Leave it to a country where blasphemy is a crime to create some of the best death metal on the planet. It’s funny how that works out sometimes. When Polish death metal bands mix crushing brutality with black metal’s sense of Wagnerian melody, beautiful things start to happen. Legendary groups like Vader, Decapitated, and Behemoth have carved a bloody trail across the world, and Hate has always done their part in contributing to the carnage. On their eighth release, Solarflesh, they hit all the right spots – but these veins have already been plundered by their forbearers long ago. Surprisingly, there’s still some good shit left in there.
All things considered, this is Polish death metal by the numbers. There’s the requisite atmospheric intro, a pulverizing mix of lightning fast riffage backed up with thunderous drum batteries, intermissions with vaguely industrial percussive synths, and a band photo with a very Dethklok approach to corpsepaint. When I listened to Solarflesh, I got a heavy case of deja vu, especially when you consider the vaguely Eastern guitar melodies throughout the album, the vocal chants that open “Festival of Slaves,” and an acoustic intro on the titular “Solarflesh” that immediately calls the mighty Behemoth to mind. And would you believe it if I told you that the guy singing sounds exactly like Nergal? Because he totally does. (And his name is Adam, too. Coincidences are crazy.) It’s good stuff, but sometimes I can’t help but look at it as just a collection of Behemoth B-sides or something.
Then again, pretty much everything I listen to is nearly indistinguishable from Black Sabbath, so I’m not one to say that a band being derivative is such a bad thing. It’s all in the execution, and on this aspect Hate definitely know what they’re doing. These are well-forged riffs, played with tempered skill and murderous intent. It’s a fine display of a band that knows precisely what it wants to achieve. Nearly every track on the album had me headbanging, and I’m sure even the most jaded death metal fan will be impressed by Hate‘s balance of virtuosity and riff sense. But nearly every track had the same sort of Eastern-ish melody going on, and there isn’t that much variation between each track aside from their intros. Even the Ramones slowed it down once in a while, guys. Try something different, you might like it.
There’s also a lot to be desired in the production, which is very standard death metal. It’s very clean, and you can hear every single 64th note on the double-bass with perfect clarity, but I would have preferred a bit more crust around the edges to make it sound a bit more unique, and stand out from the crowd. The bass is also almost completely inaudible, which is a damn shame. I really wish the bass was given as much definition as the guitars, because there’s some really interesting stuff going on at the beginning of the closer, “Mesmerized.” But for the life of me, I can’t make any of it out. It’s buried.
All things considered, you’ll enjoy Hate if you’re hurting for some Polish death metal. It’ll do a great job as a stopgap before the new Behemoth hits, and if you’re a fan of the style you’ll find a lot to be satisfied with. The only real problem is that there are groups out there that do what Hate does much better. But there’s even more out there that have done it worse.