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There’s no question about the indelible mark Chuck Schuldiner left on the worldwide metal scene through the work with his band Death. That the world lost one of its greatest innovators was clear even back then and even moreso now. In the ensuing decade since Schuldiner’s passing in 2001 various bands have sprung up to fill the void left by Death. The darkness of the catacombs gave the world the likes of Ekpyrosis, Ferum, and Amthrÿa (all of whom worship at the altar of Death in more primitive ways). The obvious candidate to carry on Schuldiner’s legacy is German act Obscura, now defunct Californian unit Insentient (fronted by Leslie Medina) but also Southern Italy-based Resumed. This Italian quartet debuted in 2014 with the rather unassuming but highly impressive “Alienations” and now, four years later, return on Danish label imprint Mighty Music (once home to Iniquity, among others) with “Year Zero”. Suffice to say, “Year Zero” was well worth the four-year break in between releases.

Hailing from Abruzzo in Southern Italy Resumed formed under the name Holy Terror in 2007 with the earliest line-up consisting of core trio of Daniele Presutti (vocals, lead guitar), Carlo Alfonso Pelino (bass guitar) and Filippo Tirabassi (drums) as well as Nikolas De Stephanis (lead guitar). Before independently releasing their “Human Troubles” demo recording in 2009 the four changed to their current moniker. In 2012 De Stephanis bade the band farewell after which Pelino took his place on lead guitar and Giulia Pallozzi was brought in on fretless bass guitar. Two years later “Alienations” was released to little fanfare but obviously stirred enough interest for Mighty Music to offer the Italian quartet a recording contract. As with their debut “Year Zero” fuses influences from forgotten Italian technical death metal pioneers Desecration (“The Valley Of Eternal Suffering”) with established American – and European institutions as Atheist (“Piece Of Time”, “Unquestionable Presence”), Pestilence (“Testimony Of the Ancients”, “Spheres”), Theory In Practice (“The Armageddon Theories”, “Colonizing the Sun”) and, of course, Death (“Human”, “Individual Thought Patterns”, “Symbolic”). It’s an impressive showing to say the least, especially from a band little over a decade old.

What makes Resumed different from a good majority of their peers is that their tempo is far lower and their approach is more song-based. Italian death metal, at least the way it is understood since the early millennium, propagated itself as a more mechanical, theatrical interpretation of the Polish or Brazilian sound. As such it tends to take after Internal Suffering, early Nile with a dosage of “De Profundis” Vader to even things out. Hour Of Penance, Fleshgod Apocalypse, and Hideous Divinity are probably the most recognizable names specializing in that particular flavor of Italian death metal. Resumed brings a sense of finesse, elegance, and sophistication back to death metal. On the whole “Year Zero” very much sounds like “The Armageddon Theories” era Theory In Practice without the keyboards, or the kind of album that Death could have released in between “Symbolic” and the more power/progressive metal inclined “The Sound Of Perseverance” (which was never conceived nor intended as a true Death record to begin with). The death metal that Resumed specializes in never rages, blasts or stomps but indeed flows just like the most enduring Death records. Like on “Human” there’s a sense of tranquility, restraint, and control to “Year Zero” that’s seldom heard these days. Some might find this a bit slow for their taste, but that doesn’t change how well written it is.

While arguably lead guitarists Daniele Presutti and Carlo Alfonso Pelino are the stars of the record and offer up a veritable avalanche of solos, the importance of Giulia Pallozzi’s bass guitar cannot be understated. In tradition of Cliff Burton (Metallica), Chris Richards (ex-Suffocation), Tony Choy (ex-Cynic), Mike Poggione (Monstrosity), Steve DiGiorgio (ex-Death, Autopsy, et al), Jeroen Paul Thesseling (ex-Pestilence, ex-Obscura), Éric Langlois (ex-Cryptopsy), Niklas Dewerud (ex-Spawn Of Possession), and Erlend Caspersen (ex-Blood Red Throne) her funky licks flow above, below and in between the tides of riffs. Likewise is drummer Filippo Tirabassi a paragon of restraint, control, and finesse. As with their debut “Year Zero” too deals with the paranormal and the extraterrestrial. Whether or not the literature of famous Italian ufologist Mario Gariozzi on the subject was any inspiration we’ll leave in the middle, but it’s far more interesting than what these bands typically write about. From the production work you’d never guess that 16th Cellar Studio and producer Stefano Morabito were involved in its creation. It’s unusually smooth on all fronts and nothing like, say, the recent Internal Suffering album that Morabito produced. In general we’re not the biggest fans of what comes out of 16th Cellar Studio with “Year Zero” as the exception that proves the rule.

As heir apparent to the legacy of Chuck Schuldiner and Death “Year Zero” is as good as this thing tends to get. Resumed is not quite as hook-oriented as Obscura is on average and their songwriting is never as collected and streamlined as it was on “Symbolic”. As good as “Alienations” was “Year Zero” is in all ways superior. If there’s anything that the Stefano Morabito production has improved upon it’s the drum tones. On “Alienations” they were almost mechanical and sterile sounding, here they sound full-bodied, organic and naturally warm. Keeping up with traditions from “Alienations” the artwork was rendered by Davide Mancini. It’s comforting to see young bands sticking with what works. “Year Zero” confirms that Resumed are the heirs apparent to the throne vacated by Death in 2001, even though a tribute act like Gruesome is obviously far more popular than they’ll ever be. Resumed is refreshingly bereft of any contemporary influences and if there’s any justice in the world “Year Zero” will introduce them to a much bigger audience. With the promotion department from Mighty Music behind them Resumed is destined to become a much bigger player.

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…