Black September: The Forbidden Gates Below (2011 Reissue)

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Black September: The Forbidden Gates Below (2011 Reissue)
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Black September: The Forbidden Gates Beyond
Death Metal
Shaman Records, Prosthetic Records (2011)
September 17th, 2010 / June 7th, 2011
Release length: 36:09
Myspace
Website
Chicago, Illinois has seen the rise and fall to plenty of Metal acts over the years. So, it should come as no surprise that yet another has made it’s way from there. Black September formed back in 2006, and since then this Death Metal group has been hammering away at new material, issuing three EPs, a split and a demo over the years until they issued their debut full-length, The Forbidden Gates beyond, through Shaman Records. The release was only pressed as a limited edition release of five hundred vinyl copies. Roughly one year later, Prosthetic Records picked up the rights to reissue the album on CD for a 2011 release date (which has absolutely nothing different about it other then the format it’s available in). Given the label’s history of reissuing some really great albums, including a number of Testament releases, one can only wonder if this release lives up to the label’s standards as far as that category of release goes, or if this is not quite up to the caliber of being made available once more.

One thing that stands out immediately after the introduction on the title track “The Forbidden Gates Beyond” is the audio quality. This is simply superb. The music slams in with some held chords that show off the deep, bass driven sound, and some really fantastic audio levels. The guitars here sort of a duller edge to them, retaining a bit of a sharpness, but still blunt enough that it hits you hard. This works with the already dominating and powerful bass guitar that backs the instrument up and gives the music a crushing, uncompromising sound the second it starts. The atmosphere feels grim thanks to this, and when you throw in the higher rhaspier growls that bark out with authority against some of the best drum audio you could hope to find in a Death Metal release, having rich snares against loud, deep bass thuds and perfectly leveled cymbols that match the rest of the kit, yet still give off more of a commanding sound to the already present tone of the release, you find The Forbidden Gates Beyond becomes a far more intense experience then you originally thought it would be.

The aforementioned title track really sets the tone of the album perfectly. The faster material here just hammers away at the listener to leave him or her feeling helpless against the crushing material. But while the hastened pace of the song works out great for it’s intensity, the song does slow down towards the end and just hammers away with a grueling attack of crushing atmosphere and power before it goes back into a quicker speed to close out the song, transitioned very well in a manner that feels more like song itself is throwing a towel your way to wipe the blood from the attack off you before leading into the more modern sounding Death Metal fury of “Creation of Chaos.” The pounding guitars and drums simply don’t let up and go straight for the juggular with a rhythm so catchy that you’ll want to start a mosh wherever it is you stand, and commend a mandatory headbang when that rhythm transforms into pure brutality and madness. But, aside the sheer aggression the band incorporates into the recording, there’s always that slight hint of hopelessness in the atmosphere of the release.

It’s nice to see the band focus on that aspect of the release, and what is already present in the music is great to hear. “Hallow of Decay” is a brief instrumental interlude that features some desolate sounding guitars against wind, making for a strong environment for “Tyrants” to come into, but not having the two connect in any way does end up hurting things a bit. There’s really no need for “Hallow of Decay” to even be present, and would sound a lot better as a closing track then anything else, especially given the less energetic “Tyrants” that doesn’t quite have the same kind of impact as the previous two songs. Here, the band goes at a generally slow pace that gradually builds throughout. While it’s far from a bad song, the track itself doesn’t really start off to well and can come through a little on the generic side until it does start to expand in aggression. This track also poses a bit of a problem in the fact that there is such an insanely long gap of silence at the end of the track. “Tyrants” fades out completely at five minutes and forty two seconds, but yet the track is six minutes and forty two seconds, giving the listener a full minute of silence. One could argue this is to represent the time to switch sides of the vinyl and put the needle back on the record though, as well as any additional silence on the original pressing. It makes sense, but since we’re not doing that now, there’s really no point in it being there, and it ends up just feeling awkward.

Sadly at this point, the material that Black September presents isn’t quite as powerful, but it’s still pretty good. “The Absence of Life & Death” has some moments to it that don’t quite stand up to what the album started off with, but at the same time it will still have your head banging along through the whole song, especially when the music does pick up with richer sound and atmosphere that hammers away at anyone able to hear it. “Unleashed,” the longest track off the release, also seems to have this problem, but in the end it all seems to boil down to the length. While the band doesn’t necessarily pad it out, there is definitely some passages to this track that, like with “The Absence of Life & Death,” are just not as strong as other portions of the song itself. However, it still has a strong rhythm that will find your head bobbing along to the music at the very least.

The Forbidden Gates Beyond is undoubtedly a strong album. Well, at least the first half is. Black September pull absolutely no punches with this release at all. The aggression and fury found in the songs that make up most of the album is simply brutal, though the later few songs feel a little less intimidating and atmospheric, which is disheartening to say the least. But overall, The Forbidden Gates Beyond is undeniably one intense album that glorifies the potential of Death Metal, and how a great audio sound can really compliment the music that the band is playing. If you’re looking for a dark and sinister album, then this is one release you need to check out, whether it’s the vinyl version, or the reissue.

01. The Forbidden Gates Beyond – 6:16
02. Creation of Chaos – 4:33
03. Hallow of Decay – 1:18
04. Tyrants – 6:43
05. Tombs – 3:55
06. The Absence of Life & Death – 6:15
07. Unleashed – 7:09
Overall Score: 8.5/10


Digital review copy of this release provided by Prosthetic Records.