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Hat – Vortex of Death (2011) - 60%

Asag_Asakku, June 5th, 2012

Major misfortune of most modern Scandinavian black metal bands is to arrive too late, when the second wave has already died on the shores. Inevitably, all these bands must undergo harsh comparisons with their predecessors, many of which still on business. It's the case of Hat, a Norwegian band founded first in the 1990s under a different name, then reappeared under its current name in 2006. After a demo and a rather confidential album (The Demise of Mankind, 2009), it strikes again with Vortex of Death (2011), launched by a small American label.

As it is often the case with the Norwegian bands, the product is pretty slick. Beautiful cover, impeccable packaging. Unfortunately, it’s in the music that spoils it a bit. Hat plays - with conviction, I know - a very traditional black metal, as interpreted in their home country for the past twenty years and counting. From the first notes of Inhuman Revelatio, listeners are dragged into common ground, with riffs, arrangements and sequences already heard a thousand times before. We easily perceive all the possible influences exploited by Hat, such as Satyricon, Behexen and some other pillars of the 1990s, which have all had (and still have) their moment of glory while playing fast and hateful black metal. But then, the 1990s are long gone…

Vortex of Death is still a decent album which may satisfy all of those (and there are many) who prefer vintage sounding black metal, without any kind of modern innovation. For me, it is immediately heard, immediately pulled over my stack of CDs. 6/10

Originally written for

HAT: "Vortex of Death" - 70%

skaven, December 3rd, 2011

With all the possible jokes about the band’s name aside right in the beginning, Vortex of Death is a rather well-done album of uncompromising and evil black metal with all the necessities inside: malicious atmosphere, simple riffs and underground production.

To be honest, though, Vortex of Death was uninviting at first. The production is fairly poor due to the overall powerless sound - guitars are really thinly buzzing - and clearly programmed drums. But there was something in the music that kept me getting back to the album and still keeps: in spite of all the clumsiness sound-wise, the album is somehow charming and songs like ”The Flesh I Wear” and ”Slaves of Insanity” comprise impressive guitar lines. ”Tilintetgjørelsen” ends the album with epic soundscapes, another standout moment on the album. Undertrykker’s raspy screams are one of the best features here even if nothing new, compensating for the otherwise weak production.

Multiple listens reveal that there’s more depth to the record that it first seemed: there’s some synths to be spotted occasionally and the riffs just start to sink in better in time. Modern Countess is what comes to my mind when listening to Vortex of Death, but just a more devilish version. There’s no way I could recommend this to someone only into modern technical black metal acts, but those who don’t mind some clumsiness and not-ass-kicking production, then do yourself a favour and look into this.

3.5 / 5
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Whirlwind of bones and cinders - 75%

autothrall, January 26th, 2011

Hat is another of the recent crop of Norse black metal acts that I felt I could go either way on, but they've thankfully incorporated enough of an adventure into their sophomore Vortex of Death that I found myself drawn back to its contents a number of times, thanks to some savvy riffing, decrepit atmosphere and hints of experimentation which leave the safety and sanctity of their primary genre for a balanced, atmospheric leverage that simply functions. The material is often as primal and ambivalent as the next underground band, but enough thoughts are provoked through its composition that a close listen will reveal thoughtful passages of repressed synthesizers, whispered dialog/vocals and other tricks of the night.

However, it doesn't always shake the straightforward blast and weave of sobering familiarity, and there are moments of "Inhumanus Revelatio", "Overmenneske" or "The Flesh I Wear" which are hardly as compelling as others within the very same tracks. The guitars are thin and bristling, the drums barely noticed without their crashing vortices of support for the rasping and tearing of the vocals. On the whole, this level of sound actually suits the material quite well, because it creates a pattern of depth, like one being in front of the other, as if the band were playing at you from a series of hills, each piled with bones and cinders. The result is that some of the moodier, slower pieces like "The Path to Immortality", or the shifting "Invocating Death" with its stark and engrossing bridge sequence gone mad with rushing, blood stream riffs that channel eerie beauty, are well worth hearing even if the album is not entirely consistent.

I'll admit that I don't remember much about the band's debut The Demise of Mankind, but I can recall the band's name and logo, and with Vortex of Death, I'll be sure to keep them on my watch list. The delivery here is not stunning, nor staggering, but both convex and insular. Evil, and at its very best, mildly alien in composition, which is always sure to draw the ear deeper than your run of the mill black metal album about forests, snow and Satan. Not that Hat are writing about ponies, mind you, the band's name is Norwegian for hate, and their music is neither comfortable nor compromising, but they will not betray your attention span with needless, excess repetition or recycling all of the precise tropes that you might have grown tired of over the past 20 years they were hammered into you.