2018 was a big year for progressive death metal, with outstanding releases coming from the likes of Rivers of Nihil, Alkaloid, Slugdge, Obscura and Beyond Creation – just to name a few. However, those bands also all already established and lauded acts. While there were a couple of head-turning debuts to be had, the real surprise of last year was perhaps the sheer volume of great progressive death metal albums rather than the expected quality of the individual performances themselves (even if a couple, specifically Rivers of Nihil and Slugdge undoubtedly upped their game). Hath’s Of Rot and Ruin is another such remarkable progressive death metal release, but one also made all the more impressive by its being the band’s debut.
Although Of Rot and Ruin solidifies their arrival on the scene, it’s clear that Hath have been honing their craft for some time. The New Jersey quartet already have an EP to their name, in 2015’s Hive, which is a decent offering in its own right, but over which their debut long-player is clearly a huge step up. What’s more telling is the list of influences they supplied us when we caught up with the band for one of our patented Anatomy Of columns. The prospect of an album derived from a mix of Nevermore, Bloodbath, Opeth, Nile, Arsis, The Ocean and In Flames is an exciting one, to say the least, and it’s a promise upon which Of Roth and Ruin wholeheartedly delivers.
The album is a melting pot of everything that phenomenal list of inspirations bring to the table. Most readily apparent are the influences of the Åkerfeldt acts. If there’s one band that Hath perhaps sound most similar to, it’s Opeth (perhaps by way of Ne Obliviscaris). While the New Jerseans lean more toward the more extreme end of the spectrum, there’s more than a few moments that draw distinct comparison to the Swedish godfathers. Not least is the opening riff of the album’s final track, “Progeny”, which sounds as though it were lifted almost directly from Ghost Reveries/Watershed-era Opeth. However, the similarity quickly gives way to the wall of individualised chaos it was holding back – leaving it sounding more like a knowing tribute than a pale imitation. Vocalist Frank Albanese, moreover, singled out Mikael Åkerfeldt’s performance on Bloodbath’s 2008 album The Fathomless Mastery his greatest influence, and it certainly shows. Although he may neglect it these days, Åkerfeldt arguably has the greatest death growl in the game and, while he might not be quite as dynamic a frontman, that Albanese gets within touching distance of his gutturals is an achievement in itself. These low-register vocals are often interspersed with higher, raspier passages (possibly courtesy of bassist Greg Nottis?), which bring to mind the similar affect of Cattle Decapitation’s Travis Ryan ( – a phenomenon that’s become increasingly common lately).
Of Rot and Ruin is more unrelenting than most progressive death metal offerings. Nevertheless, it remains an intricately layered experience, with more than a few departures form the standard template. The album starts off fairly straightforward, with the rabid “Usurpation”, which, for the most part, sounds like a more melodic Bloodbath. However, the acoustic flourishes that both open and close second track “Currents” suggest that something more may be at play and with the Fallujah-esque tremolo riffing of “Rituals” and the hard/soft dynamics of “Worlds Within” the band take a serious turn for the progressive. Although it never goes quite as far into Dream Theater-style progressiveness, the latter track – especially its central acoustic passages – has a similar effect as Rivers of Nihil’s (not so) “Subtle Change”, from last year’s AOTY Where Owls Know My Name (2018), while the surrounding riffage reminds of earlier tracks from that record, like “The Silent Life” and “A Home”. It’s been about a year and a half since Where Owls Know My Name first hit my ears and Of Rot and Ruin is the first record to have come along since that, which I think builds upon its awesome aesthetic. Trade out the brighter Rush-isms of that record and sub in the dark undertones of Opeth and you’ve got something pretty special on your hands – as well as a fairly good idea of the journey Of Rot and Ruin will take you on.
Hath’s debut LP is not only a phenomenal statement of intent but stands among the best of what the progressive death metal genre has to offer in 2019. The album is a masterpiece in the true, historical sense of the word. It signals the indictment of new masters into the world of progressive death metal and serves as proof that the band are more than capable of competing with the best of what the genre’s veterans have to offer. You’re unlikely to hear a better death metal album in 2019 and – while it’s early days yet – as far as I’m concerned, Of Rot and Ruin is a serious album of the year contender as well.
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Of Rot and Ruin is out April 12. Pre-order it through Hath’s bandcamp page.