It's not like albums from HATE ETERNAL was ever considered music to soothe the savage beast; Erik Rutan and his ever-changing band of death metal extremists are the savage beast! Still, 2005's "I, Monarch" revealed a broader, more textured palette in comparison to the vitriolic explosiveness of the albums it followed. In fact, it had some punters thinking that it served as a leading indicator of an increasingly expansionist direction. And then "Fury & Flames" (the first for Metal Blade) hit like a sledgehammer-wielding psychopath in the throes of 'roid rage and HATE ETERNAL once again redefined the admittedly overused term "brutal." Then we recovered from the initial shock of the sonic overload and began realizing that there was some compositional depth involved, often found within, around, and through the sonic bludgeon.
Assuming you had a similar experience with "Fury & Flames", you'll be prepared for "Phoenix Amongst the Ashes", since it follows a path not unlike its bellicose elder. That's not to say that the new album is the same as the old album, except that the song titles have been changed. Rather, it's to say that the new album continues in that vein of victory through complete annihilation or, if you prefer, death by suffocation. There just isn't anything that one would recognize as "messing about" here.
So instead of reinvention or overt experimentation, HATE ETERNAL takes a proven method of decimation — one loved by and expected from its legion of sadomasochistic fans - and finds new ways of creating nuanced licks and pleasingly odd riff angles to flavor its ritualistic head-bashing. Much like "Fury & Flames" though, it might take a spin or two to hear all the cool little variations on the common theme. Rutan's ever-improving engineering skills do make detail-detection easier compared to the extra dense "Fury & Flames". There are quite a few tunes here that battle mightily against the track-blur plaguing lesser acts, such as the just-a-pinch-different-from-the-rest "Haunting Abroad", one of the best examples; it's simply a well written death metal tune. The main point to convey here is that once you've reestablished equilibrium, you'll begin to notice those illusive "little things" (the harmonics, the angles, the bends, etc.) on tracks like "Deathveil" and even identify a certain grace within the beastliness of the title track. Oh, it's there; it's definitely there. Then there is "Hatesworn" which sticks out mainly because it is such a classic HATE ETERNAL punisher.
What is most amazing is how HATE ETERNAL can still sound so friggin' extreme within an international death metal "scene" comprised of bands in constant competition to "out-extreme" each other. It's probably because all extremism in isolation will get you is a spot right smack dab in the middle of the miasma. Add a little creativity and a whole lot of effort into the mix though and your band will keep getting noticed. That's how HATE ETERNAL does it. Well, that and the fact that Rutan has been pushing limits since the RIPPING CORPSE days.