Hate have perfectly walked the blood-soaked, desolate no-man’s-land between black and death metal for over 25 years. In 1992, the Polish quartet unleashed their first demo on the unsuspecting underground – the low-fi, utterly brutal and eternally cold “Abhorrence Demo.” Even then, the line of black and death metal that Hate walked was blurred, mixing the two styles in a way that had never been done before – certainly not in the way that the majority of the extreme metal community embraced a decade later. Fast forward 25 years, another two demos, an E.P., a live album, around a dozen member changes and nine albums, Hate are on the cusp of releasing “Tremendum” – their tremendous tenth full-length.
Though well-revered in the underground, it wasn’t until 2013 with their Napalm Records debut, “Solarflesh: A Gospel of Radiant Divinity,” before a larger number of people started to take notice to what Hate were doing – and many labelled them knock offs of their countrymen Behemoth, despite the fact Hate had been honing their brand of blackened death metal when Behemoth were still a pure black metal band. 2015 saw the release of “Crusade: Zero,” which was one of my albums of the year and collectively made the metal world take notice of just how good Hate are. But in spite of the album’s critical acclaim and popularity, frontman Adam Buszko (stage name, ATF Sinner) was unsatisfied with the final product – still emotionally reeling from the death of their bassist, Mortifier, in 2013, having lost the remainder of his band and rushed to fulfill their contractual obligations, Buszko felt that the album didn’t quite reach it’s full potential. With a bit more stability in the fold, it was interesting to see how Hate would progress from “Crusade: Zero” to “Tremendum.”
“Tremendum” opens with an extended version of “Asuric Being.” Not much has changed in the track from the radio edit that was released at the start of March, but the album version has a superbly sinister, minute-and-a-half intro that sets the tone for the rest of the track, and indeed the album. Though Hate have never been a pure death metal band, “Asuric Being” hints that “Tremendum” will be leaning closer to their black metal influences than ever before – a premonition that does it indeed hold truth.
“Indestructible Pillar” and “Svarog’s Mountain” then go onto walk through some classically brilliant blackened goodness, with the former opting for sheer brutality in a Morbid Angel meets Norway fashion and the latter opting for pure grimness and atmospheric excellence. One comment of pure admiration I have to make to Hate is in Buszko’s lyrics. Whether a fan of Hate or not, and regardless of how successful the quartet may be in extreme metal circles, the intelligence and dark, mystical poetry that Buszko displays in every track is incredible. One of my favourite verses is taken from one of “Tremendum’s” highlights, the brutalizing “Fidelis Ad Mortem”:
“Fidelis ad mortem!
Watching them born on their knees,
Smothered by spiral repetition,
Either death or nothing in the realms of despair,
Never-ending highway of war!”
But if you are a listener who likes digging into lyrics, the whole of “Tremendum” is worth getting into – there is a lot of intelligence in the lyrics sheets. “Into Burning Gehenna” is another highlight from the record, and comes in as one of the most brutal tracks on the whole album – no small feat. Little about “Tremendum” is melodic, but my favourite track from the album, “Ghostforce,” features the closest we get to melody. Though still carrying the blackened, though refined, savagery on show right across the record, there is a bit more clarity in the vocals making the track a bit catchier, and a few melodic flourishes of lead work. Closing track “Walk through Fire” is one of the most black metal moments on the entire record, and features an interesting passage in Polish towards the final moments of “Tremendum.”
For anyone to suggest this is not a golden age for metal would be preposterous. While yes, album sales are considerably less than brilliant, the sheer volume of absolutely incredible music that is being released at the moment, both in the underground and through major labels, is truly outstanding. It seems creating the obligatory end-of-year top ten lists is getting harder and harder – though I know one thing for certain: something truly cataclysmic will have to happen for “Tremendum” to be knocked from mine. Hate are one of extreme metal’s best kept secrets, and I sincerely hope the God-tier quality of their newest offering is what it takes to really shoot them into extreme metal’s list of essential-listening bands alongside Morbid Angel, Bathory and countrymen Behemoth.
Though “Tremendum” is a truly brutalizing and utterly savage listen, it’s also more than that – it is intelligent, passionate, and refreshing. Adam Buszko and his band mates in Hate have taken the momentum built from “Crusade: Zero” and let it take them on the path of creation for what is quite possibly their most complete, enjoyable and breathtaking album to date.