The Gates of Slumber

Hymns of Blood and Thunder

Written by: EW on 20/11/2009 17:27:08

The Gates of Slumber, another of doom metal's contingent of warriors determined to stay routed to the classic ways of old create an interesting proposition for me. Whilst I love what they're trying to do, and see vocalist/guitarist Karl Simon as an image of myself in years to come, I've never really caught the grand hype that surrounds their every release. And don't say I haven't given them a try; my purchase of this year's "Hymns of Blood and Thunder" sits next to 2 previously purchased albums and an EP in my CD collection, but it is the ever-present feel of 'demo-ishness' in their resolutely retro and old-school sound that has prevented them from becoming a Reverend Bizarre to my soul.

Well, like so many bands profess in press releases from all I've heard of TGoS I do believe "Hymns..." to be their strongest offering to date, which with such a forceful album title really needed to be. Everything these guys do is so unashamedly metal from the band members' collective influences through to their album covers and lyrical subjects, all of which comes out in a sound part trad doom, part NWOBHM recalling many a great name of these respective genres: Saint Vitus, Pentagram, Cirith Ungol, Reverend Bizarre, Judas Priest and Angel Witch to name a few. My album highlight "Beneath The Eyes Of Mars" typifies this resolutely uncommercial stance, pounding out a classic metal template replete with strong vocal melodies and a perfunctory epic synth backing, as in the same mould do "The Bringer Of War" and the excellent "The Doom Of Aceldama". Despite TGoS being a notifiable doom metal band they are infrequently paced as such; ten-minuter "Descent Into Madness" being the most Reverend Bizarre-like track on the LP (i.e. the slowest and most plodding). Reviewing this close to the new Count Raven as I am, these Indianapolis residents win out over the Swedes' latest effort not through emotive involvement, where the two are almost inseparable, but in variation of dynamics and tempo. As such "The Mist In The Mourning" is surprisingly turning out to be one of my favourite tracks - a short, folk-influenced acoustic song with a strong male/female vocal counterbalance that I read in the liner notes came to mainman Karl Simon in a "drug-induced haze in a London hotel". Well then, if drugs can help you produce such songs, ignore all the medical advice kids: do drugs and one day you might be this good.

Even in an album featuring as many strengths as this one does I still feel TGoS have it in them to do better, and produce the album that makes a modern-day doom great out of them. The basis of a memorable sound is all here while the band proves they can write songs good both on record and live but still, the extra degree of song-writing panache is absent, preventing The Gates from joining the premier league of doom. No matter, because in a music world of increased sterility and groundless taste we all need a band like The Gates of Slumber to prove that even with a beer belly and receding hair line a man still be cool.


Download: Beneath The Eyes Of Mars, The Doom Of Aceldama, Chaos Calling, The Mist In The Mourning
For The Fans Of: Black Sabbath, Pentagram, Saint Vitus, Cirith Ungol
Listen: Myspace

Release date: 14.09.2009
Rise Above Records

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