The Gates of Slumber is a Doom Metal act that many probably have yet to hear about, even though the group fomed back in 2008. Hailing from Indianapolis, Indiana, the band has issued a number of releases since their first demo in 2000, and for the most part, it’s remained underground. However, with the group recently signing with Rise Above Records, a label that works alongside the legendary Metal Blade Records, it’s pretty obvious more people are going to take notice of this group as they are pushed away from the underground world, and practically shoved into the spotlight for The Wretch, the band’s fifth full-length effort. Sticking with a contemporary old-school Heavy Metal vibe on a strong Doom Metal meets Stoner Rock level, the album will strike chords with any fan of the glory days of Metal, and alienate anyone looking for something fresh and new. But, will this offering appease those who could fully enjoy the embracing of the style’s roots?
While the band has their pulse on a traditional Heavy Metal style with fantastical lyrics about knights and battles and things along those lines, the music isn’t your typical Heavy Metal approach. Sure the sound has a good amount of NWOBHM traces to it, but manages to really drag the pace of the album down to a crawl at times, keeping with a generally slow Doom Metal speed. “The Scourge ov Drunkenness” is the perfect example of this, reaching bridges that come to a crawl similar to that of a metaphorical snail. This is all executed well enough with a decent amount of distortion to really just make the music sound heavy and powerful, and when mixed with the clean singing that comes off a little back of throat or nasal, it all just works together to create a burdening, yet relaxing overall product that will you kicking back and getting swept away by the somewhat adventurous music. Some tracks have a stronger Heavy Metal feel to them, such as “Day of Farewell”, but at the same time that appears to be countered by some much slower or drastic Doom Metal sections, such as the ending of the track being a chugging guitar passage with matching drums that pound along in an almost ritualistic manner that continues for a good length of time, almost hypnotizing the listener to drift away completely before reaching it’s timely conclusion.
“Castle of the Devil” is perhaps one of the more interesting tracks of the recording. The nearly eight minute long track starts with a guitar and vocals that add a more psychadelic feel to the music before the Doom tinged epic sounding Heavy Metal chords mesh with a stable Doom foundation to create something one might expect from a Candlemass or even Cathedral album, all the while going back to those psychadelic slower passages that bring up concepts of sixties Stoner Rock acts. It’s a very interesting mixture that does offer a bit of a stronger unique sound to the music, though it doesn’t necessarily show up in other songs, which winds up being a real let down considering how impressive turns out here. Even the guitar solo on this track, which brings up the atmosphere, as well as general tempo of the song, to a more upbeat Jazz or Blues sound thanks to the rhythm of the drums mixed with a guitar solo that feels like it’s meant to be a very passionate one, but just doesn’t go through and in the end feels like a more Progressive atmospheric solo that is meant to set up some kind of geographical vibe that you can basically use to slip away into your mind with, while vocals later on in the song bare a sense of a more genuine Gothic sound such as Nick Cave and the Bad seeds. Yes, the song basically goes all over the board with the various atmospheres, though this is more from a critical view point, and may be from looking too deply into it. This isn’t to say it’s bad, but rather more complex then one might expect.
But, for each solid slower paced, long lengthed Doom Metal inspired track, some of the songs that stand out the most on The Wretch are the more traditional Heavy Metal ones. “To the Rack with Them” is a nice mixture of the two styles, though it has a head bang worthy rhythm to it that could feed a narcotic fit, or general urge to hear some solid old-school Heavy Metal. The music sounds heavy, and the song has a strong melody to it through the more mid-tempo pace, and becomes one of the more accessible songs on the release due to how catchy it is. In addition, there is also “Cover of Cain”, which has a much faster pace to it that seethes with traditional Heavy Metal and NWOBHM, leaving out a good chunk of the Doom Metal approach that has garnished each song on The Wretch upo to this point, and after. Even shades of vintage Rock and Stoner Rock bands can be felt in the music and clean vocal performance, such as Ozzy, and even extending to the heavier aspect with occassional moments bringing up classic Motorhead. “Iron and Fire”, the longest track on this release, does have a stronger Heavy Metal vibe to it, but really it often feels like it’s mixed with a little Sludge. The drumming feels a little more like a ritualistic or tribal approach at times, and the slower Doom Metal pace helps aid to that general atmosphere and keep the song interesting, though the music does manage to change up throughout the song to keep it varied, such as a sudden jump to a straight forward Doom Metal track around the two minute fifty second mark. It’s these slower passages that cause the song to last as long as it does, but with how heavy and crushing the music sounds, it becomes something to lay back and accept the crushing weight to until the very end.
While not the most impressive or original take on a sound from Metal’s past, The Gates of Slumber create a thick and heavy Doom/Heavy metal experience one soon won’t forget. The songs are often performed just right to lure the listener into a state of mind that let’s him or her simply slip away to the music and relax nicely. The two more Heavy Metal based tracks stand out nicely on the recording, and the slower tracks can sometimes feel a bit drug out, but at the same time have just enough of an edge and thickness to them that crushes the listener into remain still and embracing the flow of the music as a means to become lost within his or her self. For fans of this style of music, it’s well worth checking out, and a good throwback to some of the more imprtant days of Metal. Will this be the album that expands and solidifies The Gates of Slumber‘s fan base moreso then before? Perhaps, but even if it doesn’t, it’s still a crushing release.