Whenever a band says that they are aiming to bring back the old school sound, regardless of genre, you’re allowed to audibly groan. An exasperated sigh is also allowed. There’s a clear right way and wrong way to do it, but today I want to focus on the right way because our subject here, Hated, has somehow managed to do it oh so right. The Russian death metal band unabashedly clings to old school aesthetic as if it were a life preserver and they were lost in a boundless sea, but still manage to weave in progressive tendencies to make it fresh and contemporary. Their debut album, Breathless Art, is one of the strongest introductions to a band I’ve ever heard and, mark my words, will feature in underground AOTY lists worldwide for 2018.
Do you like death? Ah, wait, let me rephrase that: do you like the band Death? If so, you stand a high chance of liking Hated. Where most bands would simply emulate another’s sound, Hated refine and refresh it, almost to the point of full-on innovation. If they were a company or brand, their tagline might be something simple, albeit cheesy, like ‘it just works‘. Everything attempted here, every element, just works. My hypothetical tagline really oversimplifies the band though, because for something to ‘just work‘, that implies just getting by on mediocrity or the least amount of effort possible. The stereotypical ‘C’ student if you will (no offence intended as I was one myself at times in university). Breathless Art is anything but mediocre or just passing in effort.
Right from the start, “Ocean Depths” pushes a frenetic guitar mini-solo layered over the high-pitched whine of another guitar into your ear. It’s like kicking down the front door to a house party to announce you’ve arrived. It’s loud, forceful and mean, as are the vocals. The singer sounds like an amalgamation of Chuck Schuldiner (Death, RIP), David DiSanto (Vektor) and Freddy Lim (ChthoniC). They’re raspy and throaty, capable of lower growled pitches, but also higher shrieks. Simply put, these are some of the best vocals I’ve heard in death metal in a while. Quick change-ups keep things fresh, like near the end of “Waste of the Human Thought” – there’s a sinister laugh that breaks out and really adds some character. It sounds like a supremely evil being found his adversary and is pinning them down with a foot to the throat. It’s menacing, but in a celebratory way. “Ocean Depths” has a short, slow segment where the vocals borrow Thomas Giles’ (Between the Buried and Me) off-putting flat droning vocal technique.
The guitar leads throughout the album are so catchy and melodic. The beginning of “Emptiness is Form” has an amazing combination of double-bass drums and an earworm of a guitar riff. Nodding your head to it is practically required by law. The start of “Waste of the Human Thought” is similarly set up with a little more technical noodling. “Fall of Reason” has a calm intro that sounds like a Vektor track. I can’t un-hear it, in a good way. The rest of the song’s riffs fall more in line with traditional death metal, but it’s songs like this that show Hated are great at stitching different tones, moods and melodies together to create a Frankenstein’s monster made up of top-shelf riffs. As far as the bass guitar goes, it’s a little hard to hear in spots, but it does gets its time to shine. The intro to “Fall of Reason” is one of those times; it cleanly harmonizes with the light guitar which also contributes to that spacey Vektor feel. Most any other time, the bass provides that great low rumble as is the norm for this sound, but there’s an ominous edge to it like a crypt floor quaking below your feet.
It’s perhaps true that you’ll get the most out of this album if you have an affection for classic melodic death metal like me. It’s imbued with a charm that’s honestly hard to explain. Breathless Art is still an easy recommendation to people that just like melody-heavy, catchy music and don’t mind some of the harsher tropes of death metal. As a quick note, I’d also like to point out that this album is less than a half-hour long. This, to me, means that this does not bite off more than it can chew, and this length allows it to become quite succinct in the sense that it comes in, does great things, and leaves before it bores or makes any mistakes. Really, if you’re looking for a downside here, I have only one and it’s the most superficial thing ever: it’s not on Spotify, at least in the US. I obviously do not hold that against the band themselves. Plus, the album comes at quite the budgeted price through their Bandcamp page: $5 USD gets you one of the best death metal albums out right now.
Let’s cut to the chase for your and my editor’s sake: this is the most excited I’ve been over a death metal band since Horrendous. From the first few seconds, I knew this band had something special, it was just a matter of if they could hold it together for a whole album. I was foolish to doubt. I can see myself coming back to this album month after month, probably because I woke up thinking about a really catchy riff or vocal melody in Breathless Art (I can’t be the only one that happens to). That, to me, is the mark of an extraordinary album. It wears its influences on its sleeve, but also propels that classic melodic death metal sound forward, makes it something special and takes ownership of it. When it comes to musical aptitude and integrity, Hated are from their namesake. You need to hear this album.
Notable Tracks: “Ocean Depths”; “Emptiness of Form”; “Waste of the Human Thought”
FFO: Death, Horrendous, Atheist