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Hate Eternal's "Fury and Flames" might just be the most misunderstood album from the past few years (though because there was no DVD or real 'explanation' included with this release, I'm going by my interpretation) and is one of the most powerful releases from death metal ever. This album was created after the death of one of Rutan's best friends, and it certainly shows. With some of the most furious riffs, insane song composition and a vocal performance I would rate as one of the best death metal has seen ever. "Fury and Flames" is a fantastic album berated unfairly by the metal community.
Erik Rutan is a death metal god, creating riffs and composing songs that are absolutely punishing and uncompromising. While I've seen many a metalhead bash the band for their overuse of blast beats, I think that a band trying to be heavy and brutal is going to use blast beats a ton regardless: when a blast beat becomes standard, it allows the listener to focus more on the guitars, and the drums function more as a way to keep the energy up throughout a song. I can understand why someone might not enjoy this and it can get monotonous but at the same time, the way Hate Eternal handles the constant blast is done in the most tasteful way possible. The drums are allowed to use the cymbals as a way to change the drum pattern while the snare and double bass act as rhythm. On Hate Eternal albums, it gives the band a unique sound.
But the guitars! Erik Rutan is a guitar wizz, known for using mind bending chord progressions and a harrowing tremolo picking style, and he is at his best here. The production style allows for a guitar sound completely unique to death metal, where the chord progressions, tremolo picked riffs and high notes become high lighted, while the lower stuff is allowed to blend with the drums and bass to form a wall of rhythm from which there is no escape. Rutan capitalizes on his style of guitar in the best possible way, and on this album, his guitar playing is showcased in a way that says "Here's how I write: take it or leave it." The guitar solos are chaotic and superb as always, done in a tasteful and "wankless" way that compliment the songs fantastically.
Alex Webster's bass is sloppy, muddy and disgusting, and works with the Hate Eternal sound quite well. As I said, the moments on this album where the whole band becomes a monster of rhythm are well complimented by the bass lines Webster writes, and he fits well with the songs Rutan wrote for the album, and I think, better with the Hate Eternal sound than the band's previous bassist. But then again, when you're a genius like Webster is, it's hard not to fit into a death metal outfit as technically tight as Hate Eternal.
The vocal performance on this album is beyond anything that can be imagined, and is demonic, powerful, and just plain astounding. I would rate this among "Evangelion," "The Wretched Spawn" and "Deathcrush" as some of extreme metal's greatest performances. Rutan is at his best and the way the vocals were mixed works so perfectly, especially with the way the vocal patterns was written to the music. Top notch.
I want to say that, while I wouldn't necessarily be a fan of the production style and the sound of this album were it done more often than this, I probably wouldn't enjoy it. But with this album and with the songs written for this particular production, I think the sound is absolutely fantastic. The songs have to be written to fit with this sound, and they definitely were. It's a production style that's raw without being a "garage" style of recording, and it's chaotic without totally losing coherence. I love the recording on this album and I think it works quite well for sorrow and aggression Rutan undoubtedly had to purge.
"Fury and Flames" proves to be a record that is not only satisying as a metal album but that isalso extraordinarily cathartic. Not only is the album a step up for the band, it is also a step up for modern death metal. It's by no means extraordinarily ground breaking or innovative, but does a great album have to be? Pick up the album, listen to it in the context of the creative process and prepare to be blown out of the fucking water.