Hath‘s debut, Of Rot and Ruin, was my runaway album of the year for 2019. As Eden pointed out when debuting the lead single from it’s follow-up earlier this year, I not only published a review for the record, but a guest list, and what I still think is one of the best Anatomy Of features we’ve ever done. Unlike our glorious editor in chief, however, I didn’t witness much of a push for the album outside of our immediate sphere and it often seemed like I was often yelling into the void about just how good that album actually was. Flash forward a few years and the release campaign for All That Was Promised is all but inescapable, with glowing reviews and single debuts popping up all over the place. It seems all eyes are on the New Jersey quartet and rightfully so. They remain one of the best and most exciting new voices in extreme metal and, even if this highly anticipated follow-up falls slightly short of being (ahem…) all that was promised by their debut, it comes pretty damn close.
All That Was Promised is a great death metal album. At times it is transcendent. “Kenosis” is a phenomenal track that perfectly balances crushing brutality with otherworldly progressive melodies and clean vocals and is probably the single strongest composition Hath have come out with to date, while “Lithopaedic” shows they can get still get downright filthy when they feel like it. Surprisingly, it’s these more concise and direct offerings than the elongated, apocalyptic epics Hath made their name with on Of Rot and Ruin, and with which the rest of this album is exclusively populated, that make for its strongest offerings. Tracks like these show a real refinement of the band’s already potent core sound while also pushing the progressiveness and technicality of their playing. Tracks like these are an absolute masterclass in modern (progressive) death metal and I hope to see them refine this streamlining further on furture releases.
All That Was Promised also sees Hath carving out more of a unique sound for themselves. The comparisons to Opeth were pretty inescapable on Of Rot and Ruin and while there are still a few lingering nods to the Swedish progfathers’ specific brand of spindly riffing on tracks like “Iosis” and “Death Complex”, for the most part its successor takes from a broader and less direct pool of influences. As a result All that Was Promised has a far more distinctive and individual sound than Hath’s debut. Yet, at the same time, it is also a noticeably less diverse record than its predecessor. Acoustic passages are all but absent and the band find themselves dipping into the melodic well far less often, or otherwise layering their melodic sections beneath so much ongoing intensity that they aren’t allowed to provide the kind of contrast or hooks they did previously. These parts are still there, but All that Was Promised is a much denser affair than Of Rot and Ruin and it often feels like you have to go digging for its golden nuggets rather than the band putting them in front of you as much as they did on their debut. Moments like the Pink Floyd-ian prog break at the end of “Casting of the Self” and the ominous intro to the title-track therefore feel like a reprieve from all the brutality rather than an elevation of their savage surrounds. One effective way to mitigate the density of All that Was Promised is to simply listen to it through headphones, where it truly comes alive amid Alan Douches’ (The Black Dahlia Murder, Cannibal Corpse, Death) crisp mastering and the band’s own superb production. Listening to it through speakers though might leave you a bit lost and doesn’t quite do it or the album justice.
One other, mostly meta, gripe I have is the constant referral to Hath as a “blackened” death metal band in their marketing material. A blackened tonality and black metal-esque tremolo picking are certainly present throughout the band’s sound and noticeably more prominent here than on Or Rot and Ruin. Yet they remain merely some of the many elements that comprise Hath’s eclectic take on death metal. Nor are any of the influential bands they listen in our Antomy Of feature (Bloodbath, Nile, In Flames, Arsis, The Ocean, Svart Crown, Between the Buried and Me, Opeth and Nevermore) in any way blackened, although their collective love for the last Abigail Williams record shows they’re certainly engaged with the scene. It’s unclear whether this “blackened” label comes from the band themselves but, either way, their bandcamp tags don’t even mention the word “progressive” though they list both “blackened” and straight “black metal”, which I think is doing them a great disservice. To me, Hath have far more to do with progressive than blackened death metal, and it would be both more accurate and beneficial for them to be associated with the likes of Rivers of Nihil, Opeth and Black Crown initiate than Behemoth and Belphegor or whoever.
While it doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor, All That Was Promised is still one of the best death metal albums you’ll hear all year. There’s a lot here to unpack but the rewards are more than worth it if you’re willing to put the effort in and the band should be commended for carving out their own niche within the realms of progressive death metal rather than leaning on the laurels of their forebears. There’s room for that sound to be pushed further and perhaps also deployed more effectively, but not since Rivers of Nihil have a band of their ilk come so strongly out of the gate as this, and with this second offering they have well and truly earned their spot among the vanguard of modern progressive death metal.
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Hath’s All That Was Promised is due out March 4th, 2022 via Willowtip Records. Pre-orders are available at this location.