We’ll have a full review coming later in the week, but what you need to know right now is that Hath‘s Of Rot and Ruin is easily one of the best albums of 2019. With their debut LP, the New Jersey quartet have crafted an album that stands up to the best of last year’s many progressive death metal masterpieces, and it’s easy to see why with a list of influences reads like a who’s who of progressive and melodic death metal.
There’s only a couple of tracks available at the moment for you to wrap your ears around but it won’t be long before Of Rot and Ruin is unleashed. The album is out on April 12, via Willowtip (so you know it’s good). Whet your appetite with “Usurpation”, the record’s ferocious opener, below and continue the plunge to see what choice ingredients go toward creating such a delicious death metal concoction.
Frank (Guitar, Vocals):
Bloodbath – The Fathomless Mastery (2008)
I had gotten into this band a few years before this album dropped, but I was still in an immature stage as a songwriter in my opinion. My main focus was always making things faster and heavier for no real reason. The Fathomless Mastery came into my life and just threw away that whole mindset. In my opinion, this album is peak Åkerfeldt. His vocals were already legendary but I think he cemented his place with this performance, which is probably the one I learned from the most over the years. Bloodbath already had a penchant for riffs that sounded truly evil, but this record sounded somehow even darker. It was downright abyssal. I feel it’s also their most original release, whereas you could argue their others are more of an homage to earlier bands. The Fathomless Mastery really opened my eyes to the fact that you can play music as heavy as this, and still have choruses with hooks. You can play fast, extreme music, and still go about your day with catchy parts stuck in your head. I was trying too hard before this. I learned that you don’t have to go full-throttle throughout every song, you can let certain parts breathe; let that sick riff sink in, simplify this guitar part so that the vocals can stand out more, etc. This album just has style. Every song has its own vibe, its own sound. It set the bar for me.
Nile – Those Whom The Gods Detest (2009)
Nile is the heaviest band in existence. I’ll go to my grave defending this. They’ve always had a knack for making death metal that’s technical and brutal with massive, catchy choruses, and this record is no different, but I feel like they really tapped into the same font of magic as Bloodbath did for The Fathomless Mastery. This album has more hooks than a bait & tackle shop. From the opening of “Kafir” with Dallas chanting, “There is no god but god!” to the closing riffs of “Iskander Dhul Kharnon,” there isn’t a single song without at least one part you can hum to yourself habitually. “Permitting the Noble Dead To Descend to the Underworld” in particular is a riff factory and they’re all killer. “Kem Khefa Kheshef” is a masterclass in intensity without just being a blur of notes. The title track also features probably the most sinister chorus of any song I’ve heard to this day. Those Whom the Gods Detest reinforced what I was starting to learn about writing heavy music that was still accessible (some people don’t realize that a lot of Nile songs follow pretty conventional song structures), and it’s something I strive to do to this day. Make a song, not a pile of riffs.
In Flames – Colony (1999)
I think this was the first death metal album I ever listened to and it’s always been one of my favorites. From the second it starts with the pick scrapes and frantic melodies of “Embody the Invisible”, to the hook in the chorus of “Ordinary Story” and the classic Gothenburg riffing throughout every song, all of the elements come together so perfectly and got stuck in my head for months. I listened to it so much my original CD stopped working. I had only started playing guitar when I first heard Colony and I remember thinking, “This is the best. I only want to play this kind of music”. Also, why don’t bands do 2-3 minute acoustic tracks anymore? “Pallar Anders Visa” is beautiful and In Flames and a lot of the old Swedish bands used to include these little breaks in their albums.
Arsis – A Celebration of Guilt (2004)
The first time I heard Arsis was from a friend showing me a live video of them playing “The Face Of My Innocence” in a VFW hall. My first impression was “what’s this dude doing playing a bright purple super strat in a technical death metal band?”. Little did I know that was the start of a dual love affair with Arsis and purple guitars. I’ve probably watched that video over 100 times trying to figure out how to play that song. One of the best things about Arsis is just how packed their songs are with hooks. They’re capable of playing themselves in million note, tech death circles all day but they dial it back and play the catchiest death metal riffs. The breakdown in “The Sadistic Motives Behind Bereavement Letters” is an all time top 5 riff for me. The build up and that groove is just straight up mean. It doesn’t matter where I am, when I hear “There came the strangest sound…”, I will yell “as if the whole of heaven came crumbling fucking down” and start swinging. James Malone’s style of mixing technical playing with catchy hooks has had a huge influence on my playing and how I approach songwriting.
The Ocean – Pelagial (2013)
I’m a huge fan of concept records, whether they tell a story, or a mood, or even something as similar as a common motif through a record. Pelagial is one of those records that I absolutely have to play from start to back. I remember seeing the “Making of” videos they released before the album dropped, and they talked about how the record starts off very light and airy and then towards the end of the record it dark and heavy. At the time I kind of dismissed it and thought, “Yeah, sure, ok,” but then on the first listen through, when the record finishes and then starts again from the top, you do get this sense that you’re finally able to breathe and that was huge for me. On top of that, there is nothing flashy about the songs either. No crazy guitar noodling, a vocalist that can’t go more than two beats without saying a lyric, or a drummer that overplays. Everything is operating as one unit to make a great record and I’ve always loved that.
Svart Crown – Profane
Frank and I are always sharing bands with each other (he outnumbers me like a million to one) but right around the time we finished doing the pre-production for our EP Hive (2015), he tells me to check out this band Svart Crown and that I wouldn’t be disappointed. Everything about this record just sounds pissed, desperate, and raw and I loved every minute of it. The vocals sound strained, the drums are relentless, and the overall atmosphere is just dark and bleak. Profane definitely set a bar for me and my songwriting. And if “In Utero: A Place of Hatred and Threat” doesn’t make you want to jaw someone then you’re a fucking coward (I’m sure you’re very nice, but that song is hard as fuck).
Greg (Bass, Vocals):
Between the Buried and Me – Colors (2007)
I had a hard time thinking of albums that influenced me so much that they should be highlighted in something like this. The only album I could really even think of that came close would be Colors by Between The Buried and Me. I was constantly on a search for this style and sound and when I heard this album I was absolutely blown away. From the soft piano intro of “Foam Born (A) The Backtrack” to the southern bar scene in “Ants of the Sky” to the epicness of “White Walls,” it changed the way I look at music. The band seamlessly transitions from brutal heavy guitars to jazzy clean parts with amazing ease, like it was always supposed to be hand in hand. It was probably the first album I ever heard that sounded like one hour long song and when you hear it, it’s hard not to automatically start from the top and listen to the whole thing.
Opeth – Watershed (2008)
Opeth seems to be one of the bands that really ties all of our members together. We’re all massive fans and have seen them live together a few times. I figured this band was a no-brainer to pick for the list. Watershed was the first Opeth album I bought randomly when it came out because I heard so many cool things about the band. The album starts off with “Coil” which got me hooked instantly with the clean vocals and acoustic guitar, just to smash you in the face with “Heir Apparent.” Hearing sections and riffs from the album, it got the point across that not every section needed to be full of a million notes per second, and sections can breathe and groove. On our first tour, this album was probably played on drives more times than it should have been.
Nevermore – This Godless Endeavor (2005)
We had to include this album as a group effort or it would have been on this list 4 times. This is the definitive metal album and probably the single album and band that’s had the most impact on us as musicians. From the second “Born” starts with that single snare hit to Warrel Dane shrieking “Welcome to the end my friend. The sky has opened” at the end of the title track, the album is a completely unrelenting assault. This was the only Nevermore record with Steve Smyth on it and he contributed some bangers, also sharing lead guitar duties with Jeff Loomis. The deceptively complex riffing (which Nevermore never gets enough credit for), the unbelievable solos between Jeff and Steve, and Warrel’s vocal performance and lyrical storytelling are fantastic by themselves, but together make a perfect album. Around the time of This Godless Endeavor was also when I (Pete) can first remember seeing Jeff doing online lessons and walking through his techniques. He came out with a short guitar technique and exercise book that I studied religiously. He’s got this untouchable speed, precision and character in his playing and he’s an absolute badass while doing it. Nevermore and This Godless Endeavor will always be the GOAT in metal.
Of Rot and Ruin comes out next week and can be pre-ordered through Hath’s bandcamp page.