Sphere we have it, not only do we have another worthy addition to A Treatise in Ten Arguments on the Ubiquitous Sphere and its Mystical Origin as a Proof for the Existence of a Malevolent God written by Kronos late last year, but in addition, Polish band Hate are adding to their already dense blackened death catalogue. Crusade: Zero makes its presence known two years after the release of Solarflesh, and while I’m excited Hate are making a speedy return, I’ve felt some apprehension that they’ll suffer the same criticisms they’ve been labelled with in the past: 1) Hate have a recipe and they’re going to use it; and 2) it’s quite a challenge to ignore the in-your-face Behemoth influence. Have Hate refined and personalised their sound or will Crusade: Zero further cement these death merchents as a second-tier band offering nothing more than latter era Behemoth worship?
Crusade: Zero makes a surprising but strong start. “Vox Dei (A Call From Beyond)” is a short dramatic opening awash with heroic might and atmosphere that reminds me of the industrial musical mechanic of P.H.O.B.O.S. Re-iterating the circular theme that runs through Crusade: Zero, Hate make a point to return to this influence briefly towards the back end of the album (“The Omnipresence” and “Black Aura Debris”). Following on from “Vox Dei (A Call From Beyond)” Hate weave in “Lord, Make Me an Instrument of Thy Wrath,” compounding the surprise with essentially a double intro, it’s an instrumental with hints to the ambience of Blut Aus Nord, sharp-edged writhing guitarwork, melodic and near plaintive as the title suggests.
After all the introductions have been made, hands shaken and pleasentaries exchanged, we move onto the meat and potatos portion of this platter. “Death Liberator” and “Leviathan” are both huge, mid-paced tracks that quickly re-introduce you to the throaty Nergal-like rasp of Adam the First Sinner. There’s just no mistaking the Behemoth backbone that holds up “Death Liberator,” mixed in with some of the Reverence deformity Hate have turned to in the past, but it’s “Leviathan” where things get beastly and Hate deliver what sounds liked their biggest Behemoth hit yet.
“Doomsday Celebrities,” “Hate is the Law” and “Valley of Darkness” follow, forcing their way into your memory with melody, whirlwind riffs and brutish cannoning drumwork, no track being any better or worse than its predecessor, offering more of the same influences. And finally the back-end of the album, “Crusade Zero” and “Rise Omega the Consequence!” offers a moment or two of diversity where “Crusade Zero” kicks off sounding more like a Fleshgod Apocalypse track than Behemoth, but short-lived it is; and “Rise Omega the Consequence!” has a moment of twangy acoustic pickings as things draw to a sobering close.
While Crusade: Zero and its 12 melodies (51 minutes) proves a good offering by a strong second-tier melodic blackened death band, it’s not without some irksome flaws. Presenting “Vox Dei,” “Lord, Make Me…” as individual tracks does nothing to stem the feeling that Crusade: Zero suffers from a slow, indulgent and drawn out start. While I enjoyed each of the tracks, they add a minute or more of superfluous fluff to an already lengthy album. This only exacerbates the feeling that lengthier tracks run on far too long, well overstaying their welcome. Additionally, as you hit the back-end of “Valley of Darkness,” listener fatigue sets in and though the album isn’t actually brickwalled it’s lagely the instrumental tracks that have better dynamics pulling up the overall range reading; and so much of Crusade: Zero comes across as overly loud, somewhat one-dimensional and lacking in dynamics.
In light of AMG‘s recent dissertation (On Editing and the Death of the LP), here we have another example of a band that’s forgotten “To write is human. To edit is divine.” If you can look past these flaws and you’re looking for some Behemoth-worship, Crusade: Zero proves a challenging but worthwhile beast.