HATE FOREST – INNERMOST (Osmose Productions)

Hate Forest is an institution in itself and each new release from Black Metal’s most notorious history teacher constitutes an event of note. Thus, when a sixth full-length, comprising 35 minutes of unexpected new HF material, arrives completely out of the blue, this is indeed a most welcome development. But does the incorporation of some Drudkh-isms into the tried-and-trusted Hate Forest formula detract from the overall experience?

Over the past two decades and more, Hate Forest has created a slew of mandatory releases. There was of course that prolonged hiatus of 15 years but under this glorious banner Roman Saenko has otherwise managed to average around one full-length album per year. ‘Hour of the Centaur’ marked an unexpected return in December 2020 and this new record was recorded twelve months later.

All six of Hate Forest’s albums are fantastic; some are even more amazing than others. Obviously a law of diminishing returns will set in eventually, which generally can make each new addition to the discography seem less momentous than some of the preceding ones. Also, it is impossible not to observe that this is the first Hate Forest album that has been infused very markedly by the more melodious meanderings of Roman’s other long-running project of note, Drudkh.

The result is that ‘Innermost’, though still a worthy exercise, is the least barbaric, primitive, raw and hostile Hate Forest album to date, which is a bit of a shame as those are essential qualities that enable Hate Forest’s music to truly stand out. Obviously, the more Hate Forest albums there are in the world the better, but the fact that ‘Innermost’ sounds at times like a Drudkh / Hate Forest hybrid (the acoustic interlude at the centre and end of the eight-minute ‘Temple of the Great Eternal Night’ being a very obvious example of this – contrasting dramatically with the ensuing ‘Whiteout Silence’, which is a powerful return to known form) dilutes its delivery and makes it the least potent release thus far under this mighty moniker.

Evilometer: 444/666