Thursday, 23 April 2020

The Project Hate MCMXCIX - Purgatory (2020)



Country: Sweden
Style: Industrial Death Metal
Rating: 8/10
Release Date: 17 Apr 2020
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I may or may not have heard the Project Hate MCMXCIX (that's 1999 in Roman numerals, the year the band was founded) before but I'm happy I've finally found them now on what I believe is their lucky thirteenth studio album. The band seem to be labelled as industrial metal, with most sources mentioning a strong use of EDM. What I'm hearing here, though, is death metal with a firm industrial edge. Has the band changed over time? I have no idea but I plan to find out by delving into their back catalogue.

The guitars are heavy, the bass prominent, the drums fast. The female vocals of Ellinor Asp are clean but in traditional heavy metal style, which aims at power or symphonic metal at points. The male vocals of Jörgen Sandström, one of two founder members still with the project, are emphatically death growls and the band follow him into clear death metal territory often. Just check out the start of Atonement; a couple of minutes of that did a lot to cleanse my palate from reviewing the new Black Dahlia Murder album yesterday.

The other real surprise here for me is that the songs here are all epics in length. There are a mere half a dozen on offer but every one of them exceeds twelve minutes. Looking back at their last four albums, all released on the band's own imprint, Mouth of Belial, because they wanted nothing more to do with the record industry at all, we'd have to go back to the very earliest, The Cadaverous Retaliation Agenda in 2012, to find one that clocks in under the ten minute mark, though it also sports a bunch of minute long tracks I expect are interludes.

All of these long songs are theatrical in feel, as if this is death metal or industrial metal or whatever metal as performance art like opera. Throughout most of this, I felt like I was listening to a video, which sounded engaging but but which was missing all the visuals. That goes double for the quieter sections midway through the songs, when the intensity ratchets way down for a while but that EDM sound joins the fray in a limited fashion. With heavy, usually death metal most prominent, that's where we find a majority of the industrial sound.

It looks like Project Hate is primarily the vision of Lord K. Philipson, the other founder member, who contributes bass, keyboards and backing vocals and the majority of the guitarwork. Key collaborators include Asp and Sandström on vocals, with Dirk Verbeuren on drums and Lasse Johansson, credited as the guitar soloist. A host of others apparently guest in various ways at various points but I'm not sure who they are and what they do. There's a clean male vocal on Diatribe Cult, and I presume that's Johan Längqvist, current singer for Candlemass, but that's about it.

This grabbed me on a first listen. I hadn't even got far into Kill Everyone, the opening track, before I knew that I was a a Project Hate fan. The added intensity on Atonement didn't hurt either, but the biggest factor was surely the fact that this never got old or boring for me, even as I got lost within twelve or thirteen minute epics. I enjoyed them all even without an overview of any of the songs. They're too big to be grasped on a first listen. I need to listen through a few more times to fully visualise what they're doing.

Certainly, much of this success has to come from the mix of styles in these songs. They're all rooted in death metal with a rhythmic industrial bass as a driving force, but there's heavy metal here, power metal, symphonic metal, doom metal, you name it. This variety keeps everything fresh. I appreciated the quiet bits as much as the heavy ones as well, with one section late in Diatribe Cult wildly inventive.

My biggest problem here is in picking standouts. Every song here features at least a couple of sections that each contribute to the whole but is somehow also just a section of the whole that is the Purgatory album. That means I'm thinking of the album as one coherent eighty minute epic but also focusing a little on parts of individual songs, like the first halves of Diatribe Cult and Greatness. Somehow, I think the album actually keeps on getting better, so my favourite may be the last track, Birth, with its vocal effects. Let's see if it stays that way after a few more listens.

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