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The Dark Theatre of Sanguinary Strife…
First off, please excuse my ignorance when it comes to the Polish blackened death metal band Hate. I know they have been around for as long as any of the big caliber bands from the scene, but up until this album, I’ve only been reading about them once in a while without actually listening to their music.
I corrected my mistakes after obtaining a digital copy of Auric Gates of Veles in 2019 and I actually – initially – put this into my personal top 10 releases of said year, but after the months and quarters have passed, I came to terms with the fact that it didn’t hold up that well after all.
You know, what Auric Gates of Veles does incredibly well is delivering a perfectly clear, yet dense and morose atmosphere – courtesy of the renowned Polish producer duo, the Wieslawski brothers, who were also responsible for Behemoth‘s Evangelion and The Satanist. My main reason for mentioning this fact is that Hate‘s sound on this record does share quite a few similarities with their Polish brethren. The production job here is overall very much resembling the aforementioned records, but the vocal-centered mix and layering make Adam Buszko sound a lot like Nergal back in 2004, specifically on the Demigod album.
While this is definitely meant to be a compliment, comparisons are inevitable. The feral intensity of Behemoth‘s masterpiece is partially recreated and executed with similar success, but the music on “Auric Gate of Veles” mostly doesn’t possess the same memorability and/or longevity. The two-track pairing of “Salve Ignis” and “Generation Sulfur” is a welcome exception to the rule, since these two feature the best writing contained on the record, switching back and forth between massive double-bass runs trembling underneath some nicely placed chugged, bouncing power chords patterns and highly melodic, more invasive black metal-ish fretwork. While this kind of genre-b(l)ending is very common on this release, here is where the only real magic happens on the record and the audience actually starts connecting with this album – it becomes a more visceral experience.
Sadly, this is also where the CD actually ends its regular run and the listener faces two more creations, captioned as bonus songs (the first one obviously omitted from the final tracklist + one demo version of an existing track) which are again more standard fare akin to the first few tunes – not bad, but not exactly wicked stuff like the two winners that came before them.
The lack of bass is quite infuriating overall as some popping lines could have easily added a lot to the replay value of this album, but the absence of an actual bass-player in the lineup could be a reason for this understatement.
On the flipside of the coin it is Pawel Jaroszewicz’s drumming that makes a lot of difference in the audacity of the tracks. His incredible precision, dynamics and utter devastation of the drumkit do often attract more focus than the rest of the instrumentation and when the songwriting itself feels not up to par, the percussion might just punch you hard enough to keep your attention on the hook.
When all is said and done, Auric Gates of Veles is still more than just a merely good record; it’s a very well balanced blackened death metal experience delivered with high production values, great vocals and top-of the line, high-octane percussion.
Yet while this album might floor you with its pompous and grand exhibition, it lacks the riff-craft and songwriting chops to really elevate it into spheres of greatness. It is consistently above-average, never fails, but only really hits home twice and even these crowning moments already seem to fade out of memory a little too quickly.
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