Written by Kep
Brood of Hatred – The Golden Age
Progressive death metal from Tunisia
Releasing February 25 via Gruesome Records
Death metal that focuses on atmosphere and aural landscapes is a bit of a rare breed. It’s not that these bands don’t exist in decent number, it’s just that they tend to be overshadowed by the riff monsters that eschew that sort of mood setting and get right down to the business of pummeling away. Honestly, when’s the last time you sat down to listen to a death metal album and came away with the atmosphere foremost in your mind instead of the riffs? It takes an uncommon approach to make that sort of impression—the kind of uncommon approach wholly embodied by Tunisian solo project Brood of Hatred.
This outfit actually started out as a four-piece, back in 2010, although multi-instrumentalist and sole current member Mohamed Mêlki was always the songwriter and mastermind. The Golden Age is the project’s third full-length and fourth release overall, and it exudes the sort of artistic maturity and centered vision that you’d expect from the established project of a single veteran creator. At 36 minutes over eight tracks it’s well-paced and well-conceived, an progressive emotional soundscape that feels both deeply thoughtful and accessibly concise, with death metal merely providing the palette from which Mêlki paints his worlds. Think of this album as a designed set of several connected but distinct works; the track-to-track listening experience is like moving from work to work in an art gallery, the artist’s inspirations and moods becoming clearer with each piece.
The Golden Age is an exercise in opposites in surprising conjunction; it’s like a modern metal take on chiaroscuro. The guitars swirl enticingly and brood forebodingly in equal measure, and there’s a warm measure of hope and strength, a shining truth within all the menacing darkness. I find a lot of similarities to Fallujah—clean tones soaked in echo, meandering melodic lines, emotive solos, all mixed with distorted heft and drum-led aggression—but if you subtracted much of the hard edges of alien techiness and replaced them with an extremely human sincerity. The album feels intimate and very personal, but at the same time there’s a noticeable big picture perspective and plenty of musical expansiveness.
The benefit of this approach is that every song feels powerful, like a sonic exploration of the human struggle of finding purpose while grappling with the dissonance of a possible higher power allowing our abhorrent world to continue. The struggle of oppressive darkness with warm light is ever present in tracks like opener “God Over Demons”, pounding double-bass and gut-wrenching desperate roars juxtaposed against delicate clean guitars that weave an intricate tapestry backdrop, and “Genesis”, its desperate pushing progressions grasping for answers that are answered in the song’s climax with the fruitlessness of a repeated word: “Silence.” The songs are carefully crafted and deeply personal journeys, using ominous soundscapes to immerse the listener in a pool of shadowy thought, exploring concepts like truth and belief (“The Mask of Death”), the smothering weight of ambiguity of purpose (“Uncertainty”), and the struggle against one’s own ego (“The Uncarved Block”).
For all the depth of concept and the richness of Brood of Hatred’s multilayered landscapes, though, there is a downside: while it’s easy to immerse yourself in the passion and profundity, it’s also easy for the ear to wander when not completely absorbed in the music. The motifs here are of the expressive sort, not the hook-based riffy kind; honestly, despite it being death metal through and through, The Golden Age has a lot that’s conceptually in agreement with atmospheric black metal. If you’re a “riffs or gtfo” sort of metalhead, there’s a non-zero chance that this album never lands for you at all. It’s the opposite approach of a band like, say, 200 Stab Wounds (not a knock on those guys at all, of course!): rather than riffs, violence, and brutal headbanging grooves, Brood of Hatred is philosophical and atmosphere-based, almost trancelike. Indeed, Mêlki’s work aligns more with bands like Ulcerate or Blut aus Nord in concept and execution, despite not necessarily sounding like either of those bands.
Production-wise, this record sounds great, which is a testament to Mêlki again, who handled all his own engineering. He achieves a wide variety of tones and distortions, the mix is thick and satisfying without being busy, and the drums have real presence. There are also some impressive transitions, like the way the otherworldly ambient synth outro of “Uncertainty” blends seamlessly into the eerily disconcerting waltz that opens the title track. Truly, The Golden Age wouldn’t be the success it is without the smart use of synths; closing instrumental “Astral Projection” is a killer outro, a palate cleanser that reminded me of the “Limbo” tracks in last year’s Defacement album.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The expansive, moody soundscapes of Brood of Hatred are unique within the extreme metal scene; I haven’t heard anything quite like this, and that’s a good thing. Mohamed Mêlki’s vision is impressively progressive and all-encompassing, the kind of death metal that you can sink both your teeth and your mind into. It’s got a real soul, even if it’s not for everyone, and it’s inspirational even if it falls short of being compelling. Check it out if you’re looking a smartly-written, well-produced death metal journey into the thoughtful side of death.