The Gates of Slumber
Conqueror

Return to the days of old… when enemies were crushed and driven before you, and the air was filled with the lamentation of the women. When manly, battle-scarred barbarians swung their six-strings and pummeled their wardrums. When bands like Brocas Helm, Cirith Ungol and Manilla Road mixed classic heavy metal, doom and a fascination for all things Frazetta. The Gates of Slumber open before you…

Okay, enough of that.

Conqueror’s first track, “Trapped in the Web,” opens on a moody, eerie note, trudging out of the mists of time. Then it explodes into a raucous, classic metal riff, like thundering hoofbeats on the horizon. It’s like being back in the early 80s, but with better production value. Strong rhythm work, blazing solos, plenty of bluesy, smoldering Sabbath stomp. It’s fun, fist-pumping stuff, but delivered without the slightest hint of irony.

The onslaught continues with fast-paced battle-anthems like “Ice Worm’s Lair,” which boasts a relentless, churning groove, and “Children of Satan,” a blistering ride across the desert, told from the perspective of Muslim raiders. “Rape them and slay them, in the name of Allah,” sings guitarist/vocalist Karl Simon, and for once, we get a Middle Eastern themed song that doesn’t resort to cliché, Arabian Nights melody in order to create a mood. The galloping bass and syncopated, crashing cymbals sound like you’re listening to Steve Harris and Nicko McBrain, making “Children of Satan” come off like the doomy, long-lost brother of “The Trooper.”

The Gates of Slumber represent their doom heritage with equal intensity. The title track is a slower, sludgier tromp, especially after the fireworks of “Trapped” – it’s like spending 6:40 strapped to the Wheel of Pain (I mean that in a good way). “To Kill and Be King” starts off with pounding hammerblows and warnings of ruin, then picks up momentum in its second half (apparently the “Be King” half of the equation), when massive, authoritative riffs trade off with a series of searing solos. And “The Dark Valley Suite,” a four-part, 16-minute epic inspired by the work of Robert E. Howard, takes you from a crushing deathmarch to the glory of battle and back again.

If there’s one stumble I heard during this Conqueror’s ride, it’s the vocals. They’re suitably urgent and feel appropriately old-school, but at times they can get overwhelmed by the power and precision of the music. This is most apparent during “Trapped in the Web,” and “The Machine,” where it just seems like the range isn’t quite there. When Simon sticks to a more mid-range, insistent rumble, as on “Children of Satan,” or adds a ragged, St Vitus-like bite, as on parts of “Dark Valley Suite,” he’s a much more rousing, commanding presence. It’s not terrible by any means, and yes, there’s a certain amount of homage going on, but I would’ve responded better to something grander and more monstrous. (I have the same issue with The Sword.)

Ultimately, this is an enjoyable album, and well worth checking out for fans of true/heavy metal, classic doom, and Conan. In fact, you could pretty much throw on the movie (the first one, of course) and mute the soundtrack if you wanted to. It may not sync up the way Pink Floyd‘s Dark Side of the Moon kinda does with The Wizard of Oz, but Crom would be pleased if it did.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
August 15th, 2008

Comments

  1. Commented by: Apollyon

    Conan!

    Have to check this out. Good read.


  2. Commented by: Cynicgods
  3. Commented by: Desperado

    Crom laughs at your god!Nice review,Howard,Frezetta and all things Barberous Rule!


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