Metal, punk, alcohol, sex, & Satan. These are the band Interests listed by German metallers Total Hate on their Facebook page. Three of these are featured in the music put out by this Nuremburg five-piece, the other two may, or may not, have been instrumental in its creation. I make no promises. Throne Behind a Black Veil (Throne) is Total Hate‘s fourth full-length, following 2016’s Lifecrusher – Contributions to a World in Ruins. A step up in terms of complexity and sonic depth from earlier releases, flirting with industrial and death metal influences, Lifecrusher was nevertheless brvtal black metal at its core. Is Throne a return to the Darkthrone-inspired releases that characterized Total Hate‘s early years or are they continuing their development — “evolution” would be putting the bar a bit high — that began on Lifecrusher?
The truth lies somewhere in the middle. Throne, like Lifecrusher, is principally a black metal record in the vein of Dødheimsgard but there is more going on here. The industrial feel heard on Total Hate‘s last release continues on parts of this album, while in others we find ourselves straying into almost punk territory and, still elsewhere, there are hints of goth-tinged death metal. None of these cross-genre nods are placed alongside each other, however, with most tracks falling back on Total Hate‘s staple of blast beats, icy guitars and rasped vocals.
The odd thing about Throne is the way that the various influences that Total Hate play around with are sectioned off from each other. So while the first three tracks — “Psychopath” and “Decline of Human Life – Part II,” in particular — have a Possessed or The Exploited punk vibe to parts of them, this is then cast aside for several tracks, with the middle cuts taking a brooding, industrial direction. By the time we get to “Death Raid Apocalypse,” a song I desperately wanted to like for its overblown title alone (but am happy to say I also enjoyed in its own right), Total Hate briefly return to the punk tones seen earlier before committing to more of a death metal feel. On the final two tracks, I found myself, if only briefly, reminded of the goth stylings of Moonspell, circa 2002’s The Antidote, a comparison I’m pretty sure Total Hate will not appreciate.
On Throne, all five members of Total Hate deliver solid performances, each a significant step up from previous outings, with Serrator in particular showing much more variety and imagination behind the drum kit, without abandoning the blast beats. Adrastos’ rasped vocals also show noticeably more power than previously, now reminiscent of Dimmu Borgir‘s Shagrath at his best. The production job is decent throughout, with a cold, clear tone to the guitars, see for example the stellar lead that opens “His Throne Behind a Black Veil” (which is a damned fine track). If I were being picky, and I suppose that is what I’m not paid to be, the bass does sometimes get lost in the mix and the symbols sound tinnier than I would like — is that actually a saucepan lid you’re thrashing the life out of? — but overall, it sounds pretty good.
Reading back the draft of this review to myself, I can’t help but think it doesn’t quite accord with the score I am about to give Throne. This reads like a review of a 3.0 or even a 3.5 record but I can’t quite get there. Why? Because each time I’ve come to listen to Throne, it’s like I’ve never heard it before. And that’s not because it feels so fresh each time. It’s because it just doesn’t stay with me. I like some of what Total Hate are doing here, in particular toying with the punk influences, but they don’t fully commit to those, and the black metal on show here, while fine, is not doing anything new. If that sounds harsh on Total Hate, well, perhaps it is but I’m just not sold.