- Interview by Faye Coulman
Polish extreme metal titans Hate talk epic 12th album 'Rugia' and forthcoming tour plans
Having amassed a whopping 12 albums of epic, darkly brutalising carnage forged over more than 30 years of relentless, boundary-pushing extremity, Polish death metal titans Hate possess all the defining trappings and trademarks you’d associate with a band of such prestigious standing. But beyond the various, ink-black strains of frostbitten tremolo, hyperblasting brutality and coldly immersive atmospherics that comprise their inimitable craft is the essence of something audibly greater and more expansive than the sum of its component parts. The dark, cosmic vibrations of an entity whose every weightily pulverising blast and turbulent contortion abounds with all the thunderous wrath of the ancients. With electrifying new full-length ‘Rugia’ comprising a dizzying new pinnacle of bone-shattering extremity, vocalist and compositional mastermind Adam ‘ATF Sinner’ Buszko reflects on the making of this impeccably orchestrated new album.
“I can't wait until we bring the music to the crowds on the live shows, especially because that's the main essence and purpose of this band, to play shows and to present the music in this environment,” enthuses Hate frontman Adam ‘ATF Sinner’ Buszko of the intensely primal and ritualistic medium for which the band’s pulverising craft has long been purpose-built. Indeed, since first coalescing into being more than a full three decades ago, these pioneering Polish aggressors have proved themselves a truly unparalleled force in subterranean circles, having relentlessly honed and progressed their delectably blackened craft over the expansive course of countless live shows and a staggering sum total of 12 studio albums. Suffice to say then, that theirs is an art that thrives on the searing heat and immediacy of the moment, the howling, sweat-soaked euphoria of teeming crowds and the tangible sense of a presence not entirely of this earthly realm.
So with the devastating arrival of COVID-19 bringing all live performances and current touring cycles to a jarringly abrupt halt back in March 2020, exactly how did Buszko and band adapt to these unprecedented circumstances?
“It was a hard time,” the frontman reflects of this ruinous and unprecedented period. “In our case, we were trying to make the best use of the time that we were given. You know, and in this situation, right after the last tour with Suffocation and Belphegor, we actually had to stop it right in the middle because of the pandemic. So right after this tour, we started writing new songs because it was pretty clear that nothing would happen in the foreseeable future. Since then, there have also been one or two changes in the band. For one thing, we have a new drummer on board. The tour that I mentioned right before the pandemic, we were doing that with him already, but it was the first tour we were playing with him. He was the replacement for our previous drummer Pavulon. Back then, he had a big health issue, so he couldn't take part in the tour. So we were looking for a replacement and this young guy, like, 20, 22 years old joined us as his replacement. And after the tour, when the pandemic started, we had to make a serious decision. Pavulon said that he would definitely not be able to continue with us because of serious health issues and it was decision time, you know, and at this point I was quite sure that it's worth giving the new drummer a chance and and see what happens. We started working on some new songs and the old ones as well, just playing regular rehearsals and ended up recording a new album after just a year.”
With Buszko’s creative instincts leading him in an increasingly vicious, death metal-orientated direction ahead of the making of this exceptionally brutalising new chapter in the band’s illustrious back catalogue, the sound barrier-shattering talents of newly-recruited drummer Daniel ‘Nar-Sil’ Rutkowski played a pivotal role in bringing his latest artistic vision to fruition. And in addition to the jaw-dropping technical prowess that first caught the frontman’s attention, the talented sticksman in question also comes from a place of uncommonly extensive musical knowledge. Particularly, Adam explains, where genre-defining death metal is concerned.
“We wanted to make a bit more of a death metal album, going back to the roots of this band, which is the death metal of the nineties, and with his skills and musical tastes, it was it was even more possible to accomplish that. Even though he's pretty young, he has a very good metal education, because his parents are actually metal-heads from my generation, so that was a nice coincidence. We have very similar taste in music, by the way, especially when it comes to death metal. So it was it was pretty easy to work with him following my ideas. We were looking for the best possible arrangements within the songs, and I’m very happy with the results.”
While it’s clear that Buszko is, without question, the core creative epicentre of the band, it’s also keenly apparent that every additional member had his relevant part to play in the process. Of this highly collaborative and meticulously layered approach, Adam observes, “They join this process at different stages, but I still consider it as a collective work. Very much so, and everybody really adds something important to the music at some point or other. It’s very important for me to get other people involved in what we do, because there's some kind of synergy at work here, and this is creating something much, much bigger than than just the separate energies of four guys. I can observe it in every album we’ve ever made, and here we have a new phenomenon with this new guy on board. I thought that I would use his fantastic skills here and there, exposing them more in those technical parts, especially because he's very death metal-oriented himself. Also, the bass player is more involved on this album than on the previous one. I'm really happy about that, too. And he'll be also involved in making vocals on our live shows, like backing vocals, because that's one element that really distinguishes this album from the previous ones, that there are more elaborate vocal parts with more layers of different vocals.”
Indeed, from the searing, staccato-laden ferocity of ‘Awakening The Gods’ through to ‘Saturnus’s’ intoxicating blend of hyperblasting aggression and ghoulishly absorbing atmospheres, resulting full-length ‘Rugia’ is awash with a rich variety of viciously energised elements and coldly entrancing energies. With each one seamlessly assembled into a collectively staggering masterwork of modern metal, there’s no doubt that the band’s prior wealth of experience and meticulous approach to the writing and recording process proved integral to ensuring as savage and immersive a result as humanly possible.
Yet, beyond the more practical considerations typically associated with crafting an album, the inspirational roots of Hate’s music appear to stem from an altogether more deep-seated and philosophical point of origin. With the band’s past three records delving progressively deeper into the ancient lore and legends of their native country’s rich pagan heritage, Hate’s latest blackened epic, ‘Rugia’ takes its name from the last legendary surviving bastion of Western paganism. Having fought many a valiant battle against relentless wave upon wave of invading Christian soldiers seeking to conquer and convert its proud shamanic peoples, Rugia is said to have remained an undefeatable stronghold of Slavic mysticism up until the 13th century. An avid researcher of these ancient and endlessly intriguing mythologies, Adam explains, “The album is a tribute to Rugia, which is the archaic name of today's German island of Rügen in the Baltic Sea. And this was once a religious hub for the Western Slavs, a very important place where the famous Arkona Temple was located, and the last bastion of Western paganism that existed right up until the 13th century. At this point, Poland had already been baptised for three centuries, but the occupants of Rugia were still pagans. And today it’s just one big archaeological site with more than a dozen temples discovered. It’s a very interesting and fascinating place that still emanates this sort of magical energy.”
Indeed, it seems that there is still much to be learned from these ancient yet timelessly relevant and enlightening legends. Perhaps now, more so than ever, in this turbulent modern era of environmental crisis, global pandemic and political corruption.
“Archaic Slavic philosophy was all about worshipping nature, worshipping the elements because we come from them,” Adam explains. “We are like a representation or manifestation of nature, and the natural elements they called gods, and that's why we worship those gods. We worship parts of them that exist in us as well. So that's the philosophy that they cherished back in the day, and I think we can learn a few things from them still. We, the contemporary people in our living and our civilisation destroying this planet. Showing respect for the natural world is an important lesson that we can learn from them, I think.”
And speaking of humankind and its increasingly problematic relationship with the natural world, talk inevitably turns to the subject of international touring and the band’s hopes of getting back out onto the road after a painfully protracted lull in live activity. Despite the ever-unpredictable current climate in which we find ourselves at the tail-end of 2021, Buszko seems quietly optimistic about the band’s forthcoming tour plans.
“The first full-fledged tour is going to happen in February, March, again with Suffocation and Belphegor, because it is the same tour, actually the same line-up restored after almost two years. You know, more shows this time, and it looks like a one month-long tour covering most of Europe except Scandinavia. I am looking forward to this thoroughly and keeping my fingers crossed, you know, because you never know what’s going to happen in the meantime. But I hope everything will be fine and we will play this tour.”
'Rugia' is out now via Nuclear Blast