The Project Hate MCMXCIX — Death Ritual Covenant
Roughly 21 months after the release of The Project Hate's 10th studio album, Of Chaos And Carnal Pleasures (review) and we've got a brand new record already. Death Ritual Covenant marks the fourth independently released album from the group, the result of yet another successful crowd-funding effort. I'm always amazed — and exceedingly grateful — when these hit their goals, considering The Project Hate is as old-school undergroud as things get these days and the fanbase is a small but dedicated bunch. I've been an unrepentant fan of The Project Hate since 2000, and each new album has been excellent — I still look forward to new albums with the same enthusiasm as I had prior to the release of When We Are Done Your Flesh Will Be Ours (review).
From one album to the next, The Project Hate has steadily improved every aspect of its craft. Better production, better performances, better equipment, better compositions, etc. Death Ritual Covenant continues this tradition, providing the listener with 79 minutes of music that sounds familiar but far from a re-hash of previous efforts. The hallmark of The Project Hate has been a combination of extremely low-tuned guitars and catchy grooves mixed with precision death metal and interwined with industrial elements and a wide range of other influences. Death Ritual Covenant provides all of this in spades, represented in the group's best material to date in my estimation. Nothing strays too far outside of framework established on past albums, but the refinement is extremely impressive.
Somehow, despite the average song length coming in around the 13-minute mark, Death Ritual Covenant keeps a strong pace and feels far shorter than its running time would indicate. Each track is a lengthy journey through a musical landscape that varies immensely from one passage to the next. There are a few transitions that feel slightly abrupt, such as at 6:42 on "Through Fire There Is Cleansing" and the final ~5 minutes of the closing track, "Solemn." I don't think there's a problem with the change-ups; they felt less noticeable on later re-listenings — and adding another 2 minutes of slowly fading in / out would hurt the pacing a lot. Regardless, Death Ritual Covenant is an amazingly engineered and composed amalgamation of brutality and melody, chock-full of sick grooves and rich, satisfying sound.
Vocally, Ellinor Asp and Jörgen Sandström sound better than ever, with the former lending a lot of diversity in the clean vocals while the latter continues to deliver some of the best, most vicious death metal roars in the game. Dirk Verbeuren's drumming is once again impeccable, providing a sturdy foundation for these immense, heavily layered tracks. The guitars and bass are thick and rich as molasses, hitting a sweet spot in the mid-range and low-end without drowning the listener and turning the mix to mud. Despite tuning lower than any reasonable person would, everything sounds clear and full, a testament to the recording and mixing process — the attention to detail is otherwordly. Death Ritual Covenant is available in a regular CD mix and a full dynamic mix and both are superb, with the CD mix sounding a little louder, the result of compression — albeit tastefully applied — while the FLAC version is definitely worth the extra disk space if you can spare it. (You get both when you buy the album through the band's website, linked below.)
The Project Hate is not for everybody, blending blackened death with doom, industrial and symphonic elements into sprawling, 13+ minute compositions. That being said, those with ample curiosity and patience should thoroughly enjoy Death Ritual Covenant. Out of all of The Project Hate's releases, this is easily the most varied, with the second half of the album diverging somewhat from the usual formula and incorporating more electronic passages. On the last few albums, the electronic elements had been dialed back quite a bit, but starting with "Through Fire There Is Cleansing," the latter half of the album has a number of dancey breaks with hints of Front Line Assembly. The album closes with rousing guitar solo that somewhat reminds me of "Dividead," before fading out with sombre piano — the perfect ending to an intense musical journey. Death Ritual Covenant feels both reminiscent of past efforts and yet new and fresh at the same time, an impressive feat such a tenured project.
Easily one of 2018's best metal records, Death Ritual Covenant is everything The Project Hate fans could ask for.
Once again, The Project Hate manages to outdo their previous efforts. All the usual elements are present, though Death Ritual Covenant assembles them in its own unique configuration. The first half of the record is fairly typical for The Project Hate, and the second half — while hardly softening its edges — introduces a heavier emphasis on the electronic passages and female lead vocals. Ultimately, this is both exactly what long-time listeners have come to expect from The Project Hate and a pleasant surprise and welcome deviation from the standard formula. The rhythms are groovier, the song-writing is just as polished and sharp and the production lives up to the exceedingly high standard this project has set for itself. Another stellar entry in the discography of experimental metal's best-kept secret.
Release date: August 17th, 2018
Record label: Independent / Mouth Of Belial Productions
Lord K Philipson — guitar, acoustic guitar, bass, keyboards, programming, backing vocals
Jörgen Sandström — vocals
Ellinor Asp — vocals
Dirk Verbeuren — drums
Lasse Johansson — guitar solos
Johan Hegg — vocals
Lawrence Mackrory — vocals
- Death Ritual Covenant
- The Eating Of The Impure Young
- Through Fire There Is Cleansing
Published: August 22nd, 2018.