The Project Hate MXCXCIX – Bleeding the New Apocalypse - 4/5
Let me start off by saying this was a release I was tentatively excited for, because this studio band that constantly seeks to improve itself has gone through a few changes, the likes of which haven't been seen since their long-time vocalist Jonna Enkell first replaced Mia Stahl that preceded her, and now it seems she too has flown the Project Hate nest to work on her ambient solo project (Siren On, already up on this blog). The replacement is no stranger to me either, having first heard her powerful vocal work in 'Witchbreed,' and whilst impressive right from the start her style is markedly different, and thus comes my concern. Their greatest strength in the past has come from the glorious juxtaposition between the sweet and innocent vocals amidst a demonic chaos, literally defining the concept of the 'Beauty and the Beast' vocal style and doing it like none other.
There's no point in lying, I am a big fan of Enckell's vocal style, but I must give credit where it's due, and the simple fact is that the addition of Ruby Roque to the fold seems as natural a fit as I could ask for. She's done more than just deliver epic, ethereal soaring vocal lines on cue like nobody else I could name, but she's changed the entire dynamic of the band; everything flows together so well, capable of using her energy to maintain the momentum of the piece and build up over time to long crescendo's rather than the – by comparison – disjointed transitions between the two very different styles. And when the music finally does break, it's not merely to an electronic interlude as before but often displays a third option; a gentler darkness filled with what at times sounds like half an orchestra gone into it's construction, building up once more until the bowels of hell are once again unleashed upon the listener, twisting and turning and giving way when you expect it to jolt upwards, the aggression vanishing without a trace at a moments notice.
This is not the sort of release you can take in with a single listen. None of their releases are, in fact, and this is probably one of the easiest to quickly become accustomed to despite most tracks clocking more than ten minutes, which between the almost progressive nature of the unrelenting guitar work flowing from end to end before throwing in a trance passage is really saying something. More than any singular element it feels as though everyone has improved their game; the guitars at first made me thought there was another new addition, but it's simply that he's broadened his range from the usual mid-paced aggressive passages into an almost doom-like territory, and has really outdone himself across the board, even if it occasionally feels as though there are fewer solo's than in some of their previous work, though this never becomes much of an issue. It's always conjured demonic imagery but the keyboards and orchestral elements have gone to work more than ever at creating an atmosphere that doesn't just focus on the morbid, creating a sense of looming darkness; storm clouds gently floating overhead, becoming more prominent and noticeable up until the point that it rains fire down on its unsuspecting victims.
In fact, just about the only thing doesn't feel up to scratch is the drumming work, which in the past has always cemented itself as a companion piece in its own right given enough time. It's not to suggest the new drummer is a slouch compared to his predecessor, only that perhaps he hasn't quite settled fully into the complex and demanding rhythm's the music sometimes requires, just feeling a little too rigid when dealing with the otherwise steadily flowing manner of the tracks, and needing just a little nudge to mix things up a little as things proceed. Considering half the line-up has changed, that this is my only real complaint is very promising for this bands future. Though they have undoubtedly changed there is never a question that it still sounds like Project Hate, but in doing so they've managed to diversify their sound and broaden their horizons. There are deep growls complemented by high pitched growls, a greater versatility to the intensity of the clean vocal lines – even if she doesn't do the soft and gentle lines as well as Enckell managed to – and between the orchestral and the electronic, the result is that the whole 'metal opera' compositions have so many new avenues to explore. This is perhaps not their best work, but certainly suggests that a real gem is on the horizon.
Highlights: A Revelation of Desecrated Heavens, Bring Forth Purgatory