Haterush - Baptised in fire 3.5/5

Reviewed: 9-7-07


1. Batpised in fire
2. Salvation
3. Ending all the rage
4. Damned nation
5. Demon dealer
6. The chalice
7. Empire
8. Soulsearcher
9. Jester's fool
10. Out of reflection
11. Frantic soul
12. Sorrow
13. Danger
14. Witching hour

Okay, I know the band name, CD title, and Black Mark label affiliation conjure up notions of brutal death metal or hardcore-influenced aggro stuff. Bear with me. Haterush has nothing to do with those type of sounds, so please don't judge this book by its cover. Remember the late 90s and early 2000s when Sweden was generating world-class melodic power metal that combined 80s traditional metal with European melodies and accelerated pacing? Early Hammerfall, Nocturnal Rites and Dream Evil were all torch-bearers of this school of Swedish anthemic power metal, though numerous other imitators (many of them Swedish) proceeded to glut this style and choke much of the vitality and freshness from it. As a result, the year 2007 finds very little of note being released in this anthemic, guitar-driven Swedish power style (Dreamland is an obvious example, and Destynation also comes to mind, but it's not a perfect fit, and it came out in 2006, in any event). Most of the originators have grown stale and/or changed their sound, and most of the copycats have died out or made drastic sonic adjustments. It's truly a pity, in my mind, as when this style is done well it's tremendously exciting and fun.

Enter Haterush, a 5-piece act from Sweden (where else?) that have studied and mastered this turn-of-the-millenium Swedish power metal sound. Their 2004 debut CD, 'Mark of the warrior', was released on Black Lotus to little fanfare, and was certainly well done for the style. Despite a change in record labels, the addition of a 2nd guitarist, and a personnel change at the bass guitar position, the level of quality has remained steady on Haterush's recently released sophomore outing, 'Baptised in fire'. Guitars are upfront and have ample bite, double-bass drums are plentiful, there are few if any keys, catchy choruses abound, and most songs are punchy and anthemic, hovering around the 4-minute mark. The band mix up tempos effectively, but there are no pure ballads (those of you who cringe at those Joacim Cans lyrics crooning on about some damsel being the wind beneath his wings can breathe a sigh of relief here). In even better news, Haterush tend to weight the uptempo numbers a bit heavier than the midtempo tracks, aptly and laudably recognizing that the faster tunes are invariably the more exciting and energetic tracks on such a CD. Don't expect to hear anything new or innovative in terms of songwriting, riffs or arrangements, but these songs are sufficiently entertaining so I'm not bothered in the slightest by the fact that Haterush tread a well-beaten path. "Demon dealer", "Ending all the Rage", "Witching hour" and "Frantic soul" are all well-crafted speedy tunes in the time-honored Swedish melodic power metal style. If you love that sound, you're guaranteed to enjoy these songs.

Really, the only black marks (heh) for this Haterush CD are the aforementioned lack of originality (which is not at all troublesome to me, but may be a turn-off to more discriminating metalheads, perhaps) and the sometimes iffy vocals of Stefan Embretsson. I don't think he's a poor singer, by any stretch; rather, I would liken him to Edguy's Tobias Sammet, mixed with the nasal qualities of a Ricky Van Helden (Attack), Michael Grant, or even a touch of Agent Steel's Bruce Hall. It's just that Embretsson is not fully convincing when he invokes his upper register, hits the high notes and holds them, as he often does. Again, I don't mind him, but I could imagine some listeners finding his voice irritating or offputting in some way when he reaches to hit and hold a high note. None of this detracts from the cool songs, in my book, but if you're picky about vocalists you may want to try before you buy. A final point that bears mention is that at 14 songs and more than 60 minutes of running time, Haterush do test the listener's patience at times. It's almost always better to deliver a to-the-point CD with 9 or 10 killer songs than it is to release a bloated CD with 14 songs that range from killer to average.

Ultimately, I'm thrilled that Haterush are giving it a go at performing a now oft-overlooked type of melodic power metal that is near and dear to my heart. They do it well, and they deserve your support. Recommended to most readers of this site, excepting the been-there, done-that set.




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