• Sammy O'Hagar

HATESPHERE EXPLORE MELODIC DEATH METAL MEDIOCRITY ON TO THE NINESSomehow sandwiched between twin elders Sweden and Norway and spry youngster Finland, Denmark is certainly the middle child of metal’s Scandinavia. Ever the region’s Jan Brady (“Everyone’s always talking about Marduk! Marduk Marduk Marduk!”), the Danish seem to be getting shafted by Tr00 Norwegian Black Metal, melodic Swedish Death Metal, or Finland’s recent emergence as propagators of expansive post-metal (Cult of Luna and Callisto) and cheesy blackened death metal (Children of Bodom). Hatesphere’s latest, To the Nines, is a struggle to be known, clearly cribbing from Gothenburg but also trying to stand out among the region’s intimidating pack. But alas, while Hatesphere’s geographical cousins are growing up to be doctors, lawyers, and entrepreneurs, the band are content on being the night manager at Copenhagen’s answer to 7-11.

While To the Nines is solid B-minus-grade melodic death metal, it’s not offensively executed. The band even manages to nudge toward inspiring moments: the stuttering jackhammer riff on “Aurora,” the tribal toms-and-chug opening and Swedish death metal breakdown of “Writing’s on the Wall,” the At the Gates-y gallop of the title track all manage to quicken the pulse, albeit briefly. Though the album has a few mildly above average moments, the rest of it is perfectly happy to reside in the limbo so many other bands of that ilk already own acres of land in. The album’s best moments recall primo Darkest Hour, themselves a retread of Sweden’s finest. Although Hatesphere are trying, they’re not trying hard enough.

The album starts and ends with songs that cut out before they really take off – the aforementioned title track and “Oceans of Blood” (which, sadly, doesn’t measure up to Dethklok’s “Blood Ocean”). The latter’s fractured take on epic melodeath is To the Nines most interesting track, and could have been the band’s epic 7 or 8 minute closer. But instead, it closes up shop just before five minutes, not capitalizing on the variance the band were seemingly striving for, a fitting metaphor for To the Nines‘ shortcomings. So, much to Hatesphere’s dismay, the metal community will have to continue to know Denmark for Prince Hamlet, enormous dogs, and Nortt instead of the band’s middling contribution to the already crowded medium of melodic death metal.
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(2 ½ out of 5 horns)


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