Artist: Hate Eternal

Album Title: Upon Desolate Sands

Label: Season of Mist

Date of Release: 26 October 2018

The accusation that gets thrown around about brutal death metal is that, sometimes, it can all sound a bit similar. Songs come across as blending into each other, with little to differentiate themselves or stand out. An album of brutal music can often be an exhausting procession of blast beats, brutal riffs, breakneck leads and gruff, guttural and barely intelligible lyrics. For some, this sounds like the perfect sonic recipe. On a fair few occasions, I will be one of those people. However, my love of brutal death metal is generally more circumspect than that; I need it to demonstrate something more, something just a little bit different, otherwise the album will tend to blur into one amorphous mass of extremity.

And that, right there, is the overriding problem I have with ‘Upon Desolate Sands’. Hate Eternal, led by vocalist/guitarist Erik Rutan, have been plying their uncompromising trade since before the turn of the millennium, releasing their debut, ‘Conquering The Throne’ is 1999. Since then, they have released a further five albums, all receiving varying degrees of critical acclaim. And yet, I have never truly warmed to the Floridian death merchants, currently comprised of Rutan alongside bassist J.J. Hrubovcak and drummer Hannes Grossmann.

The same is true of their seventh full-length release, I’m afraid. I gave this record a go in the pursuit of offering the band another chance and to give myself another opportunity to ‘see the light’ so to speak. I also felt rather drawn to the record thanks to the intriguing and beautifully-illustrated front cover artwork. Maybe I’m not enough of an aficionado of death metal, but my opinion of ‘Upon Desolate Sands’ is lukewarm at best I’m afraid.


There are moments when I sit up and take notice of the music, such as the more melodic and characterful ‘All Hope Destroyed’ that delivers an extended and memorable lead guitar led section. It sounds big and epic, with plenty of atmosphere built in, although I have a strong suspicion that it only sounds as good as it does within this particular context.

And, in any case, these moments of relative calm and lucidity are too few and far between for my personal tastes. Instead, ‘Upon Desolate Sands’ prefers to spend the better part of 40 minutes pummeling the listener with a style of death metal that sits somewhere in the middle between being overly technical and being overly simplistic. The music is deployed in a highly competent and sharp manner, meaning that this is slick and professional-sounding, supported by a production that hasn’t entirely robbed the music of its edge by being too clear. However, sitting between two stalls like it does, I find that it lacks sufficient steamrollering groove and enough intricate and incisive instrumental gymnastics. The musicians are clearly talented at what they do, but the spark is missing as far as I’m concerned.

As the album ends, I struggle to pick any specific compositions out of the pack because too few of them stand out. If I really wrack my brains, I could mention the opener ‘The Violent Fury’ that contains a few dark and tasty moments. I could also refer to the closing moments of the otherwise unexceptional ‘Vengeance Striketh’ which spews forth a exuberant lead guitar solo whilst all other instrumentation falls away.

Even when Hate Eternal lower the pace via ‘Nothingness of Being’, the relentless blast beats continue and, for me, the riffs are not as exciting as I’d want them to be. Admittedly, the churning, roiling sounds, where the bass is particularly audible over the surrounding tumult is rather satisfying but that in itself isn’t quite enough. There isn’t quite enough groove or filthy intent to tip the scales far enough in the right direction.

By the time that closer ‘For Whom We Have Lost’ enters with a much more atmospheric and darkly melodic intent, I’m afraid as far as I’m concerned, it’s a case of too little, too late. And that’s a shame because I think this track is arguably the strongest on the album because of the way in which it sounds just that little bit different.

If you’re a diehard brutal death metal fan, you’ll have read this review whilst shouting expletives at me through your screen. You’ll almost certainly find something about this record to enjoy and you’ll end up buying it anyway. For the rest of us, I fear it doesn’t do anything extraordinary enough to convince you to part with your cash. Ultimately, ‘Upon Desolate Sands’ is a very decent extreme metal record, albeit a fairly unremarkable one.

The Score of Much Metal: 7

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPI8HWHIMj0&w=560&h=315]

If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from 2018 and from previous years right here:

2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

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Seventh Wonder – Tiara
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Ultha – The Inextricable Wandering
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Decembre Noir – Autumn Kings
The Odious Construct – Shrine of the Obscene
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Deicide – Overtures of Blasphemy
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The Spirit – Sounds From The Vortex
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Manticora – To Kill To Live To Kill
Rivers of Nihil – Where Owls Know My Name
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