Hate Eternal

support Obscura + Beneath the Massacre + Defiled
author EW date 03/05/11 venue Underworld, London, UK

If one gig could be chosen to represent the lifeblood in the death metal genre, a bill on paper featuring bands as diverse as Hate Eternal, Obscura, Beneath the Massacre and Defiled should have been a strong candidate: variance in styles, band lifespans and countries of origin providing an act to suit all tastes on an ordinary Tuesday evening in glorious spring-time London. The reality, however, is different, and a lot more worrying…

Defiled

Coming all the way from Japan for this tour and after years of defiantly ploughing on with limited results, my respect is fully given to the brutal death horde Defiled for simply being here, but the reason why I had not previously heard of them after nearly 20 years and 4 albums of existence was the grey, monotone nature of everything offered up in their short set. When every song is comprised of one virtual unchanging speed, ceaseless guttural vocals and a cacophony of triggered kick drums designed to obliterate whatever riffing intricacies there may be in Defiled's work, the feeling is of disappointment. When this summation is apt for virtually the entire genre of brutal death metal nowadays, where fresh ideas are as rare as songs about love and happiness, the feeling is of unceasing nausea. It is not Defiled's that is the way of things and to their credit the distinct bass work of Haruhisa Takahata is a plus point, but when there is so little of note happening in each song and rarely a change of speed, the chances for enjoyment are slim.

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Beneath the Massacre

At this rate it might appear I have a personal vendetta against death metal, and especially against Canadians Beneath the Massacre, whom I have twice before torn apart the live show within these hallowed walls. I can assure you that neither are the case, I simply appreciate all my metal to be played with passion, a human element and/or notable song variances, however deathly the metal or not. Unfortunately I can simply draw none of these characteristics from a BtM show. Appropriating themselves as a sort of Hatebreed-cum-death-metal, BtM look like they mean business but the utter shamelessness in which each song is cranked to the maximum drum trigger settings and the riffs set as chunky and brain-dead as a narcotic body-builder mean they sound devoid of inspiration and appealing only to those who simply don't get what made death metal (Morbid Angel, Death et al) so timeless in the first place. After this it matters not the sterling job frontman Elliot Desgagnés does to connect with the ample crowd still enjoying the band; their music has been horrendously short of doing so.

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Obscura

From a brutal, technical band seemingly not in control of their abilities, to one a lot less brutal but greatly more aware of their being, Obscura feel in many ways an antithesis to BtM despite being first cousins in the grand musical pantheon. Recently released "Omnivium" has gone a long way to solidifying Obscura's name in the technical death metal field as their choppy, frequently changing riffs and skilled balance of growled blasts and intricate melodies more and more recall primetime Death and Atheist. There is still some way to go before every moment of Obscura rivals anything that could be culled from "Human" or "Unquestionable Presence" but as shown by this evening's "Anticosmic Overload", "Vortex Omnivium" and "Ocean Gateways" that moment could yet still arrive with a harsher observance of the need for the truly great songs which separate the best from the also-rans.

It cannot be ignored that besides mainman Steffen Kummerer the German troupe reflect a band content to play their music accurately rather than apply any laws of stage showmanship, there is at least the knowledge their music makes up for it. Perhaps a little more of the live Atheist pedigree would be welcome but I was just thankful for a band to remind me why death metal can be worth witnessing at all.

Hate Eternal

If there's one thing to me more mysterious than the origins of the universe or the appeal of The X Factor, it is the popularity of Hate Eternal. Whether it is through the band being a vehicle for Mr. Death Metal Eric Rutan's non-Morbid Angel and non-Ripping Corpse leanings or I simply not noticing the worth in the triggered oblivion and hellish onslaught they evoke, there is something that does not sit right. Just like BtM earlier and a million other bands, the monotonous nature of Hate Eternal, exemplified by a triggered drum performance which bordered on the insane, serves so little depth or hooks on stage that one has to step outside the closeted death metal mindset for a moment and wonder what the hell is going on here. Should bands simply press play on their drum machine recruit drummers content to play entire sets at hyper-speed, growl belligerently to every frenzied note and riff so cold that no feelings are evoked in their performance? I'll leave that for you to ponder, but after waiting half an hour to finally hear something I could nod my head to and with no apparent sign of a change in song structure or tempo I bid my farewell to the Underworld before my own faith in a once proud genre was lost to a scene largely bereft of any self-awareness.

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