Literature and music often romanticize death. Death metal is not unique in this regard, although expiry, regardless of its cause, remains the genre’s cardinal leitmotif. We humans derive pleasure from the consumption of horrific things—of experiencing simulated death—both for the excitement and detachment it procures.
Unfortunately, many of us now live in the most troubled times of our lives. For many, death has exited the realm of art—and the boundaries of simulation—to step into reality. How to exorcize real horror? It may sound counterintuitive, but, for me so far, nothing has been as therapeutic as death metal.
Many competent bands create interesting and original music, but Hath’s latest album, All That Was Promised, led me to a catharsis. For their sophomore release, the New Jersey band gathered all of its writing strength, and enriched it with the pent-up frustration of an entire generation.
Hath wrote that the contents of All That Was Promised are personal and introspective, and one can definitely experience this while listening to the album. The songs, the band also mentioned, are about enduring change, and promises that were made—promises that were made in life, broken and otherwise.
All That Was Promised is a musical lament that we can all empathize with, and even draw strength from. Whether we grew in Hath’s New Jersey or elsewhere, promises were made. By previous generations; by world leaders, and those in our communities. Yet, how many promises were broken?
Hath’s latest album lands both at the right and wrong time, but instead of being negative, the timing is a net positive, for it provides us with an instrument to heal. The band distilled the best of black and death metal into the album’s nine tracks, and drummer AJ Viana did a tremendous job mixing such a volatile and punishing project.
The mix’s massive and spacious sound will pull you into the album’s cover artwork; into this toxic and miasmic realm full of despair, which, sadly, seems to almost mirror our tragic present.
With All That Promised, Hath does, in fact, deliver on its promises of dynamic and ever-changing soundscapes: Experimental passages mingle with traditional leads that twirl over blast beats. The guitar work of Frank Albanese and Peter Brown covers a large spectrum, from classic death metal grooves to quasi-operatic swells.
Greg Nottis’ bass is heard clearly, and adds a crushing quality to the performances it denotes. Nottis also employs a wide range of vocal styles, including screamed, chorus-like passages, and dare I say, clean vocals! Screamed, growled, or sung, his performance stresses the highs and lows of the musical drama that unfolds.
Memorable passages offer quick gratification, but the album benefits from more diligent and attentive listening, as there is a lot to unfold, and grasp. Indeed, All That Was Promised administers a deadly dose of blackened death metal while flirting with a variety of sounds and devices used in “post-“ genres—such as more ethereal, stripped-down arrangements—heightening the emotion.
As we collectively try to ward off the real horrors that creep into our lives, Hath’s All That Was Promised reaches us just in time. Yet, despite providing the detachment and excitement we crave, the release is, nonetheless, a very real and personal and introspective piece of art; one for which I salute the band.