Black Metal has roots deeply burrowed in the catacombs of the history of musical evolution. Some 200 years ago, Europeans whispered hushed secrets behind the back of accomplished Italian violin maestro, Niccolõ Paganni claiming he had gained his exceptionally unheard-of virtuosity from Satan himself. Legend has it that in the mid-1930s, a barely competent guitarist by the name of Robert Johnson headed to the crossroads of Highways 49 and 61 in Clarksdale, Mississippi where he exchanged his soul to Lucifer for immediate technical prowess in his instrument effectively becoming the first laudable guitar hero. Decades later, Johnny Cash faced censorship after writing a song about being sent to prison for what he deemed would be the most heinous of crimes – murdering a man with the singular intention of watching him die. Several decades later, one Sid Vicious of the infamously notorious Sex Pistols would perform shows covered in the blood gained either from injuries at the hands of provoked audience members or through his ritual act of self-mutilation.
Black Metal is an amalgamation of all of these instances containing active genes from a long musical ancestry forged with darkness. Black Metal is the Punk Rock of Heavy Metal with its purist elements eschewing the technicality that began to pervade the Death Metal of the early 1990s. What became known as the Second Wave of Black Metal, arising in the 1990s, established a fuck-the-rules DIY aesthetic meant to reflect the vilest and malevolent moments of existence, to invoke the chaos inherent in the infinity of the very universe itself. Germany’s Total Hate subscribes to this ethos, and while many have attempted to clone the classics of that age and failed miserably, Total Hate manage to hearken back to a time when the air was electric with a palpable darkness that fueled creativity and self-expression.
Back around the turn of the century, Adrastos, a guitarist and singer hailing from Nuremberg, Germany, began work on a new musical project he dubbed Total Hate. His intention was to create Black Metal of the purest form – stripped down, no keyboards, and owing its influence to the masters of the style that paved the way a decade earlier. At that time, Black Metal had certainly taken off and many bands seemed to be blasphemously incorporating elements of many other styles. While some bands like Arcturus and Solefald were legitimately expanding preconceived notions with a legitimate desire to explore new territory, others were cashing in on the phenomenon by exploiting its common tropes, watering them down, and injecting them with mass-digestible, commercialized, mundane Goth pomp and circumstance. Total Hate was formed in direct opposition to the latter, to propagate true Black Metal by keeping the flame alive and scorching in the hearts of genre purists. After releasing a self-titled demo in 2002, the band released an EP and a split before putting out four later full-lengths. Throne Behind a Black Veil is the band’s latest and is out August 2nd via Eisenwald.
With this new album, the band have not embarked on any radical departure. It is immediately clear from the very first moments of the lead track, “Psychopath,” that the band stayed true to its quintessence, legacy, and heritage, though that is not to say things have become stale or predictable. Rather, the point is made readily apparent that new life has been breathed into the furious misanthropic rage fueling their creativity as the track exudes sheer, unbridled vehemence.
The production is clear enough to allow all instruments to be clearly discerned yet the raw nature of their sound is never sacrificed for overindulgent polish. The drums have an immanent live feel as the bass drums put forth a natural thump devoid of that popcorn in the microwave processed sound that plagues many modern recordings, and the cymbals resoundingly crash with a crisp wash that perfectly accents the music. The guitars retain the classic haunting, eerie nature achieved from gobs upon gobs of distortion and swathed in a heavy blanket of reverb. They mirror the sound of an electric saw being run through a Marshall stack on eleven – nasty, dirty, and full-on lacerating. Fortunately, the bass is not buried in the mix as its low-end rumble gives the sound a steady, global fullness. Vocally, Adrastos’s rage is tangible and incontrovertible with layers of his slicing-throat screams providing violent epithets of a savage frenzy.
“Decline of Human Life Part II,” the second track, is a continuation of the track that first appeared on the band’s second full-length, Necare Humanum Est. There is a distinct Punk/Hardcore ambiance as the drums alternate between that classic Crossover gallop extensively heard throughout the heaviest and dirtiest of 1980s records and organic blasts with the force of an F-5 tornado. At the 2:29 mark, there is a break in which a new riff is introduced, one that is simple in nature but made classically remarkable by way of the breakdown performed by the drums along with the ever-pulsing muscle of the bass. Headbanging is both inevitable and mandatory. The title track is placed fifth and is accelerated by the steady assault of the double bass and a sorcerer’s arsenal of dark incantations discharged as an incensed flurry of guitar work. “Death Raid Apocalypse,” the sixth track, is yet another highlight with its decadently satisfying mix of riffs, tempos, and a prevailing, stripped-down Punk Rock aggression.
In a time when Black Metal has been incorporated and bastardized into everything from Industrial to Screamo, one can take solace knowing a band like Total Hate is still waving the flag with its original scourge of barbarity. Those who appreciate the renegade delirium of classic Satyricon, the militant tenacity of Marduk, and the purity of unholy Darkthrone are hereby obligated to grab a copy of this album. Total Hate is a band unbothered by trends, resolute, and unapologetically true Black Metal.