For the past two decades, Erik Rutan has positioned Hate Eternal as a top-line act. With Hate Eternal, Rutan has toured the world, released seven full-length albums — the latest of which is the incredible Upon Desolate Sands — done business with three different record labels, and, of course, interacted with fans on a very personal level. He’s seen it all and done it all. But Rutan’s still reaching for the horizon. Always. Perpetually. Whether with Hate Eternal or behind the desk at Mana Recording Studios — a multi-use studio owned and operated by Rutan — the New Jersey native (and diehard Philadelphia Eagles fan) has a never-say-die work ethnic. The dude’s a machine. The proof of that is Upon Desolate Sands, quite possibly Hate Eternal’s most significant work since Conquering the Throne sent shock waves through late-’90s death metal.
With Upon Desolate Sands, Hate Eternal — bassist J.J. Hrubovcak (Divine Rapture) and new drummer Hannes Grossmann (Alkaloid, ex-Obscura) round out the lineup — are issuing an edict. That is to say, death metal, as a genre, needs Hate Eternal and the directness, technicality, and spirit the group bring on songs like “The Violent Fury,” “Nothingness of Being,” “Vengeance Striketh,” and slow-burner “Upon Desolate Sands.” Just as death metal needed classics by Entombed, Carcass, Obituary, Death, Morbid Angel, and a host of others, in death metal’s 35th year, Hate Eternal is needed to keep the fury and flame alive.
Decibel is proud to not only interview Rutan but also to premiere — globally — the full Upon Desolate Sands album. Rise, Hate Eternal armies! Prepare for war…
NOTE: FULL ALBUM STREAM IS AFTER THE INTERVIEW. SCROLL DOWN TO SKIP THE INTERVIEW WITH RUTAN.
Upon Desolate Sands represents 21 years in Hate Eternal. What’s different now compared to when you formed the band?
Erik Rutan: So much is different yet so much is the same. I was young and determined when I conceptualized Hate Eternal and was on a mission to create music that was uncompromising and vicious. I wanted to build and continue my musical legacy with Hate Eternal from the ground up. Ever since I started playing guitar at 15 I knew I always wanted to start my own band, sing and play guitar, record albums and tour the world. At 19, I recorded my first album with Ripping Corpse and that experience led me to wanting to be a producer, own my own studio someday and record my own band’s albums as well as bands I loved. Here 20 plus years later I still feel so inspired to create music and produce albums, that has never waned or changed at all. I am always striving to get better, pushing myself and everyone around me to achieve higher goals, more creative music and be better at who we are and all we do. That fire and desire to create music is still here and I feel very grateful that I am still very prolific when it comes to writing and have a great time writing music with JJ [Hrubovcak]. I always feel very inspired. I do not see it ever changing to be honest. Every album we create adds to the legacy of who we are and all we have accomplished. I just absolutely love doing this. What has changed is that we have explored new territory musically and creatively and always trying to expand our music dynamically since when I first started the band. That is part of what really inspires me to create music is challenging ourselves.
How would you describe the songwriting process for Upon Desolate Sands?
Erik Rutan: The songwriting aspect is one of my favorite things in the world! As it has been for 10 years now it starts with JJ and I working on riffs and exchanging ideas. JJ and I have a great chemistry and I think our collaboration on the songs really gives it a unique sound and reaches the full spectrum of dynamics that we could possibly hope to achieve in Hate Eternal. We are very crafty and also selective when it comes to the songs, riffs and melodies. I always want to push the envelope a bit and expand upon what we have done in the past but keep true to the spirit of Hate Eternal and push the envelope. Layering and texturing the album in a musical sense is what we put a lot of effort into. JJ is such a talented musician and writer and as a team we push each other to reach depths we have not done before but keep true to who we are as a band at the same time. The writing process for this album was very intense and also so rewarding as it always has been.
Upon Desolate Sands feels like you’re interested in fast / slow dynamics. It’s full blast but there are moments where you’re letting the music breathe. There’s more space in the overall songwriting this time. Was this the product of something specific?
Erik Rutan: We felt so great about how Infernus came out, from the production to the songwriting and the expansion of dynamics and we wanted to build from that. As we do more albums I always want to express ourselves in various ways and tap into different emotion, inspiration and resources to create the depth and character of the most intense and amazing music we can create. Music is an extension of who we are. We have grown so much as musicians and songwriters I feel and expanding and creating more unique elements from previous albums is one of the few things we tend to think about. We just usually create music from all feel and vibe. As our lives evolve and we have many experiences it altars how we write. We let the creativity flow naturally and pick the best music and material regardless of whether fast, heavy or melodic or otherwise. Space and depth are elements we are always trying to reach if it flows naturally for those dynamics can really open up an album. Expanding is always on our mind yet keeping true to the legacy of Hate Eternal is mandatory for me and essential.
The title track is interesting. Where did that choral intro idea come from?
Erik Rutan: I have a friend of mine Jarek Niemiec who plays a variety of Turkish instruments for his band Saratan from Poland. Jarek and I are working on a project together in which he is writing ideas and performing with some of his instruments. I am playing and writing melodies and solos with the electric guitar, Ebow as well as acoustic and classical guitar melded in. Maggie Gwozdz, who sings in Saratan also is contributing some guest vocals to that as well. I just one day had this vision of hearing her voice in the intro and outro of the song. Representing the the longing and despair of the end of the world. This song is a metaphor directly referring to so many things of true meaning to me and as time went on it took on many faces of importance personally. I wanted to express that complexity and sense of loss by adding these layered elements.
The drum position changed again. You brought on Hannes Grossmann. How did you hook up with Hannes?
Erik Rutan: I have known Hannes since we toured together when he was in Obscura 10 years ago. I have always wanted to play with the best musicians I can for Hate Eternal, even knowing that by doing that we end up working with guys who have other bands and other things going on like Hannes does. When we needed a drummer Hannes was one of the drummers on our list of guys we would love to play with and we knew he would do a fantastic job for the tours for Infernus. After we did all the touring for the album JJ and I started discussing recording the new record. We felt we should ask Hannes if he would like to do it and he was super excited about it! Hannes is the consummate professional and an amazingly talented musician who did a spectacular job on Upon Desolate Sands. It was a great experience working with Hannes on the album as he is a very focused and determined person and an amazing drummer. We worked very hard to capture stellar and authentic performances and I am very proud of Hannes and JJ for all we created for this album. Throughout my whole career and Hate Eternal I have played with the best drummers I could have possibly asked for. I feel very fortunate to have been able to play alongside the best for 30 years!
Erik Rutan: There have been so many different stages, moments and chapters throughout the bands 22 year existence. Life changes so much as you experience it. The band has changed so much yet my focus has always stayed the same. You lose people close to you , whether in a band or in life and it shapes who you are as a person and how you proceed in life. When I first started the band I was on a mission and still am to have this vessel to express myself creatively and musically based on my own vision. But I always wanted to be surrounded by great people and amazing musicians to create a cohesive unit of individuals who bond together as one and I have been so fortunate to have had that at different stages of the band. But through it all I have always relied on myself in life and in this band. I have always risen to the occasion and challenged myself through a very complex and challenging life. Every band needs a leader and I have always been that for Hate Eternal for that is just who I am. That is my personality naturally as a leader. But I could not have gotten to where we are without the amazing contributions of everyone else involved over the 22 years of existence. Jared was a huge part of this band until his passing in 2006 and his spirit will always be a part of Hate Eternal. Having JJ in the band for over 10 years now has been another defining chapter for the band as well I believe and as a team we have forged many great albums and look forward to doing many more in the future.
Where’d the title, Upon Desolate Sands, come from? There’s an ominous feeling to this song. Something similar to “Hatework.”
Erik Rutan: The title came from one of the earliest lyrics I wrote for the album that has a certain depth of meaning in so many ways to me. As I was writing the lyrics and as time past since its inception the title brought different meanings to me over time. I realized that it touched on so much emotion and life experiences and subject matter that was so crucial and important to me and defined a lot of what this album represents. I knew that this had to be the album title as time went on with the writing process. It exemplifies so much of the inspiration behind the music and lyrics for this album. Interesting you say “Hatework” musically for that was such a unique song that I wrote 24 years ago with Morbid Angel. I always hoped I could write a contender for heaviness and I think the title track matches those standards.
What’s “For Whom We Have Lost” about? Feels there’s a bit of melancholy but also pride coming through. Is this about the lost men and women of our armed services?
Erik Rutan: “For Whom We Have Lost” was created and written over a three-year period. It is inspired by and dedicated to someone very, very special to our family that we lost last year. It was a profound loss and much of it was written in ode to him. Some of the musical piece was written for two loved ones that we lost around the creating of Infernus and I was never able to finish it due to the depth of the music and the pain of loss that we experienced. The leading melody was captured in one night after such loss and so was the solo. I kept those passages and performances for I could not duplicate the emotion presented in it. I then wrote the rest of the song around it at a later time due to our profound loss. Through pain and other emotion I have always created music and during many times in my life of grief and agony I have always used music as a way to express that pain of loss. But the loss of our military and armed services is something that is always on my mind as I have had friends and family serve and I have nothing but the utmost respect for our military and all who serve.
The album art is interesting. What did you give Eliran Kantor conceptually for him to come up with the man fighting the vultures?
Erik Rutan: Eliran is such an amazingly talented artist. I sent Eliran pre-production demos of the music and lyrical ideas and themes for the album 5-6 months in advance. I speak with him on very in depth subject matter and the inspiration behind the vision of the music. I have had many in depth conversations with Eliran about things that have led me to who I am and the music we create. Then I let Eliran take over from there and conceptualize an artistic vision based on the sentiment behind the lyrics and music. I always feel like letting the artist create his own interpretation in a visually artistic sense helps give him the artistic freedom to create his masterpiece.
What do the arrows signify? They’ve penetrated both man and vulture.
Erik Rutan: Eliran could better explain his concept behind the artistic vision but to my eyes the arrows represent the initiation of agony and pain. The central figure is using that pain associated with those attacking strikes to save his own life and gain strength from such as he faces tremendous adversity. Of course this is my own interpretation but Eliran could better explain it for you I am sure.
The production is both powerful and clear. What kind of sound were you aiming for? I gather you’ve learned a lot since your first Hate Eternal production, Conquering the Throne.
Upon Desolate Sands is not only my favorite Hate Eternal production but one of my favorite productions I have done personally. I really wanted to capture authentic performances and the character of the band. I wanted to have clarity and definition but not sacrifice the aura and vibe associated with the music. I am always trying to retain the character of Hate Eternal yet expose the energy and power of the music. I always prefer a rawer edge to our productions but with a sonic excellence. Something that has gotten lost now in a lot of modern productions I feel. I always harken back to the ole’ days of vibe of productions and the humanistic flaws that create character in albums and recordings I believe that will stand the test of time.
Upon Desolate Sands is your seventh album. What do you think fans, long time and new, will think of it?
Erik Rutan: I always keep true to myself and we keep true as a band creatively throughout our career. Preserving our legacy musically speaking is very important to me. We hope that people will hear this album and know that we put everything of who we are into this album and truly embrace it. This record has so much of what Hate Eternal has represented for 20-plus years now yet we have incorporated more of who we are as players and songwriters. Upon Desolate Sands is one of my most proudest and defining moments not only as a musician but as a producer and I could not be more excited to unleash this amongst the masses. I truly hope everyone enjoys this album for we put everything we had into it.
** Hate Eternal’s fantastic new album, Upon Desolate Sands, is out October 26th on Season of Mist. Mega-brutal pre-orders of CD and Vinyl are available HERE. Fly Eagles Fly!