Some death-metalers are artists, trying to move the music forward or off in some weird direction -- think Gorguts or Meshuggah. Others are craftsmen, attempting to make the best record they can within the established parameters of the genre, while respecting its traditions of speed, heaviness, and technical intricacy. Hate Eternal reigns in the latter group.
There's nothing particularly innovative about the band's new album, I, Monarch. If guitarist-vocalist Erik Rutan was being creatively stifled in Morbid Angel (he left to lead Hate Eternal full-time), it's hard to tell from this disc. The thing that makes I, Monarch one of the year's best death-metal albums is its head-down blunt force. Each of the record's 10 songs prominently features the kind of cement-mixer guitar riffs, high-pitched squealing leads, and skull-cracking drums that the Florida death-metal scene made famous in the late '80s and early '90s. Rutan and his cohorts -- particularly drummer Derek Roddy, formerly of Nile and Malevolent Creation -- know exactly what they want to do, and they succeed. This is a record that makes no concessions to fair-weather fans; it's for the death-metal faithful, who will surely consider I, Monarch a classic.