We’re a little late with this one, but its finally here. This record dropped in late October and, for whatever reason, slipped under my radar. However, we’re finally doing Hate Eternal justice with a write-up. Here’s some thoughts on Upon Desolate Sands.
Hate Eternal should need no introduction, since they celebrated their 20th anniversary back in 2017. Well, I might need an introduction as I had no clue this band existed. Hate Eternal is part of that late ‘90s/early 2000s group of death metal bands which stuck within the realm of standard death metal, as oppose to moving forward into the world of technicality. I don’t know if this term is at all relevant, or even applicable in comparison to its other relevant usages, but I guess labelling Hate Eternal as “second-wave death metal” would make sense? This is especially considering that they formed in Tampa about ten years after the original wave of Floridian death metal bands (Death, Obituary, Morbid Angel, Deicide) debuted. If you compare that timeline to the first-wave and second-wave black metal bands it lines up, especially since most of them were from the same region. Something to ponder; let me know if this term has been coined before.
While the Hate Eternal lineup hasn’t remained stable over the course of the name’s existence (okay maybe not so eternal), their aesthetic certainly has. They compare pretty easily to Immolation, both sonically and aesthetically. Hate Eternal adopts Greco-Roman themes in pertinence to religion, most likely Christianity. Their album covers seem to have been influenced by ancient religious paintings, if they don’t use the direct works themselves. Furthermore, the lyrical premises revolve around biblical annihilation and absolute power, and are written with ancient English influences, as the band throws in a “thy” and a “Striketh” in writing here and there.
I believe that the album cover is an allusion to a character within history who was sentenced to starve atop a mountain, who ultimately succumbs to a swirling body of vultures. I can’t remember the specific reference, however. Google disappointed me.
In regard to my overarching opinion of Upon Desolate Sands, the album is fairly unorthodox as the top half squashes under the might of the bottom. More often than not, full-lengths open with a handful of singles which tend to be the more reliable of the constituents. Then of course following the second-quarter intermission, the band tends to expand and introduce riskier musical elements which either make or break an album. I’ve begun to notice this, at least from my personal tastes, especially since I’ve developed a more critical point of view following the launching of this website.
The first three numbers on Upon Desolate Sands are very standard for death metal. “The Violent Fury” and “What Lies Beyond” incorporate competent song elements, as I enjoy the intro riff to the latter and the tracks hold their own, but in comparison to what’s coming on the second half of this record, the first 15 minutes of Upon Desolate Sands is certainly the least shiny. It may be polished, but it doesn’t shine.
The third offending song, “Vengeance Striketh,” continues along these polished albeit traditional routes, but begins to incorporate what will contribute to the album’s most redeeming factor. There are a few more peculiar riffs on this one, and the culminating melodic guitar solo serves as a proper send-off to the aforementioned trio of tracks. Once again, they’re not poor tracks, they’re merely standard.
Here’s comes the essence, the fois gras if you will, of this delicious meal. I was listening to this album in preparation for my write-up, and I was paying a heightened attention to the first side of the release, as that’s usually where the money is. I was struggling to grab on to something tangible, a riff I particularly enjoyed, or perhaps a solo or whatever. It finally dawned on me upon consuming Side B of the release that Upon Desolate Sands reaches its prime when all of the necessary elements join as one.
I achieved the aforementioned revelation during “Nothingness is Being,” the first track after the original slump. Side note: keep in mind that this is my first Hate Eternal release, and I have no knowledge of their past outputs, so the following may not be a revelation to you seasoned veterans out there. Hate Eternal’s golden quality lies behind their ability to craft an atmosphere infested with an overarching sense of impending doom, but through a fast-paced and chaotic milieu. “Nothingness is Being” is where it becomes evident that the release really begins to sink into its shell; of course the record redeems itself track after track until its closure.
To elaborate on what I spewed above via concrete examples, I’ll put “All Hope is Destroyed” on the chopping block. This song is also fairly representative of the album. Its got fast riffs, great pace, and an ultimate feeling of crushing doom. In particular, the interchange between the consistent, machinegun-like chorus and the riffs that follow are absolutely exquisite, and undoubtedly contributes to a highly rewarding listen.
The final portion of the album redeems everything I’ve been laying out for you in the above paragraphs. The penultimate title track, in conjunction with the instrumental album-closer, culminate to create what I feel has to be one of the best closing sections of a full-length I’ve ever heard. The pair really redeems the 40-minute listen time required to consume the whole album, and its something you just have to experience, as cliché is that sounds.
There you have it, zero to hero with this one. Upon Desolate Sands certainly opened in a standard manner, but all of the stops were made following the first track trio. Perhaps not another chart-topper, but certainly another good 2018 release!