Hate Eternal is never one for reinventing the wheels of death metal and yet, there is hardly ever a bad Hate Eternal album. While their music might have flavors of melody or other subcultures of metal, Hate Eternal has always been pure death metal. There’s certainly something to be said for bands that stick to their guns so tightly. On one hand, consistency is rarely a bad thing, but can easily turn into monotony and countless recycles of previous material. Thankfully, Upon Desolate Sands dispels any and all doubts that Hate Eternal can still pull off their brand of straightforward death metal.
First, let’s get the things that you expect to hear from a Hate Eternal album out of the way. Blistering fast guitar work, near-impossible precision drumming, and absolutely impeccable production work from frontman Erik Rutan himself. Every Hate Eternal record uses these elements to be successful, but Upon Desolate Sands goes just beyond this to make it a cut above the rest.
It seems that just a little more thought went into the composition of these songs. Dare I say, it’s even just a little slower than previous releases too. Their 2015 release, Infernus, was almost at times unbearably fast to really hear the complexity of Rutan’s riffing. Make no mistake, Upon Desolate Sands is very speedy, especially with newcomer Hannes Grossmann (ex-Necrophagist, ex-Obscura) on drums. Yet, songs like “What Lies Beyond” take the time to break amidst the chaos for a crazy guitar solo, or even just a little bit of melody. Many of the songs on Upon Desolate Sands have a compositional style like this, and it helps to make the tracks unforgettable when you hear them for the first time.
The final two tracks on the album signify this progression the best. It starts with the album’s title track. It's a slower paced chug fest with a lot more atmosphere strewn in towards the beginning and the end. It reminds me a little of a Nile actually, and certainly not in a bad way. The rest of the track doesn't speed up very much and blends itself right into the final track, “For Whom We Have Lost”. Continuing on the same atmosphere built from the previous track, the guitars are very melodic with a lot of lead work while Grossmann gets an absolute workout with the double-kicks throughout the whole song. It’s not uncommon for a Hate Eternal album to end with the slower and more melodic flavored song, but this one is arguably the most melodic that the band has ever gotten.
Upon Desolate Sands is an absolutely fantastic album for Hate Eternal and for the world of death metal. With this being the band’s seventh full-length release, a little bit of change in the formula is bound to occur, especially with the number of personnel changes the band has incurred. In this case, a little more melody and a little less speed has yielded some of the best results that Hate Eternal has ever released.