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Napalm (2015)
Rating: 9/10

With its rather frightful introduction which sounds like some simmering soundtrack to the forthcoming apocalypse, Poland’s Hate waits in the wings for another black / death attack on the flesh. Crusade:Zero is the ninth full-length release from this band, and more remarkable is the fact that seven of these have emerged this side of the millennium.

The Warsaw-based outfit started its death metal strategies back in 1990 under the name of Infected before moving on to the more “hip” moniker of Somuchhate. This too was discarded very quickly though, with the band finally opting for the more blunt Hate in 1991.

Since then the combo has marched on through the years, sticking to its rusty guns and releasing a relentless tirade of hostile compositions; the last being 2013’s Solarflesh: A Gospel Of Radiant Divinity. This new opus – recorded in Poland’s Hertz Studio (which has also been used by the likes of titans Behemoth, Vader and Decapitated) – offers up 12 cuts of prime evil with each being militant in execution and merging formidable segments of elegance and arrogance coupled with horrifying blast-beasts and deathly mayhem.

After the brief introduction of ‘Vox Dei (A Call From Beyond)’, we receive another symbol of what is yet to come via the marching instrumental ‘Lord, Make Me An Instrument Of Thy Wrath!’. It’s a brief, icy blast of confrontational percussion and sneering guitar akin to something conjured by Mayhem during their epic opus Grand Declaration Of War (2000).

We are then bombarded with the nuclear warhead that is ‘Death Liberator’ – a truly formidable lump of slow-burning molten death metal with the expected black metal nuances, and vocally “ATF” Sinner is typically grotesque in his chesty growls. It’s nothing new to the world, especially if you’ve spent other dark hours of your life bewitched by the likes of Behemoth, but it’s still the sort of overly arrogant scowling blackened death metal to send the children scurrying under the bed.

‘Death Liberator’ is simply a churning black wave of guttural madness, incorporating a spike of melody in the lead guitar while the drums and riffage basically roll malevolently at a destructive mid-tempo pace. Hate are masters at evoking images of blood-soaked satanic orgies, and ‘Death Liberator’ is the ideal perverse soundtrack to watching a group of scantily clad, although more likely darkly-scaled sirens cavorting under the cascading blood from Lucifer’s dagger. There’s no doubt about it; Hate is a terrifying bunch of musicians that can blend morose mid-tempo orgasms with faster scurries of vengeance.

The whole feel of this album is one that was craftily designed in some damp chamber where the combo no doubt uses human remains and clanking chains to pound their instruments. Proof of this sepulchral majesty can be experienced via the ominous shudders of the labouring ‘Leviathan’, which pretty much lives up to its name as another gruelling example of slow, doom-laden and heavily melancholic, suffocating cold black metal. With its vile deathly streaks, you just know that at any given moment the track is going to lurch itself from its grave and start galloping along with a frenzy that is feverish enough to leave the eyes gouged by the flailing sticks of Pavulon. In fact, Pavulon’s foreboding percussion litters this despicable record like some clambering chime of gloom.

I’ve always been a sucker for slower, throaty blackened death metal that succeeds in its swagger by marrying massive, blackened grooves and nastier passages of pace, and with this album Hate once again succeeds in its ghastliness.

The pounding ‘Doomsday Celebrities’ is the sort of trudging spectre that one can only stand in awe of as it features some truly lethal jarring structures, while ‘Hate Is The Law’ is bolstered by a speedier approach where the drums hammer without mercy and the twisted, perverse guitar sound snakes its way through the thickening mire like an icy serpent. ‘Hate Is The Law’ is one of the album’s most aggressive moments and exudes a crushing power that is only shadowed by the grandiose statement that is the six-minute ‘Valley Of Darkness’.

Hate is one band that really does live up to its name, because throughout this bludgeoning opus there is a truly hideous atmosphere built upon the groundwork of those deep vocal narrations and that humiliating guitar and drum cacophony. Hate rarely dabbles in a racket outside of the realms of what we already know from Polish blackened death metal, but just in its intentions and satanic eruptions Crusade:Zero is just so menacing. It’s a record that often refuses to resort to mere speed blasts to express its anguish, but when they come, as with the defeating ‘Rise Omega The Consequence’, they are just so overwhelming in their dominance that you’ll be seeking refuge in the slower oozing only to discover that such dismal teases are just as virulent.

I’ve sat through a vast number of Hate’s back catalogue, but I will say, hand on blackened heart, that this new volatile volume is my favourite so far from the trio of terror.

Neil Arnold

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