For such a mediocre band that's had more misses than hits, the conceit of Hate Eternal is no small beast to be taken lightly with album titles such as 'Conquering the Throne', 'King of all Kings' and 'I, Monarch'. You'd expect all other death metal bands to drop their weapons and abandon all hope in the face of such a tyrannic and omnipotent entity. Nah. The truth of the matter is that Erik Rutan is a one trick pony whose greatest and most refreshing offerings are embedded within his past contributions to his former bands Ripping Corpse and Morbid Angel. HE's debut, 'Conquering the Throne' sounded like a split album featuring some of the blander tracks by Morbid Angel and Suffocation. Perhaps if Rutan and Doug Cerrito (formerly of Suffocation and early Hate Eternal co-conspirator) had actually collaborated on a few tracks instead of merely divvying up the album's content between them, they could have come up with something more interesting and memorable. Well, they hadn't, and that album isn't anything to jump for joy over as a result.
Enter 2002's 'King of all Kings'. After a lame intro that leads up to a rather ho hum start, it becomes immediately apparent with the beginning riff of the second track that all hope is indeed not lost here. 'The Obscure Terror' is one of the more bizarro songs to have been enveloped into the death metal pantheon and fortunately it stands alongside a few other songs off of this anomaly of an album. After scanning through the writing credits within the KOAK traycard, everything begins to make sense to me. The majority of the kookier songs on here were written by Jared Anderson, he of the little known and undeservedly overlooked Internecine out of Cincinatti, Ohio. Anyone familiar with Internecine's demo or their 2002 album 'Book of Lambs', should know full well the kooked out capabilities of Mr. Anderson and his weirdo vision of rhythmic endeavors. Again, most of the standout tracks written for this album were by Jared Anderson and also serves as a painful reminder of his talent and the possibilities that will never be as he had passed away a few years after the release of this album in 2005.
Perhaps bolstered by Anderson's creative presence within the ranks, Rutan manages to step up to the plate as well. Of course not everything he dishes out is a knock out punch as some of his riffs tend to manifest a sort of triumphant yet "whimsical" quality that oftentimes sounds out of place, especially after being excorted through Anderson's creepy rhythmic landscapes. Rutan's leads are pretty much the same thing he's been doing since Morbid Angel's 'Domination', way back in 1995, which sounds fine but also showcases an artist shackled to the confinements of his own gimmickry.
Personally, I've NEVER bought into the hype of Derek Roddy, who is not a bad drummer by any means, but being able to blast really fast is not the sign of a truly good drummer. Not in my book at any rate. Besides, he's really not even that fast to begin with. All that aside, I would rank his contributions to this album among his best and most inspired work. Evidently this was a good time in the lives of those within the Hate Eternal camp as everyone sounds hungry and inspired. Vocally, Erik Rutan is just kind of there. He lacks the attitude and charisma of a David Vincent or the sheer brute force of a Frank Mullen, yet the vocal mediocrity fails to hinder then weirdo genius of the majority of songs on display.
|L-R Jared Anderson, Erik Rutan, Derek Roddy|
KOAK stands out within Hate Eternal's discography as it showcases the rawest production that the band had employed up until that point and since. One of my major gripes with the band is the awful and over bassy production of every album since KOAK. It's made all the more strange considering that Rutan's production work on other albums such as Krisian's 'Conquerors of Armageddon', Cannibal Corpse's 'Kill' and Goatwhore's 'Carving Out the Eyes of God' is rather pristine and discernible as opposed to the work he has invested into his own band, which usually sounds supremely overcooked to the point of disaster. As a writer and a musician, I can understand going back and checking up on odds and ends and somewhat obsessing over things but what Rutan does is madness. Thankfully, this is the one album that comes close to showcasing the promise of a band that features a former member of Morbid Angel. Unfortunately, Rutan would squander that promise throughout the years with a string of increasingly mediocre albums.
KOAK will also be the last album to feature visually appealing aesthetics upon the CD cover before the creeping onset of insanity caused Mr Rutan to employ the services of the creatively inept individual who's been shitting all over HE's covers since.
I really do like this album. Even the weaker tracks are still solid and again, KOAK is worth owning for Jared Anderson's bizarre riffing contributions alone.