Review: Hath – All That Was Promised
But what all was promised? Beats me.
I like Hath. A lot. Of Rot and Ruin earned its place on my top 10 of 2019 after about six thousand listens over the course of the year (give or take), and it continues to hang out in my rotation today. Their take on proggy, lightly blackened death metal is incredibly addictive; it’s grimy and packed with punishing riffs and drums, but just cerebral enough to engage something beyond the lizard brain. It hits that same sweet spot as Slugdge, sharing some sonic similarities as well. But prog bands of any flavor are rarely the type to stay in one place, and I was curious to hear what Hath had in store for their followup.
What All That Was Promised is not is simply more of what the band has done before. They seem to have adopted a “less is more” philosophy in terms of song structure on this one; whether this more streamlined approach is a welcome trimming of fat or makes the record too homogeneous is up to the individual listener. An argument could be made for either, and it’s not my place to tell you how to feel about it.
Except I’m totally going to tell you how to feel about it, because all of my opinions are objectively correct. The devil is in the details, as they say, and the details are what make this album bang as hard as it does. “Decolation,” “Lithopaedic,” and opener “The Million Violations” play into the band’s progressive tendencies, with their unpredictable chord progressions and churning riffs, and “Iosis” brings some of that aforementioned Slugdginess to bear with its tense, lightly dissonant chords and spikes of unsettling clean guitar. The more tremolo-heavy parts conjure a stormy dismal atmosphere that calls to mind some of the best moments of Sulphur Aeon. It is, all told, an extremely complete record with a lot of heart and a lot of focus with technical prowess, both from an instrumental and production standpoint, to match.
The simple fact of the matter is if you’re getting lost in the reeds with the album’s pervasive dark tone or some of the longer spans of tremolo picking and double bass or blastbeats, you’re not paying attention. Yes, there are a multitude of parts like that on the record, and yes, the overall vibe of each song is similar, but they never retread the same ground or recycle an idea. You could throw two of those riffs back-to-back, even ones at the same tempo, and it would be clear each came from a different song. All That Was Promised is deceptively complex, less in-your-face PROG™ than much of what the genre has to offer (even compared to Hath’s prior work), and the album is better for it.
You can feel free to argue against of these points, but know that I am not listening and have therefore already won.
One thing that can’t be argued, though, is that the production job is a straight upgrade from Of Rot and Ruin. The only real sore spot for me with regards to the band’s first LP is that it sounded a little thin, particularly in the bottom end. I have no such complaints with this one. Drummer and engineer extraordinaire AJ Viana has upped his game considerably in the last couple years; not only is the sound more robust, but the mix is great, too. The bass pops, the layered growling and singing vocals sound much clearer and stronger, and it sacrifices none of the grit of that oh-so-tasty HM-2 distortion blend in the guitars.
The more I listen to All That Was Promised, the more I like it. Much of the nuance is easily missed on a first pass, especially if you’ve only got it on for background listening. It may be harder to point to a true peak, an explosive showy moment like the opening of “Currents,” but the album doesn’t need one. Even tossing aside the production improvements, the more consistently strong experience elevates it above its predecessor and solidifies the band’s position as one of my newest favorites.