Skip to content

“The Apocalypse Manifesto”, the third Enthroned album and their one but last for British label imprint Blackend Records, who were more famous for their compilations than for the artists they contracted. It is the long anticipated recording where the band finally comes into its own, and at long last mastered the Northern sound they had been hinting at for the past two albums and that little stopgap EP. The line-up from “Towards the Skullthrone Of Satan” returns, along with new drummer Fabrice Depireux (Namroth Blackthorn), in what would be the best most stable and long lasting constellation to date. Blessed by both much stronger and better written material plus a glossy production that is able to harness their power and nuance, Enthroned was finally ready to prove their true worth. So how does this album stack up to their earlier releases? Let’s find out!
In structure the album follow the pattern laid out with Marduk’s “Heaven Shall Burn…” that was released three years before, while the overall construction of the songs recall “Panzerdivision Marduk” more than anything. This isn’t all that surprising since the latter Marduk album was released in the beginning of 1999, and Enthroned’s own new album would only arrive in December of that same year. On all fronts this third album is about extremity: extreme speed, extreme tightness and extreme subject matter. This is the album where Enthroned spread its wings a bit, and wasn’t afraid to venture into more technical territory with some of its song structures. Notable is that Enthroned now are finally fully black metal in all of its corpse painted, leatherbound and spiked glory. Traces of death – and thrash metal are so minimal that they can easily be missed when not paying close attention to what is happening or how things are written.

enthroned4Supposedly an album about “the Apocalypse from a strict Satanic perspective”, which is hard to tell from the actual lyrics because they mostly seem to deal with genocide, warfare and various forms of extermination. They are ever so slightly better than the hilarious pieces written for the preceding two albums. This can probably be attributed to the fact that most lyrics were written by other members than Franck Lorent. There are still grammatical – and spelling errors all over the place, but the whole thing at least appears to have some thought put into it, something that couldn’t be said previously. What radically different light or angle the “strict Satanic perspective” is supposed to shed on the topical Apocalypse is anybody’s guess. The lyrics certainly don’t help matters because nothing new is to be gleaned off them. Unless I’m missing something.

For the first and only time Enthroned was able to record in Abyss Studio in Sweden, and Tommy Tägtgren does a commendable job of capturing Enthroned’s barbaric offerings in a smooth and glossy digital environment that, for the first time, allows the many nuances in the band’s riffing to come to the surface. The drums are far less loud and crushing, but the crisp digital sound of the drum kit allows more space for the lead – and rhythm guitars to break through, while Franck Lorent’s vocals are still up, front and center. Curiously, the presence of Lorent’s usually thundering bass guitar is notably toned down compared to past records but it is still vaguely audible, but its presence is more supressed. It wouldn’t be heard again until the next album that was recorded elsewhere. The cover artwork by Adrian Wear is the band’s most sophisticated piece to date, and the whole presentation of this album exudes professionalism to nth degree.

Various problems arose with the production of this album. Track 5 ‘Post Mortem Penetrations (Messe des Saintes Mortes)’ is omitted on the first 2000 copies despite being mentioned on the tracklisting, and having its lyrics printed in the booklet. Track 4 is called ‘Retribution of the Holy’ on the back cover and on the last page of the booklet, and ‘Retribution of Holy Trinity’ inside the booklet (but the lyrics contain the phrase "...retribution of the holy trinity."). The hidden track after the last song, a fiery cover rendition of Exhorder track ‘Anal Lust’ was a nice surprise. Its inclusion here would only be explained by the direction the band would embark on after two more albums in the style perfected here. On the whole these production problems aren’t that much of a hassle – and they don’t take anything away from what this album intends to do. It wouldn’t be until the next album that Murphy’s Law would come into play, and botched what should have been a suitably punishing follow-up to this loosely conceptual battering about the Christian interpretation of the End of Days, the Apocalypse.

The booklet also contains an almost page-long rant by frontman Franck Lorent about the then-current state of the black metal scene, and who the band considers to be posers. This becomes especially funny in hindsight as Enthroned itself is firmly a second wave act. Much of its sound is derived from 90s Scandinavian (mostly Norwegian and Swedish) bands, and its key members had a background in death - , thrash – and doom metal prior to forming the band, and joining the burdgeoning black metal scene. In fact, rumors persist that Enthroned was targeted by French black metal scene purists Les Légions Noires for not being “necro” enough, and allowing outside influences to taint its sound. Discussions about the band’s purity of sound aside, “The Apocalypse Manifesto” doesn’t make any illusions about what it is: a solid second-tier effort from a band that had faced its fair share of bad luck, and finally regained some much needed stability. Even though the concept is fairly ridiculous, the band manage to pull it off in a fairly respectable manner, and their conviction about the subject is endearing, to say the least.

All these superficial and production problems aside “The Apocalypse Manifesto” is probably Enthroned’s most potent and strongest offering up to that point. Yet despite their progression, this is still deeply generic, incredibly mundane and well, inoffensive non-Scandinavian Norsecore. All the proper tools are in place and accounted for, yet the band isn’t able to write something to truly remarkable. Nothing on this album serves to set them apart from the other faceless competitors (and imitators) that had sprung up as a reaction to their first two albums. As blistering and unrelenting as this album is, it’s just that: unrelenting, and little more. This would continue to characterize Enthroned, who appear to be forever relegated to the role of bridesmaid while some of their peers would be able to move to greener pastures, supposedly those made of money. A sufficient and reliable second-tier act at best, Enthroned was able to build up a solid fanbase and niche within the underground, but that’s about it – and that’s okay.


Tampa, Florida combo Hate Eternal burst onto the international death metal scene in 1997. Led by former Ripping Corpse and Morbid Angel guitarist Erik Rutan, it was one of the earlier American death metal acts to follow Krisiun’s and Suffocation’s lead in terms of speed, density and heaviness. Drawing most of its inspiration from Rutan’s former employer Morbid Angel “Conquering the Throne” is a mix of Florida and New York death metal. The band initially debuted with an independently released demo in 1997, aptly called “promo ‘97”, which also doubled as the “Engulfed In Grief” demo of Rutan’s symfo metal band Alas. Of the three tracks that featured on this tape, only ‘Messiah Of Rage’ wouldn’t be re-recorded. This was the only record of its kind in terms of membership, as both former Suffocation guitarist Doug Cerrito and drummer Tim Yeung were drafted as session musicians, with Erik Rutan (vocals, lead guitar) and Jared Anderson (bass guitar, backing vocals) forming the true heart of the unit. It is Hate Eternal’s most lively, spontaneous and diverse record – and for these reasons also its most divisive.

Hate Eternal is centered around vocalist, guitarist/producer Erik Rutan, formerly of New Jersey formative death metal outfit Ripping Corpse and Cinncinnati, Ohio transplant Jared Anderson on bass guitar and backing vocals. The band derives its name from the track ‘The Hate Eternal’ of the 1992 “Industry” demo, the swansong for Ripping Corpse as Rutan went to tour and record with Morbid Angel, while one member attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts and the others reformed as Dim Mak. The original Hate Eternal logo was created by Rutan’s significant other Jennifer Gideon, and it has remained unchanged thus far into the band’s existence. “Conquering the Throne” is one of two records not featuring artwork by Paul Romano, and it is one of a number of small stylistic diversions that differentiate it from later Hate Eternal output. Derivative in its architecture and unrelenting in its pace “Conquering the Throne” stands with one foot in the future, one foot in the past. It remains Hate Eternal’s most listenable album by far. Ultimately generic but surprisingly effective, and awe-inspiring in its intensity this record is the embodiment of a newer, faster and largely more brutal subset of death metal that has since become the standard, the norm. Although the South Americans of Krisiun predated them by several years, Hate Eternal did it first in the US.

Starting with a sampled nuclear explosion it is indeed the sound of the apocalypse that ‘Praise Of the Almighty’ brings. Although the record is similar in construction to Morbid Angel’s own “Formulas Fatal to the Flesh”, it is the central architecture that sets its apart from its more established counterpart. Where Morbid Angel sounded dazed, confused and directionless on its album, Hate Eternal knows its objective and how to reach it. At its core this is “Covenant” in more ways than one. The guitar tone is similar, the drum sound is similar and even Rutan’s beastly growls mimic those of the then still relevant David Vincent, death metal’s most celebrated frontman at this juncture. There are important differences on a number of facets that differentiate this new unit from its older counterpart. Hate Eternal cares not about subtlety, or about atmosphere of any kind. No, the band’s primary objective is to pummel the listener over the head and into submission by sheer force of power. Unrelenting in its riff assault and frightening in its percussive intensity “Conquering the Throne” is a display of instrumental mastery and razor-sharp precision at dizzying warp speeds. Just like the Nile debut that was released the year before Hate Eternal is all about extremity, even if at the price of replayability.

The presence of Doug Cerrito also brings in the earlier mentioned New York influence. The three tracks that he contributes to this album sound exactly like you imagine they would given where he was at this point in time. ‘Nailed to Obscurity’, ‘Dethroned’ and ‘Spiritual Holocaust’ are largely similar in construction to Suffocation’s swansong EP “Despise the Sun”. The only difference is the vocal presence of Erik Rutan instead of Frank Mullen. Anderson has no writing credits whatsoever on this record, but his style would define the follow-up to this album, the unanimously savage “King Of All Kings”. Making his recording debut as a studio musician is drummer Tim Yeung. Based upon his performance here Yeung would later do session work for Maryland death/black metal unit Aurora Borealis (2002) and for California-based act Decrepit Birth (2003) before venturing out on his own, along with former Fear Factory guitarist Dino Cazares, to form the melodic metalcore act Divine Heresy. Interesting to note is that Aurora Borealis in 1998 and 2000 worked with session/studio drummer Derek Roddy for recordings of two albums. The very same Derek Roddy who would replace Yeung in this act, and who would appear on two of its records. It is probably a coincidence, but it is worth noting.

Holing up at Greenhouse FX Studios in Tampa and self-produced by Rutan himself it is surprising that “Conquering the Throne” sounds as good as it does. Just two years later this very same facility would produce Diabolic’s second album “Subterraneal Magnitude”. That is an album that doesn’t sound nearly as vibrant, earthy and rich in tones as this Hate Eternal debut. This is surprising because it would be produced by the very same Wes Garren. Although this session would span several months, and Diabolic would use the facility for mere days in their recording session two years down the line. Similarly additional mastering was done by Juan ‘Punchy’ Gonzalez, who besides being the resident live sound engineer with Morbid Angel, would also run his own studio compound with Diet Of Worms. The very compound that would drag Morbid Angel into the darkest abyss of mediocrity for what was arguably its weakest offering, the universally despised (but retroactively loved) “Heretic”. Thankfully does the sheer amount of talent in its membership far outweigh the production qualms that strike against it. “Conquering the Throne” does live up to its name, conquering it does.

The Hans Memling painting (a small section from right-hand panel of the “Last Judgment” tryptich) that adorns its cover fits the package rather exquisitely. Just like the souls of the damned being dragged to Hell, so does this record drag the listener into the most savage interpretation of the genre. It are only the esoteric leads and solos by Erik Rutan and Doug Cerrito that offer some brief respite in this whirlwind of blastbeats and high velocity aural obliteration. What the band lacks in subtlety it makes up in intensity, and while these songs are hardly the thing of legend (or memorability) the sheer conviction with which the band deliver these tracks inspires respect. It are only the two songs in the middle of the album that stand out from the pack. ‘By His Own Decree’ and ‘The Creed Of Chaotic Divinity’ are far more diverse in terms of structure, and both rely on Yeung’s rolling drums to push it forward. It also beneficial that both are blessed with a catchy chorus which are something that is sorely absent in the remainder of the cuts. Boasting the amount of talent that it has it is not surprising that this record is more about showcasing the members individual - and collective skill at their instrument of choice. While this can hardly be held against the band, it was one of the turning points in the genre as a whole where skill suddenly became more important than songwriting.