By Jason Wellwood
It’s fair to say that the new Hate Eternal record was very hotly anticipated by the ‘extreme metal’ crowd. Thus, I felt I had better give Phoenix Amongst the Ashes a little more attention that I might normally have done. What I’ve found, overall, is that listening to this album repeatedly, is a lot like punching myself in the face repeatedly. This album is punishing, angry, and almost unlistenable at times. It’s obvious that Eric Rutan has had enough of the worlds b.s. and he’s letting us all know it.
The production on this album is fantastic. What could easily sound like an absolute mess, sounds crisp, all instruments are clear and the vocals are not only not buried, they’re right out front where they should be. At the same time though, the production creates a wall of sound (apologies to Mr. Spector) that doesn’t allow you to do anything other than ram yourself into it time and time again. Much like punching yourself in the face. Rutan’s guitar playing is a display of technical intensity here as is his remarkable voice. He has that ‘evil, demon’ vocal down pat but, he’s still able to enunciate enough that there is no garbling. It’s a wonder more death metal vocalists don’t try that!
The first real surprise for me was on ‘Haunting Abound’ where the guitar and drums lock in to this distorted groove that would almost make a pit do a bit of a hop as well. That’s pretty short lived though and it’s back to the same driving intensity that the rest of the album. In fact, for the most part, ‘Haunting Abound’ is really the only different track on the album. The rest of the album features the same intensity, the same tempo, which isn’t a bad thing but it does get a little old by song ten.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the casual death metal fan (if there really are any) will find Phoenix Amongst the Ashes hard to swallow. There isn’t anything cool or ‘hip’ to grab on to here, and it will make many of the mall metal fans run screaming from Hot Topic if it comes on during a shopping trip. I think that’s the way Eric would want it though.