HATE FOREST “Innermost”

By Dr. Abner Mality

It cannot be a coincidence that this promo comes across my desk on a day with lethal -40 degree temperatures and blowing snow. I can’t imagine a better accompaniment to such death-dealing cold than the latest output from Roman Saenko, also of DRUDKH, BLOOD OF KINGU and WINDSWEPT fame. This is black metal cold and bleak enough to cause frostbite. It has the sort of straightforward purity that all of Saenko’s projects have.

Saenko also hails from Ukraine. “Innermost” was written and recorded in December of 2021, as clouds of war were hovering over his homeland. A war that was soon to be let loose in all its bloody fury, especially in Saenko’s home city of Kharkhiv, which has endured unimaginable horror. Surely HATE FOREST channels all this dread into its potent black metal.

“Those Who Howl Inside The Snowstorm” opens the six-track blitzkrieg with blazing fast and freezingly cold black metal directly from the 90’s. No subterfuge or messing around at all here, but if you listen closely, you can hear strange overtones of melody within the fury, a trait that’s even more evident on the epic “By Full Moon’s Light Alone, the Steppe Throne Can Be Seen”, which is brimming with “micro-melodies” within the rage. “Temple of the Great Eternal Night” surprises because it delivers a sizable amount of acoustic darkness, even ending on an acoustic note.

There's also sadness and a very wintry bleakness in HATE FOREST, two very necessary elements of black metal that many more “modern” bands forget. “Solitude In Starry December” alternates fast and more mid-paced approaches to create a song as cold as its name would indicate. One noticeable different in HATE FOREST is that Saenko uses a more guttural death metal vocal approach as opposed to the usual BM rasping. It helps set them apart.

Another top notch black metal album from a creator who knows his subject inside and out. Good luck to him and Ukraine in their battle against real life terror.