• Axl Rosenberg

31q5wledrfl_aa240_.jpgIn our interview with Erik Rutan earlier this week, I think we failed to convey how sincerely emotional the guy gets when talking about his late friend and collaborator, Jared Anderson; Anderson died more than a year ago, and it’s still clearly something that Rutan is struggling with. Fury & Flames, the new album from Rutan’s Hate Eternal, is meant, in part, as a tribute to Anderson, and it’s a tribute fit for a king.

Seriously: Rutan and his all-new line-up for HE – which includes Rutan’s former Ripping Corpse bandmate Shaune Kelley on guitar, Cannibal Corpse’s Alex Webster on bass, and newcomer Jade Simonetto on drums – have unleashed a monster of an album, something that reaches far beyond the brain meltingly heavy death metal of the first three Hate Eternal records into a new dimension previously unexplored by Rutan.

That’s not to say that this album isn’t as heavy as Dom DeLuise after he just ate Sally Struthers; it is. But we knew that no one can make an album as heavy as Rutan, so that’s not really a surprise.

What is kind of a surprise is how dense and layered this album is. As much as any of the prog metal albums we so revere here at MetalSucks, you will never be able to wrap your head around Fury & Flames after just one listen; hell, I’ve listened to it all the way through now at least six or seven times, and I feel like I’m only now beginning to comprehend it.

Part of that’s due to the fact that the album doesn’t simply mark a career high for Hate Eternal as a band, but for Rutan as a producer, as well – which is really saying something. Drums swirls across both channels, giving the listener the feeling of being tossed about a tornado like a wet paper towel; ambient sounds appear and then duck back down just beneath the surface; and Rutan has actually done something approaching death metal-harmonization with his vocals, placing several levels of his monstrous screams over one another, giving the impression of an entire choir of Satan’s minions shouting into your ears.

And the songwriting is pretty killer, too; as Rutan himself noted, “Bringer of Storms” is an epic motherfucker, and the title should instantly be utilized as Rutan’s new nickname. But right now the lurching riff of “Fury Within” is my particular favorite – because I really don’t think I’ve ever heard Rutan do anything quite like it. It seems like it should be the soundtrack for that thing from Cloverfield to march through the streets of Manhattan and fuck shit up. I just can’t believe I don’t have long hair anymore; this song makes me wanna whirlwind so fuckin’ bad I can taste it. And album closer “Coronach?” Don’t even get me started. A slow, orchestral number that most bands would probably have used as the album intro here works as a kind of late-in-the-game funeral dirge; it’s a haunting way to close out the proceedings.

And, of course, Rutan the Perfectionist would never allow anything other than top-notch musicianship to appear on one of his albums. I wasn’t familiar with Kelley’s work before now, but he and Rutan have an undeniable chemistry, and their traded solos on songs like “Thus Salvation,” “Tombeau (Le Tombeau de la Fureur et Des Flammes),” and “Para Bellum” is more soulful than anything we’ve heard on previous HE releases – but not at the consequence of the insane shredding you love and expect from these dudes. And while no one needs to be told that Webster is an awesome bassist, Simonetto – who Rutan met over MySpace (!) and worked with for months to get him into shape to record Fury & Flames – is a real find. It’s hard to follow in the footsteps of drummers like Tim Yeung, Kevin Talley and Derek Roddy, but Simonetto will make you forget all about those dudes by the conclusion of the first track, “Hell Envenom.” The guy is like 23 or something ridiculous like that, and he’s already a friggin’ master… his work here is really just staggering.

Discordant, broken-glass jagged, and just plain ugly, Fury & Flames is a malicious masterpiece that sets a new bar not only for Hate Eternal, but for any other band that wants to release a death metal album this year. It’s exhausting – maybe even too much so – but by the end, Rutan has made you feel the pain of his loss right down to your very bones. It’s only February, but alongside new releases from Genghis Tron, Virgin Black, and Cavalera Conspiracy, Fury & Flames demonstrates that 2008 is going to be one hell of a year.

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(four out of five horns)


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