If blackened death metal is like a nuclear bomb going off, then crust punk is like getting a nail bomb shoved in your body’s tightest orifice. Add some death metal to the mix and it’s like getting a nail bomb shoved in every orifice. At least, that’s what I hope for when I see these two styles mixed together. And that’s what I hoped for with Rotten Hate, a new Chilean trio formed by members of underground doom acts Ruined and Black Harvest. With their Stabbing the Masses debut, the group attempt to combine streetwise crust with a big healthy dollop of good ol’ HM2-up-your-ass Swedeath. Only unlike generic Swedeath band 78,497, Hate actually feature some surprisingly fresh riffing. Unfortunately, there are a few issues here that nip like bed bugs at the foot of a crustie’s dirty mattress.
Hate‘s sound is actually fairly unique. With plenty of galloping beats and a guitar tone like a fistful of razors, the overall feel of the music is quite crusty and calls to mind Extreme Noise Terror or [insert any other crust punk band here]. The riffs are a different story. While there are still some surging chords that are quintessentially crust, more often the band stick with melodic tremolo lines that recall Dismember. “Saints” shows how inspired this riffing can be, filling its two-minute runtime with wild and colorful tremolos that ricochet around the fretboard before making a dramatic and adventurous ascent in the final 30 seconds. “Perpetual” stands out for its quick and whiplashing intervals, while “Bloodshed” takes you on a nostalgic trip down Dismember‘s Everflowing Stream. There are plenty of good moments that get my head bobbing and overall the band remind me a lot of Winds of Genocide, which ain’t a bad thing.
The group even incorporate some welcome variety with early highlight “Vultures” and closer “Buitres.” Both songs slow things to a brawny stomp before incorporating thick and potent tremolos. Taken on their own they’re generally successful, but sadly both songs sound extremely similar. The quibbles don’t end there. “Buitres” doesn’t possess the sense of finality needed from a closing track and simply fades to silence without delivering the explosive conclusion the album deserves. First proper track “Church” hews closest to pure crust but also feels a bit disjointed and never really coalesces into anything compelling. Likewise, for how much I enjoy “Perpetual,” its ending feels rather abrupt and it’s hard to call it a total win.
Masses also feels surprisingly tame for a crust punk album. The vocalist’s raspy growls are serviceable and I enjoy many of the riffs, but overall the music simply lacks the raging aggression I want from the style. The production is also a mixed bag. The guitar tone is suitably ragged and sounds like the sonic depiction of a staph infection, which couldn’t be a better fit. Sadly the overall sound is quite trebly and loud. On some speakers, the album is abrasive and almost unpleasant to listen to. It’s not enough to ruin the record outright, but a better production could easily have brought things up another half point.
Yet all told, I find it hard to dislike Masses. These days I get as excited about Swedeath as I do about cleaning my bathroom, yet Rotten Hate manage to take this riffing style and make it feel inspired again. Likewise, moments like the slow stomp of “Vultures” or the shift from death metal to charging crust near the end of “Breaking” show the band understand the importance of variety and know how to write a decent song. The group wisely keep things to a tight 30-minute runtime and the quality riffing makes that feel even shorter. Sadly I simply can’t get past the songwriting missteps and production woes. The band clearly have spirit and I applaud this debut for its potential. Yet while Stabbing the Masses may be worth checking out for those who like the style, it’s hard to call it something totally satisfying.