Sound — 7
"Infernus" is the sixth studio album by Floridian death metal act Hate Eternal, one that comes after a four year gap since "Phoenix Amongst the Ashes." Although never deviating too much from their core death metal sound, Hate Eternal still holds some slightly left of field ideas on "Infernus" while retaining the intensity expected of them.
Upon first play, the album immediately jumps to life with "Locust Swarm." Rhythmically detailed and designed with explosiveness in mind, it blends surprisingly dissonant riff ideas with some very dark melodic ideas. The thing is, this is a strong track but it feels as though the entire album has been summed up in one song. Take any one of the other tracks and place it side by side, the pattern is there, the same formula is obvious. Is that necessarily a bad thing? Not as much as it may seem but each song can be surmised as being full on blast beats and tremelo riffs near-100% of the time, the exception being the title track.
Now the title track is interesting because it would remind listeners of post-2000's Behemoth (even as recent as "The Satanist"), even down to the vocal rhythmic patterns, harmonic ideas and transitional approaches. It does turn itself around half way through, forming a very powerful melodic idea juxtaposed over a chromatic triplet riff. To say it's one of a kind on this album is a bit unfortunate as there's enough budding ideas to make this feel like a more diverse record than it actually is.
The instrumental "Chaos Theory" also takes a bit of a slight turn, having some jazz-infused drumming patterns over a kind of Dillinger Escape Plan maddening atmosphere.
So there's still a bit of diversity among the general death metal content, mostly how the tremolo riffs blend interesting and harsh chromatic ideas together. Although "Infernus" isn't as in depth with these ideas as icons Gorguts and Ulcerate, they bring the sound a much needed freshness.
The compounding problem with this album is the confusing mix/production relationship. The production is fine from a death metal standpoint despite the kick drum being a little bit lacking in bite. What then happens is that the mix takes this very stable production and messes around with it a little bit. The guitar tone is just a bit too beefy and buried to hear everything that goes on, the vocals are just outside of the range of intelligibility as they blend with the guitar, the bass is there in presence but not really there in terms of tone... It just adds to the problem that almost all these songs are full on chaos with very little separation from part to part. Personally, I call this the "Fleshgod Aparadox."
Lyrics — 7
Erik Rutan is a bit of a veteran in the death metal world, his vocal style still as snarly and aggressive as ever. Although he does give a very strong performance, there's a certain lack of vocal diversity that is expected in this day and age, although it's not a complete lack.
There a few times where more mid-high growls are blended with the low growls in a Behemothic fashion but it doesn't quite do enough. As mentioned, the vocals blend a little too much with the guitar mix so when the wombo-combo dual vocals actually kick in, it's almost as if the vocals suddenly popped into existence out of nowhere. It dampens the overall impact that this album might have aimed for.
Lyrically, lets bring out the "it's death metal" stereotype a bit. One thing that's a good indication of where the genre is going can be found in the overall quality in lyrical themes. When death metal was at it's most unexplored around the '90s, the themes could be summed up as "guts and gore written in university grade language." These days, death metal is diverse enough to have a expand into mythology, religion, existentialism, out of body experiences etc. And a big staple is H.P. Lovecraft. While not obviously drawing directly from Lovecraft on "Infernus," themes of cosmic, formless godlike beings terrorizing the planet in a multitude of ways is a big focus here. What's interesting is that the songs attempt to mirror the uniqueness of each theme with musical ideas. For instance, "The Stygian Deep" aims for the unknowable darkness of the deep sea and "Chaos Theory" is reflective of the name. This doesn't extend to absolutely every track but it's a thing to note.
Overall Impression — 7
"Infernus" is a very solid album, it's still pulverizing American death metal at its best but it does become a bit too full on, even on a track by track basis. The problem is a bit of ingrained lack of dynamic appreciation. There's some good melodic ideas thrown around, nicely blended dissonant sections and ideas and the riffs are all of an "above average to good" level, but it can feel overwhelming.
Songs to look out for: "Locust Swarm," "The Stygian Deep," "Inferus," "Chaos Theory," "O' Majestic Being, Hear My Call."