The Gates of Slumber
The Wretch

When it was revealed The Gates of Slumber’s fifth album would be a return to the old school doom vibe of their debut, and that former Sourvein drummer ‘Cool’ Clyde Paradis was on board, I had a good feeling. I got into them in a backward fashion, hearing their last album first and their first album last. As great as their latter 3 albums are, the debut stands out simply because of how different it is. Where their latter 3 albums are epic and exude a strong trad metal influence, their debut is dirty, straightforward Sabbathian doom and I was very interested to see where they would go. I’m happy to say that the Wretch has arrived and sweet zombie Jesus is it a crusher.

If Hymns of Blood and Thunder is the glory of battle, The Wretch is the emptiness of victory, the warrior’s realization that all the blood, drink and whores will never fill the vacuity of existence. Where Hymns… opens with bombast, the Wretch begins with gloom. It’s obvious from the first notes and Karl Simon’s suffocating guitar tone that this record would be nothing like its predecessor. My first reaction was to echo Morbo the Annihilator and his perpetual call for “DOOOOOOOOOM!!!!” “Bastards Born” is a slice of pure old school heavy, with a low and slow gait and Simon’s dialed back vocal approach complimenting the riffs and mood. His vocal approach here is more emotive and suits the somber tone well. While the melancholic feel of songs like “Conqueror” and “To Kill and Be King” appear here and there, albeit in a much darker tone on “The Wretch” and “Iron and Fire”, the over the top epic atmosphere of their earlier work has largely been replaced by the aforementioned DOOOOOOOM!

There isn’t a bad song here and with so many great moments scattered amongst them you’ll want to listen to this over and over again. I have been unable to get the main riff of “To the Rack With Them” out of my head since I first heard it weeks ago and I sing along with the chorus every time. The groove that kicks in after the first verse of “Day of Farewell” is the very definition of a bad ass jam. None of the songs approach the speed of “Chaos Calling”, but the inebriated stomp of “The Scourge ov Drunkeness” and the traditional metal feel of “Coven of Cain” keep the album moving and from being bogged down by the doom mire.

The shift in drummers was definitely a change for the better. Bob Fouts is no slouch behind the kit, but Paradis’ stripped down style fits the musical change to a t. Paradis lends a heavy plodding swagger to Simon’s riffs and solos and the simplified song structures and the riff focused approach gives extra weight to his heavy, thick beats. For example, listen as Simon channels David Gilmour over the seriously filthy rhythm developed by Paradis and bassist Jason McCash during the solo on “Castle of the Devil”.

What The Gates of Slumber have done with The Wretch is school every band that has considered going back to their roots. They take the sound and vibe of their first album and expand and improve upon it. It isn’t a token throwback album so many bands end up doing to appease grumbly fans. If anything they built their rep on the epic approach they refined from Suffer No Guilt to Hymns of Blood and Thunder. To head back to the first record and go in a new direction takes balls. It’s a shame that there will probably be quite a few fans of Hymns… that won’t like this record because of how different it is. It is the darkest thing they’ve written and also the best.

The worst thing a long running band can do is dead end and it’s clear that these boys are nowhere near tapped of creative energy. The Gates of Slumber have genuinely upped their game while staking out fertile new ground for the band to grow from. Really, is there anything more a long running band can do? This is surely one of finest pure doom records of the year and a serious contender for album of the year. Bravo, gents. Bravo.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Chuck Kucher
July 11th, 2011

Comments

  1. Commented by: Jesse Wolf

    I must’ve listened to Castle Of The Devil about a thousand times already. Album is killer, great review man.


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