A dark anima nestled in the deep woods of Bavaria, this Nürnberg, Germany based cult inspired by the progenitors of the second wave of the European black metal apocalypse again present their craven creed today with their fourth full-length, ‘Throne Behind A Black Veil’. As an evolution of the dark art of raw black metal glossed into an obsidian mirror as if it were 1994, the music of Total Hate began in 2000 as many enlightened-by-our-roots genre entry metal bands did in the era: Within a ‘side-project’, this one among members of Seeds of Hate and primarily by the hand of Adrastos (ex-Deathronation). Their look, name, logo, artwork, and production values all spoke (and continue to speak) the correct language of pre-‘In the Nightside Eclipse’ black metal within Scandinavia where blackened orthodoxy was established as a raw and insular being. This is the same boat that hundreds of other projects rode in on in the later 90’s that’d eventually rise above cult status from Taake, Pest and Craft to Tsjuder, Urgehal and Sargeist there was a vision of the past within all of their eyes and an army of (admittedly) less distinct artists to support it all. It might appear reductive to count Total Hate among the crowd but I intend it as a compliment to their representation of the German artists who don’t often receive as much praise as their Scandinavian counterparts. This first version of Total Hate would persist in various forms as a regularly active entity for the next decade.
Following his long detour in Deathronation, whom took a good decade to finally take flight, Adrastos would return to Total Hate more or less full time around 2016 after a six year hiatus beyond the bands second album ‘Necare Humanum Est’ (2010). From that point on the band would sign to Eisenwald and supply a more polished, technically proficient approach ever since without losing the spirit of the early second wave. There is no doubt a great challenge in digging through the hordes of ‘orthodox’ second wave black metal projects active worldwide and finding a gem but thankfully the bar is pretty low to begin with for folks who still delight in the early era of Darkthrone, nearby compatriots and the successive generations of raw and pallid declension since. Are Total Hate anything special in this sense? Exemplar, creative, and delivered with some impressive misanthropic spirit? Yes, but as for a true standout event ‘Throne Behind the Black Veil’ is ordinary by design when considering the full scope of black metal. If there was any realm where Total Hate were to ‘stand out’ beyond the norm it’d arise from the high quality and thoughtful work (a la the dormant Tsjuder) they’ve managed in an age of low effort black metal passing for low-key orthodoxy.
I’ve taken two paths over the years exploring old school black metal archetypes that focus upon tuneful qualities and/or a level of attack that focuses on destructive throngs of black metal riffs and I’d say Total Hate have always landed upon the tuneful spectrum of things and eventually landed nearby the pre-‘Nemesis Divina’ spectrum of Satyricon alongside early Taake. This is the thread that ties ‘Depopulating Planet Earth’ (2008) all the way through to these two most recent releases though I did feel like the guitar work was at once more derivative and adventurous on those first two releases from the band. ‘Throne Behind a Black Veil’ brings a regal mid-pace without fail and though this allows for one foil to display variation within there are few points of excitement beyond the indoctrination of the first several listens and the appreciable nuance of Adrastos‘ songwriting.
At what point did this album shift towards above average value? I couldn’t say. Somewhere between the blur of at least 15-20 full listens I simply found myself comfortable with every moment of this record… if not slightly underwhelmed by its mid-paced, well contained storm. I believe what value grips the average listener will boil down to personal references picked up by the listener as was the case with me. “His Throne Behind a Black Veil” has this mild Immortal-esque breath to its movement, “Lunatic Beast” has a big stomping riff that bookends its blasted middle section, but the duo of “Thou Shalt Kill (Killing Spree Unleashed)” and “Decline of Human Life – Part II” largely represent the biggest and most viably memorable moments on the full listen for my own taste; These songs aren’t crammed with obvious melody but driven by persistent blasting beneath raids of dark riffs that suggest melody or eventually rest into it. There is a fine line between exemplar and average and I’d say Total Hate ride that line close enough that this latest full-length is a reasonable triumph for the well indoctrinated fan of classic black metal. Moderately high recommendation. For preview purposes I’d suggest “Thou Shalt Kill (Killing Spree Unleashed)” is the ‘hook’ of any early listening and “Lunatic Beast” will showcase some clever variety within the full listen.
In a cyclone of infernal desire. 3.5/5.0
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