Last time Hate Eternal graced the digital halls of AMG, they left Steel Druhm throbbing with excitement and elation and in turn he gave 2011’s Phoenix Amongst the Ashes a near-perfect score. Four years later it appears something has throttled the throbbing, as their latest full-length Infernus was dropped on my desk alongside a wonderful lack of punitive metalcore. While I can definitely say I had me a blast (well over thirty minutes of them, in fact), Hate Eternal didn’t give me the same summer lovin’ as they did Steel. Solely in the context of this review, I’d go as far as saying that particular summer fling didn’t mean a thing. I’ll stop dawdling and dive headlong into the hurricane and tell you more.
Being that Erik Rutan is still very much at the helm of the good ship Hate Eternal, Infernus deals in fast and aggressive Florida death metal that draws primarily from later Morbid Angel but is less experimental and more tightly and meticulously controlled. New drummer Chason Westmoreland passes the endurance test that is Rutan’s material and musical vision, keeping the traditional wealth of blast beats that helps define Hate Eternal’s sound alive and well. Their trademark angular and almost atonal riffing is present and accounted for, but there’s been further exploration of the straightforwardly melodious aspects of “The Fire of Resurrection” and “Tombeau” that’s a noticeable yet small tinkering with the band’s tried and true sound. They’re not slowly morphing into Mors Principium Est, but fans of the band’s prior work will pick up on this.
Thankfully this minor adjustment works for the band, with “Locust Swarm” commencing the assault in a strong fashion. It surges out of the gate and does business as usual quite well before closing on a ever-slowing melodic guitar line. It works, isn’t cheesy, and doesn’t have the aftertaste of herring via pilfered Bjorriffs. The Hate Eternal we know and have an opinion on doesn’t disappoint either, with “Zealot, Crusader of War” and “The Chosen One” doing exactly what’s expected, albeit with good enough songwriting to keep the proceedings engaging. Things take an interesting turn with the title track, featuring melodic leads aplenty and a shifting tempo that reaches a nearly glacial pace by Hate Eternal standards. The layered melodies are almost death-doom in sound, and it works surprisingly well within their template. I wouldn’t want a whole record of this, but it goes a long way toward preventing Infernus from being a veritable panzer division of endless blast beats. “O’ Majestic Being, Hear My Call” sees Rutan adding some well-placed black metal elements into his guitar work, and it makes for a solid closing number that nicely ties things off with a melancholic lead similar to the finale of their last record.
The biggest gripe I have about Infernus is coincidentally my biggest gripe about Hate Eternal: they’re a band of truly excellent players making merely good music. I’m always happy to hear what these guys come up with, but I’ve never found their music to be absolutely necessary listening for death metal.”Order of the Arcane Scripture” will have you wondering what part of I, Monarch you’re being reminded of instead of making a strong impression of its own, and the instrumental “Chaos Theory” comes across as more self-indulgent than anything; it’s not a wanky shitshow a la Brain Drill, but it does little more than impress on a technical level upon repeat listens. “La Tempestad” is the most skippable track here by virtue of the ceaseless and unchanging blasts (save quick fills) from Westmoreland exacerbating Rutan’s most stock riffing present and vice versa.
Even taking the above criticisms into account, I like Infernus. It’s not at all a disappointment, and improves upon the production of Phoenix Amongst the Ashes by giving bass wunderkind J.J. Hrubovcak the pronounced spot in the mix his fantastic playing deserves. It’s loud in the mastering department as per Rutan’s usual standards, but his notable skill behind the boards won’t give you a throbbing headache even at DR6. Fans, they haven’t let you down. Detractors, they won’t be changing your minds. As for me, I’ve been enjoying this record for the competent death metal it presents and will spin it occasionally throughout the year when I’m in the mood for a face-destroying Floridian attack that doesn’t involve copious amount of bath salts. Put succinctly, Infernus is good.