Latest release: Phoenix Amongst the Ashes (Metal Blade)

Hate Eternal has been blasting out their name in death metal history since 1997, unleashing four volumes of unrelenting brutality in between founder Erik Rutan’s various stints with Morbid Angel. This year sees the release of the band’s fifth album, Phoenix Amongst the Ashes, which features the debut of bassist JJ Hrubovcak. Ahead of their tour to Europe, we caught up with Erik Rutan to discuss all things Hate Eternal.

Q: First of all, tell us a little bit about the new album. We haven’t had much of a chance to hear it yet.
A: The new album is pretty much what everybody would expect from Hate Eternal, I guess, but at the same time there’s a lot of more dynamic stuff going on than we’ve done in the past, and we’ve really expanded on what we’ve previously done and really made one of the most dynamic record we’ve made in our career, and I think it’s our best production yet. Really looking forward to getting out there and playing these songs live.

Q: Any particular theme running though it or anything in particular you are focusing on?
A: What I wanted to focus on was trying to really expand on everything we had done in the past. I just wanted to work on different tempos, different moods, different dynamics and things like that. And I’d like to think that’s what we accomplished.

Q: What about the line-up this time? It seems like you have been through some band members over the years.
A: To me, you know, I sing, I play guitar, I write most of the music, I write all the music, I produce all the records… I’ve been fortunate enough to have a lot of great players involved with my band for many many years. I always look at it like a blessing that I’ve worked with so many great musicians. I certainly feel that JJ and Jade… this is the second record I’ve done with JJ and Jade I’ve been friends with for ten plus years, so I think we’ve captured something special on this new record because of JJ and Jade’s contribution to the album and we work really well as a team.

Q: You’ve also done a lot of production work. How was it working with Agnostic Front, a band a lot of people probably wouldn’t have expected you do have much to do with?
A: Working with Agnostic Front and Madball, those were phenomonal records to work on. You know, I grew up in New Jersey and went to school in New York City so I was around hardcore, punk, death metal, thrash, pretty much the works my whole life. So to work with those guys is a tremendous honour. They are an amazing band. Because I play death metal certainly doesn’t mean I don’t like other types of music, or understand types sorts of music, because I do. The way I produce records, I try to best out the best in each individual band and make each band individual, unique. And that’s something I felt that I was able to accomplish with Agnostic Front and Madball as well.

Q: Do you still find that people don’t think you can appreciate music outside of death metal?
A: I guess people wanna try to pigeonhole you, stick you in a corner, you know? But I never let that stop me. I’ve never let anything stop me, honestly. I do everything I want to do. I think that by branching out and doing some other records though, for sure, like Agnostic Front and Madball, and I did this indie rock band this year called The Mountain Goats… I’ve done some different stuff and that certainly opens people’s eyes to me being able to do this and that. I don’t get frustrated about it. I need it as inspiration, to show people what I’m capable of.

Q: Does it inspire you from time to time, to do something with your own music that people wouldn’t expect of you?
A: Sure. I think with the new Hate Eternal record we’ve definitely done some things we’ve never done in the past, but while I might surprise people, I don’t want to shock them by doing something totally out of left field either. Hate Eternal is always going to sound like Hate Eternal. It’s going to expand, but it’s always going to be brutal death metal. That’s what we are. I have plans. I’d love to do other projects in the future as well.

Q: When is Hate Eternal back on the road?
A: Well we’re going to Europe next week, for the month. Then we’re coming home and touring the States for another month.

Q: Any chance you’ll be coming to Australia again?
A: Yeah, I hope so! We were in Australia last year with Nile and then we came in 2005 and played with Psycroptic and it was awesome. Yeah, I hope we get back there this year or next year.

Q: Brilliant, and of course we’re all looking forward to the new album. When it is released?
A:May 10. It’s right around the corner.

Q: Looking forward to that, and also to seeing you coming down and playing for us again one day.
A: I hope so too, man. I love playing in Australia. We’ve got great fans in Australia and it’s always been a great pleasure for me to play there. I’ve been to Australia three times now and I love coming over there. It’s quite a pleasure for us.

Q: Finally, I’m talking to David Vincent next week. Is there anything I should ask him?
A: Oh… no, I can’t think of anything! Tell him I said hello, and I can’t wait to hear the new record [laughs].