Erik Rutan and Hate Eternal. Coming four years after 2011’s excellent Phoenix Amongst the Ashes, Infernus has high expectations from me and most of the metal community. We know it will be at least good, but will it be great? In short: yes. Is it perfect? No. Does it bludgeon you to death with meaty riffs and Floridian death metal goodness? You’re goddamn right.
Along with a new album, Hate Eternal has a new drummer in Chason Westmoreland. When you have a three-piece, any member changes are going to bring big changes to the sound of the band. In death metal in particular, the drummer is exceptionally important; they can make or break an album. Thankfully, Westmoreland, who I’ve only heard with Burning the Masses, is unbelievably talented. He is the main reason this album is so much better than I expected. Let’s assume for a second that everything else about this album was the same, but we had Jade Simonetto from the last two Hate Eternal albums behind the kit. It would still be a really good album. However, Westmoreland pushes this shit into great, borderline fantastic territory. When you’re playing very heavy, very fast death metal, it can be difficult to have a varied approach to drums. Here we have an example of exactly how that should be done. His raw skills are brilliant, but what sets everything apart is the variety he brings to each part of each song and his interplay with the rest of the instruments. He feeds off of everything else that’s going on and adds his own dash of perfectly measured spice to the mix. He breathes new life into the songs, and it’s exactly what Hate Eternal needed.
My borderline obsession with the drums aside, the guitars, bass, and vocals absolutely slay. Guitars and vocals are handled by Rutan and are better than ever. His riffs have always been excellent and a favorite part of mine of Hate Eternal albums of the past. Angular, not quite atonal, and incorporating some blackened elements; not only are they improved, refined, and just generally better in this album, but they benefit tremendously from the production. During an interview at his Mana Recording Studio earlier this year, Rutan mentioned that he tracks guitars three or four times when he produces albums. I’m pretty sure he actually tracked his guitars forty times on Infernus. To say they are beefy would be the biggest understatement of the 2010s. But because Rutan has been producing top-notch death metal albums for the better part of two decades, they still sound crisp, full, and clinical regardless of tempo. Deep, powerful, and generally sounding like they’re coming from a monster that mercilessly bludgeons its victims to death, Rutan’s vocals are what you have come to expect from Hate Eternal.
Let’s not forget about the bass. Most extreme metal buries the bass, which sucks, because even a super treble-y black metal album could still benefit from good bass. I don’t understand why it’s ubiquitous in so many different albums and genres. Maybe it’s because metal bands can never afford good productions. I don’t know. Either way, this is not the case with Infernus and, holy shit, does it make you realize how good good bass can be in extreme metal. Past Hate Eternal albums have always had audible, largely interesting basslines. But here J.J. Hrubovcak improves tremendously. I’m a huge fan of fat bass; whether it be funk or death metal, the bass should always be good and always, always be fat. The bass here isn’t quite morbidly obese, but it is clearly carrying around an unhealthy BMI, and it's amazing.. Take for example “La Tempestad”, it’s not that the bass is super noodle-y or anything. It’s really just following the guitars in the beginning section but it's still so damn heavy. The rumbling, massive low end makes a straight-forward blasting section make you headbang so much you actually have to sit down. The bass playing all over this album adds depth and heaviness in all the right places. It makes the sound that much more dense and chaotic, and further enhances the overall quality.
Other than the individual contributions of the members, my favorite parts of the album are the songwriting and the production. All the members of the band, in particular Rutan, have been in the death metal game for a while. Their songwriting skills get better with age it seems. This isn’t just a mixture of slow and fast songs. Each song, whether it’s the hyper-blasting speedathon “Locust Swarm” or more mid-tempo “Infernus,” has all the right parts to keep it interesting, varied, and damn-well put together. Sections flow into each other exquisitely well. Tempo changes aren’t abrupt, but natural. Everything is held together with fantastic riffs and flourishes that are organic and give each song a sense of character and identity. The production is one of the best death metal productions in my recent memory. Everything is audible and mixed perfectly. I wouldn’t say one instrument is mixed too high or too low. Everything is goldilocks — merging together in all the right parts to create a dense, meaty sound, yet separate and spaced just enough to not be a boring wall of noise. Songwriting and production are really where this album is better than past Hate Eternal albums, not just other death metal albums.
Hate Eternal have really outdone themselves with this release and in doing so have released one of the best death metal albums of the year. It does have some flaws. On my fourteenth to fifteenth listen, I found myself tuning out for the last three songs and starting to skip around. . One other point is that Hate Eternal albums always get compared to their 2005 album, I, Monarch, as if they can never top that one. I don’t know what the fuck people are talking about. Go back and listen to I, Monarch, then listen to Infernus. All nostalgia aside, I think it's so much better. Regardless, Hate Eternal have improved in all areas; everything is tighter, fuller, and dare I say heavier. It’s all held together with some of the best songwriting of their career and a new madman behind the kit who takes the chaos to the edge of being out of control, but keeps it all together.