The Wakedead Gathering: The Gate and the Key

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The Wakedead Gathering: The Gate and the Key
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The Wakedead Gathering: The Gate and the Key
Death Metal
I, Voidhanger Records
January 13th, 2014
Release length: 39:48
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The Wakedead Gathering has returned with the follow-up to their debut album Tenements of Ephemera, a largely limited run of one-hundred CD-R copies followed by two-hundred cassettes issued through Dark Descent Records. The one man Death Metal project from Cincinnati, Ohio has signed with I, Voidhanger Records to present a brand new conceptual album titled The Gate and the Key. Given the steam that Andrew Lampe has built with the first endeavour, as well as 2012’s Dark Circles EP, this recording is primed to be widely acclaimed by many, hailed as a stunning example of the underground Death Metal world at its roughest. But is The Gate and the Key really that dismally decadent, or is it far from anything remotely enlightening?

First of all, the concept definitely casts the grim and rather raw atmosphere in the right direction. According to the press release accompanying the album, The Gate and the Key is the story of a group of dimensional travellers that end up passing through a black hole. It sends them “into an alien realm, where they are abducted, studied, and painfully morphed into a race of Lovecraftian entities inhabiting that dimension.” This is so they can become “the ‘key’ that will open the ‘gate’ for the Ancient Ones to penetrate our reality.” Right away, this release takes on some additional depth, as well as tries to hook the typical Horror/Science Fiction fans by offering a release based around the Cthulhu Mythos, whi h has proven widely successful in the mainstream lately thanks to the recent Chthulhu driven episodes of South Park, as well as the box office smash hit Cabin in the Woods.

With fans of H.P. Lovecraft already on the hook, one can only hope the music will live up to the source material. Thankfully, for the most part, it does. The grim, bludgeoning atmosphere laced with the bass heavy performances work well to convey the tone, and various shifts to the music work to push certain moments and plot points within the tale being told. “Outer Veil” starts with some aggressive Death Metal riffs before being interrupted by a radio transmission that continues to cut in and out, introducing the perils of entering the black hole. The performance that follows introduces some deeply tuned blunt distortions, as well as some clean Science Fiction leads that work to aid the creepiness of the performance. Layered vocals give a nice ritualistic vibe when utilized, and the slower passages are rather intense, but outside the gap of trudging Doom Metal that establishes an isolated environment around the three minute mark, it doesn’t quite hit the listener the way it should.

Thankfully there are other songs here that do hit you pretty hard. “Collector of Memories” has a heavy groove to it that feels uncompromising, shifting into absolute chaos when the pace slows to reflect panic through a system issue setting off alarms represented by the notes of the guitar. The tension builds nicely thanks to this, and at the two minute mark there is some additional Progressive technicality on display that increases it. Meanwhile “The Hand, The Eye, The Tongue, The Heart” is a blistering slab of madness comparable to gazing upon one of the Lovecraftian deities. The only gripe is some spots can be a bit empty, like around one minute and forty-five seconds. The mixture of the deep gutturals and distant rasps, both carrying a strong echo, add a little more depth to the plight the crew is under as well, making the perfect way to ease into the highly dismal “Masquerade in Eminence.”

One nice little touch worth noting is that there are some Middle Eastern leads or general chords that can be compared to what Nile would churn out. For those who are acquainted with the Chthulhu Mythos, it’s an interesting play on the fact that the Necronomicon itself was supposedly penned by “The Mad Arab” Abdul Alhazred. Whether this was an intentional inclusion or not, this makes the concept of the album not just more believable, but also much more fascinating and gripping. It also helps to hide some of the issues with the cymbals, which can sound a bit deteriorated sometimes, such as a little after the radio transmission on “Outer Veil.” It’s rare, but when it hits is pretty obvious even if you’re not looking for it.

The Gate and the Key is a well executed slab of brutal precision and technicality with a story any fan of H.P. Lovecraft will wet themselves over. The only problem is that nearly every song conveys an emotion, sets the stage, and makes you aware of what’s happening, but never leaves that memorable a mark until the second act, and even the third finds itself dulled a bit about half way through “Vertex II – The Key.” Really, this is an album where all the small things help to make the overall performance a lot stronger than it would have sounded had it not carried a concept or theme. If you enjoy a good conceptual recording not afraid to take that extra step, then The Gate and the Key by The Wakedead Gathering will twist your sanity and have you coming back for more.

01. Outer Veil – 5:26
02. Autochton – 4:58
03. Hypgnosis – 4:50
04. Collector of Memories – 3:33
05. The Hand, The Eye, The Tonue, The Heart – 2:58
06. Masquerade in Eminence – 4:30
07. Vertex I – The Gate – 2:51
08. Vertex II – The Key – 4:38
09. Absention – 6:05
Initial Pressing Score: 8/10

The Wakedead Gathering
The Wakedead Gathering

Digital review copy of this release provided by I, Voidhanger Records.