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On its second record Florida tornado Hate Eternal settled into its own, and with the recruitment of South Carolina native Derek Roddy the unit found its most recognizable skinsman. Having cut his teeth in Malevolent Creation, Aurora Borealis and Divine Empire prior to his appearance on this album, noted mercenary Roddy is one of three elements that make this Hate Eternal’s fastest, lean, mean and most extreme record they ever put out. Like the debut this is the only record in this constellation, as Jared Anderson (bass guitar, backing vocals) would depart in order to commit himself to a drug rehabilitation programme. It is also the only album to feature artwork by Andreas Marschall (Blind Guardian, Destruction, Immolation, Kreator), and the first to be recorded entirely by Rutan himself at his own privately owned studio compound Dimensional Sound (later redubbed Mana Recordings) in the genre epicenter that was and is Tampa, Florida.

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The album starts off with ‘Our Beckoning’, a fairly pointless and inconsequential intro track consisting of sound effects and pitch-shifted spoken word vocalizations. The album truly starts with the title track, a cut little under three minutes that displays Hate Eternal’s further mastery of its chosen style and a template for the rest of the album. One of the first things to notice is how different “King Of All Kings” is from the debut of a few years prior. This record, above all else, is about extreme speed more than anything. The addition of Derek Roddy fits perfectly with the objective, as he is more angular in style in comparison to his predecessor Tim Yeung, who combined blasts with rolls and fills. Another difference is that the riffing has been tightened up, and what was previously present in regards to ripping thrash metal architecture has been fully abandoned. As with the debut the bass guitar is seldomly heard, and although it adds significantly to the bottom end heaviness of this product, it’s hard tell how creative Anderson’s lines are as the crunchy and concrete sounding guitars dominate the production next to the drums.

It is the contributions of Jared Anderson that differentiate it with the record that preceded it. As in his own unit Internecine Anderson writes poignant, skin-crawling melodies that run under Rutan’s riffing. The tightened up riff construction and Roddy’s percussive propulsion makes “King Of All Kings” the defining moment in Hate Eternal’s catalogue, and the presence of its signature track ‘Powers That Be’, redefined what this type of death metal could be in the hands of capable musicians that understood its strengths. That isn’t to say that “King Of All Kings” is revolutionary or innovative, as it is still heavily redolent of Morbid Angel and the South American death metal sound of the Krisiun trio. That shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, as Rutan spent two months in 1999 producing that band’s third record “Conquerors Of Armageddon”. At that point everything for the first record had been written, so it is only natural that the influence would be felt on this album, the follow-up to “Conquering the Throne”.

The vocal interaction between Rutan and Anderson is far more pronounced here, and both share equal time behind the mic. It is here that Hate Eternal’s call-and-response vocal approach first appears in its full glory. The presence of Anderson was minimal on the debut, but here both men make their voice heard. Generally, Rutan has a lower register and his grunt is deeper overall, while Anderson sounds more piercing and throatier.

A common complaint is that all these tracks sound very identical, and to a certain degree this is in fact true. Hate Eternal has a very narrow vision in what it wishes to accomplish. There are a few tracks that do stand out for a number of reasons. ‘The Obscure Terror’ is pushed forward by a very rolling drumbeat. ‘Beyond Redemption’ has a stronger vocal presence of Jared Anderson, a memorable chorus and the track is his ideological vessel. ‘Chants In Declaration’ and ‘In Spirit (The Power Of Mana)’ are a tiny bit slower early on and during the chorus sections. ‘Rising Legions Of Black’ has also a stronger vocal presence of Anderson. ‘Powers That Be’ not only stands out because it is the single of this album, but also because of its lyrical deviation from the spiritual self-empowerment that many of this album’s songs deal with. Instead this track talks about the sudden disappearance of the Incan empire and culture and its impact on the wider world.  The real highlight of the album are the many esoteric and eastern sounding leads/solos by mainman Erik Rutan. His zipping solos are truly his own, and while the influence of Trey Azagthoth is hard to miss, it is wonderful to hear how much Rutan has developed his own style and technique. The absence of Doug Cerrito isn’t even a point and Derek Roddy’s recording debut with this band is as smooth as one can possibly imagine.

Recorded and produced entirely by Erik Rutan at his own newly minted Dimensional Sound facility “King Of All Kings” went on to become his calling card as far as production work goes. The biting guitar tone is less thick compared to the debut, but is increased in clarity, definition and crunchiness. The bass guitar is actually present in the mix but it is very hard to make out due to dominating presence of the rhythm guitars. It can be briefly heard in ‘Born By Fire’ and ‘In Spirit (The Power Of Mana)’, but that’s about it. Alas it is not the visceral throbbing Alex Webster (Cannibal Corpse) or Jeroen-Paul Thesseling (Pestilence, Obscura) tone that is to be found here. The drums sound less overly thick and meaty as was the case with the debut. In fact the snares and toms sound decidedly less thick, and the kickdrums don’t add much to the overall bottom end heaviness as they are rather thin. The drum production here is as far as one can get from, say, the drum production of Gorefest’s “Erase” record, or Sepultura’s “Arise”. The production is very guitar-oriented, and although more bass presence would have helped tremendously “King Of All Kings” comes with a sound that fits the music.

Debuting his new studio facility through this album (and its two companion pieces: Internecine’s “Book Of Lambs” and Pessimist’s “Slaughtering the Faithful”) Erik Rutan proves his valor manning the console. This album and the one to follow would eventually establish him as the new death metal metal producer that everybody wanted to work with in Tampa, Florida and beyond. The production is a definite step forward in comparison to the Wes Garren produced and Juan ‘Punchy’ Gonzalez mastered debut on all fronts. It obviously isn’t without its faults, but for a high profile release as this Erik Rutan’s work is more than commendable. For this record the band commissioned an Andreas Marschall painting for the cover artwork. That seemed the only logical choice as a Joe Petagno artwork would have sent this into Diabolic territory of unintended goofiness. Hate Eternal realized its potential early on, and worked to differentiate itself on the most important aspects. “King Of All Kings” is the signature record for this band, and it is one of the better representations of contemporary, high-speed death metal. It certainly was leagues better than the material Morbid Angel was putting out at the time.

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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.