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After the rise and fall of Sepultura and before the advent of populist metal trio Nervosa there was Krisiun. Since 1990 the Kolesne brothers have been proudly flying the flag for Brazilian death metal. Often imitated, domestic and abroad, but never surpassed, their four-album jaunt up until 2001's "Ageless Venomous" was pretty much flawless. "Works Of Carnage" was a stylistic experiment that toyed with shorter, bouncier cuts and big choruses. On 2006’s “AssassiNation” things really took a turn for the worse. Those vainly hoping for a creative renaissance had their hopes squashed with “Forged In Fury”. That record was a bloated, over-long, directionless platter signaling that the brothers three had finally hit rockbottom. “Scourge Of the Enthroned” is their latest and if Dying Fetus, Morbid Angel and Monstrosity can produce decent records in their old age, so can they.

After a quarter of a century and 10 albums there’s bound to be some fatigue to the way a band writes. Krisiun hasn’t been handling anti-Christian rhetoric exclusively since “AssassiNation”. “Southern Storm” and “The Great Execution” were records that dealt with historical and mythological concepts of beasts and war almost entirely. Krisiun has been writing loose concept albums for more than a decade now and with “Scourge Of the Enthroned” the brothers continue that trend. Instead of their usual themes “Scourge Of the Enthroned” is based on Sumerian mythology. Every formula eventually proves fatal and in Krisiun’s instance that happened with “Forged In Fury”. It was probably their most critically savaged recording in the 12 years that they’ve been releasing mere variations of “AssassiNation”. “Scourge Of the Enthroned” is not the much pined after creative renaissance for the Brazilian brothers, but at least it’s marginally more inspired than the insipid and meandering song sets they’ve been releasing over the last 15 years. It is folly to expect them to write another “Black Force Domain” or “Apocalyptic Revelation” but if the riffing is anything to go by “Scourge Of the Enthroned” is a step in the right direction again. Is this the next great Krisiun record? Hardly, but does it ever try.

At least Krisiun heeded the criticism leveled at some of their more recent works and opted for more manageable song lengths. Krisiun are at their best when they stay within the four-minute range and don’t loose themselves in boundless repetition. “Scourge Of the Enthroned” sheds most, if not all, of the trio’s typical extraneous diversions. It’s refreshingly straightforward and doesn’t bother with any of the usual pointless instrumentals that have been littering their albums since “Works Of Carnage”. A good Krisiun record clocks in around the 40-minute mark and this album’s 38 minutes is far closer to “Apocalyptic Revelation” than it is to “Southern Storm”. The songwriting too seems to have improved, although not in any drastic or dramatic sense. The cuts are mercifully more to-the-point and some of the riffing leans closer to “Conquerors Of Armageddon” than it does to “Works Of Carnage” which is always a plus. Max Kolesne’s blasts these days are more concentrated around selective portions of songs instead of being their entire raison d'être. Just like everybody else age is inevitably catching up to Krisiun and they don’t play as rabid and frenetic as they once did. In a more general sense “Scourge Of the Enthroned” is one of the trio’s better offerings, but the days of “Apocalyptic Revelation” and “Ageless Venomous” are well and truly behind us now.

Krisiun has always been about precision. Alex, Moyses and Max are world-class instrumentalists cursed with a fairly regressive concept of songwriting. “Works Of Carnage” was entertaining just because it was an experiment. “AssassiNation” had more of a groove metal inclination but it worked well enough within that context. They were mere creative outliers in a repertoire of largely linear and percussive songwriting that drew equally from Morbid Angel as it did from early Sepultura and Slayer. What people seem to selectively forget is that there indeed was a Krisiun in those long forgotten, halcyon days prior to 2003. That exactly those outliers have since become the apparent norm and the accepted standard to which all new Krisiun output is measured is scary enough of a prospect all by itself. “Scourge Of the Enthroned” brings back at least a fraction of the old riffing schemes and cuts down on the repetition and groove-fixated songwriting choices that have been bogging down the Krisiun assault for over a decade. Alex Camargo is still the weakest link and his barks have been getting less guttural for a while now. Krisiun is, much like Obituary, a band that has embraced its regressive tendencies as if they were virtues. The brothers three have been growing complacent and if “Forged In Fury” conclusively proved anything it was that. Krisiun has been stagnating for quite a number of years now and "Scourge Of the Enthroned" might as well be the first sign of life in a long time. Not that it's bound to become a new classic or even mandatory within the larger Krisiun canon. It's solid and unadventurous.

So where does that place “Scourge Of the Enthroned” in the now extensive Krisiun discography? It’s better than their last couple of records but it’s still no match for their classic first four albums. The angular, linear songwriting of yore has been replaced with more melodic by-the-numbers songwriting that reeks of cold professionalism and years of experience, as much as process. Perhaps Krisiun is not quite as guilty of the latter as some of their contemporaries, but they haven't sounded inspired and inspiring for over a decade. “Scourge Of the Enthroned” might not be the grand return of a band that has been falling to the wayside for quite some time now, but it offers enough reasons to remain cautiously optimistic. We might not demand (or expect) another “Ageless Venomous” from these three brothers but “Scourge Of the Enthroned” offers at least a smidgen of hope of them still being able to concoct a reasonable facsimile thereof. At least it's better than "Forged In Fury" and that should count for something these days...

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…