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Now defunct New York grindcore unit Brutal Truth observed in 1992 that “Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Responses” and they couldn’t have been more right in that assessment. Marlborough, Massachusetts death metal upstarts Abnormality have been experiencing a meteoric rise in popularity. They made a name for themselves with their independently distributed “The Collective Calm In Mortal Oblivion” EP and inked a deal with Sevared Records (which embodies about the worst of United Guttural, Pavement/Crash Music, and Comatose Music, combined) on the back of its success. “Contaminating the Hive Mind” followed two years later and their ascending popularity helped Abnormality secure a contract with Metal Blade Records. The presence of one Mallika Sundaramurthy certainly helps but it would all be for naught if she was merely a pretty face. No. Abnormality has a penchant for writing chunky death metal that is groovy and technical in equal measure. They aren't afraid of a good hook or guitar solo either.

The past four years have been a period of great unrest; political, social, and otherwise. Abnormality has always been inspired by socio-political events but “Sociopathic Constructs” is the first time the Bostonians dedicate an entire record to the subject. Sundaramurthy (who now lives in the Czech Republic) and her men aren’t going to let the current political climate and turmoil pass without taking a stand nor without a fight. This is a band that wants to be remembered for being on the right side of history. Sundaramurthy has every reason to be foaming at the mouth looking at the increasingly theocratic – and totalitarian state of her first adopted home. Professional con man and supposed savior of the fundamentalist Christian Wrong Donald Trump has somehow been elevated to the country’s highest office and things have been getting worse from there. In his first (and, hopefully, only) term the Orange Idiot has facilitated widespread corruption and cronyism, has seen to the systemic oppression of minorities, the erosion of civil liberties, the abolition of women’s rights, and the dismantling of what little social security existed in the Land of the Free. America has entered a second Dark Age, one of religious superstition and proud anti-intellectualism. “Sociopathic Constructs” is a scathing polemic against the current powers that be.

Sundaramurthy has always had a razorsharp pen and songtitles as ‘Fabrication Of the Enemy’, ‘A Chaos Reserved’, ‘Vigilant Ignorance’, and ‘Hopeless Masses’ in their repertoire it will surprise absolutely no one that “Sociopathic Constructs” pushes their socio-political angle to the fore. Abnormality isn’t as overtly political as, say, Dying Fetus or Fear Factory but that doesn’t remove that “Sociopathic Constructs” has some of this band’s finest work on the compositional – and lyric writing front. Mallika has always been a marvelous woman that serves as an inspiration to many of her sisters. She’s an outspoken and fiercely intelligent woman; a feminist, veganist, and small business owner. On “Sociopathic Constructs” Mallika once again showcases why she’s one of the best frontpersons in the business. She truly is the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of the underground. The rest of the band (yeah, apparently there are other people in Abnormality outside of Mallika, as hard as it may be to believe) doesn’t falter either. Guitarist duo Jeremy Henry and Sam Kirsch unleash a veritable maelstrom of concrete riffing schemes with rhythm section Josh Staples (bass guitar) and Jay Blaisdell (drums) meting out swift punishment without resorting to random chaos for its own sake. We were more than a little indifferent towards “Mechanisms Of Omniscience” but “Sociopathic Constructs” is the record we always knew Abnormality had in them. Which is to say, “Sociopathic Constructs” absolutely and categorically slays. Everything has been building up to this. This is the album where Abnormality fulfills its potential.

One of Abnormality’s greatest strengths has always been their sense of propulsion and drive. “Sociopathic Constructs” is what Disgorge would sound like if they played with the chunk of early Cannibal Corpse and the technicality and production value of Brain Drill. This is what we hoped the Drill’s “Boundless Obscenity” would have sounded like or what Suffocation’s “…Of the Dark Light” would have been if they fully shed their skin and the pretense that they still had anything to do with the Suffocation that wrote “Breeding the Spawn”. Abnormality answers the question what Cannibal Corpse would have sounded like had they persevered with the technical direction of “Butchered at Birth”. Abnormality has always excelled in merging California informed technicality and percussiveness with a level of intensity not unlike Québecois death metal. Hopefully the current climate - social, political, and otherwise - will inspire Mallika, and Carolina Perez (from Queens, New York combo Hypoxia) to revive their sometime feminist death metal side-project Castrator. If there ever was a time for that, that time is now. What better reason than the serial sex offender holding the highest political office in the land?

Art does not exist in a vacuum (no matter how much certain demographics might prefer to delude themselves into thinking otherwise). Art reflects the society in which it was created. “Sociopathic Constructs” is one such creations. This is a record that couldn’t have been released in any other time than the year 2019. The Talibangelicals have been working overtime to transform America in the great Christian theocracy they’ve been so long desiring. Never mind that the Land of the Free is collapsing into the state of the backwater banana republics they’ve been bombing into submission for the last several decades. The War on Terror has been on of the greatest swindles of modern history and the US military-industrial complex has always been a savage imperialistic beast that always takes but never gives. “Sociopathic Constructs” does absolutely take no prisoners and its message of disconformity and protest is loud and clear. No longer can we afford to idly sit by as the world burns to a cinder. “Sociopathic Constructs” might not have the storytelling capacity of an “Operation: Mindcrime” exactly, but as a loosely conceptual recording this couldn’t have come at a better time.

Few are going to doubt Erik Rutan’s dedication to the cause of death metal. He got his start in formative New Jersey death/thrash metal combo Ripping Corpse, joined Morbid Angel for the “Covenant” world tour and recorded “Domination” and later “Gateways to Annihilation” with them. More recently he helmed the second Warfather record “The Grey Eminence” in 2016 and Morbid Angel’s surprisingly solid “Kingdoms Disdained” a year after that in his Mana Recording Studios in St. Petersburg, Florida - the new haven for underground metal, foreign and domestic - in very much the same way Morrisound Recording was in the nineties. Rutan lives and breathes death metal and he has never written a lesser record with his Hate Eternal. While age hasn’t dulled Rutan or his band in the slightest, his writing has become infinitely more nuanced, especially in recent years. “Upon Desolate Sands” is everything that “Infernus” was but with far greater nuance.

“Fury & Flames” is a well-documented black page in the band’s history and it was marred by more than a peculiar and hostile reverb-laden production. As far as we’re concerned “I, Monarch” is the penultimate Hate Eternal recording followed closely by “Conquering the Throne”. “Upon Desolate Sands” is the sort of record that we’d usually like on principle alone. Yet, as much as we hate eternally to admit it, our reaction to it was lukewarm at best and completely indifferent at worst. Which is strange because Hate Eternal has a resumé that pretty much speaks for itself at this point. It wouldn’t be a Hate Eternal record if there weren’t the obligatory line-up shuffles. Apparently it’s impossible for Rutan to hold on to any drummer for any length of time. Chason Westmoreland didn’t last beyond the “Infernus” album and he was replaced by former Necrophagist and Obscura skinsman Hannes Grossmann, who’s also currently serving in German death metal outfit Alkaloid and Swiss death-doom combo Tryptikon. “Upon Desolate Sands” is very much a collaborative effort with J.J. Hrubovcak contributing as much as Rutan himself.

Hannes Grossman (left), Erik Rutan (middle) and J.J. Hrubovcak (right)

“Upon Desolate Sands”, the first of the third trilogy, sounds very different from any of this band’s prior records. ‘The Violent Fury’ delivers just that but what quickly becomes apparent is that Hate Eternal sounds far more controlled and stealthily melodic than any prior records. The overall pace is far lower too, something which tracks as ‘Nothingness Of Being’ and ‘Dark Age Of Ruin’ probably evince better than any other. ‘Portal Of Myriad’ on the other hand is vintage Hate Eternal with increased dissonance. The title track is bookended by hypnotizing wordless chants from one Małgorzata Gwózdz and is reminiscent of ‘Coronach’ from “Fury & Flames” for exactly that reason. In keeping with recent traditions “Upon Desolate Sands” is concluded by an instrumental. More than any record before is Rutan’s latest offering rife with classic Morbid Angel influence and the blinding velocity that once was his calling card is used far more sparingly this time around. In a sense “Upon Desolate Sands” leans closer towards “I, Monarch” than it does to “King Of All Kings”. Since “Infernus” Rutan’s vocals aren’t as guttural as they once were and the soloing has become far more melodic and extensive than it was on any of the earlier records. Hrubovcak now has served longer than Jared Anderson and Randy Piro, individually and has been Rutan’s trusted songwriting partner as long as both of his predecessors combined. The drum position remains as volatile as ever whereas the Rutan-Hrubovcak axis proves ever fruitful.

Those hoping for a return to the low-end heaviness of “I, Monarch” will find the production on “Upon Desolate Sands” fittingly matter-of-fact, arid, and, well, dry. The clarity and texture from “Infernus” remain intact while it does not nearly have the low-end weight that served the productions on Warfather’s “The Grey Eminence” and Morbid Angel’s “Kingdoms Disdained” so well. Rutan was never kind to the bass guitar and its rubbery tone possesses all the clarity and definition you could possibly want but is entirely without heft or body otherwise. Over the years the drum production has underwent a few staggering transformations yet “Upon Desolate Sands” for the most part carries over the warm tones from “Infernus”. Build from the same template as its predecessor “Upon Desolate Sands” is more of a continuation instead of a progression from what “Infernus” did before it. Erik Rutan stays loyal to the slightly modernized sound that Hate Eternal adopted in recent years and like any other entry in his discography there are no real complaints to be leveled at it as such. Rutan is a respected and widely decorated death metal warrior for a good reason and “Upon Desolate Sands” caters to fans of his work in exactly the ways they want. While offering no shocking innovations it solidifies Hate Eternal’s well-deserved place among the death metal elite.

The third Hate Eternal trilogy puts the focus on ancient antiquity and historical subjects and it’s incredible how far Rutan’s writing has come since the releasing of the now-legendary “promo ’97 / Engulfed In Grief” split demo tape in 1997. On “Conquering the Throne” Hate Eternal sounded like the band Diabolic always wished it was, “King Of All Kings” is a death metal classic for a reason but it wouldn’t be until “I, Monarch” that Rutan’s writing showed some mention worthy individuality. “Fury & Flames” saw the band in a state of flux and temporary disarray after the untimely loss of Jared Anderson. We skipped over “Phoenix Amongst the Ashes” entirely and it wouldn’t be until 2015’s “Infernus” that we started paying to Rutan’s band once more. The only notable change is Eliran Kantor replacing Paul Romano on “Infernus’” as Hate Eternal’s resident cover artist but established bands on major labels are hardly the place to look for innovation in terms of visuals. Hate Eternal is the last band to accuse of fatigue of any kind but like the most recent Malevolent Creation album the formula is starting to show its rather evident limitations. “Upon Desolate Sands” is slower overall but Hate Eternal has lost none of its searing intensity. Things are looking up for Hate Eternal and this new trilogy might just be their most memorable. Time wil tell…