The Gates Of Slumber
posted on 6/2008 By:
"Several times the length of a man the creature was, and nigh as thick. It lay motionless in a great lake of red-brown cruor. The blood had thickened and crusted over in coagulation, so that it shown as if glowing, reflecting the wall-light. The serpent was still. Its eyes, the colour of new flax and large as a man's eyes, were filmed over. Yet it gave off no stench, nor was it bloated. There was no sign of putrefaction. Nevertheless, the monster was dead. Its great twisted tree-trunk of a body bore the many wounds that had ended its life. It had been stabbed and hacked, sliced and chopped. No juices remained in that prodigious corpse; the number of wounds and its own volcanically violent death throes had seen to that." ~ The Undying Wizard, by Robert E. Howard
How do you feel about that quote? Do you count yourself amongst those who enjoy reading or hearing about skeletal warriors clattering down stairs after being cudgeled by a great war hammer? Wispy tendrils of wizard fire immolating reptilian flesh prick your attention? Many metallers dig this sorta realm; others give it a very wide berth. Whether or not you'll dig Conqueror depends partly on how you regard such topics, as you can't have The Gates of Slumber without the influence of ancient steel, barbaric strength and at least the possibility of a huge reptile rotting in a cave somewhere. And you've gotta like it delivered through heaping measures of traditional doom mixed with straight-up ass-kicking heavy metal. Sound good? If so, please continue. If not, here's your hall pass and a signed note to transfer to a class more fashionable and less...barbarous.
So, why bring Robert E. Howard into the mix at all? Well, it doesn't take much more than a cursory glance at the cover and some of the song titles on Conqueror to see how much of an influence he's had on The Gates of Slumber. And as far as this reviewer's concerned, Howard and his feudal realms are as metal as a spiked gauntlet obliterating the wispiest emo face, and it matches up beautifully with this particular style. The Vitus-tinged walloping doom gallops perfectly alongside long-told stories of warriors shirking the irons of oppression: "To Kill and Be King", the kickass title track and during the first measure of the epic closer, "Dark Valley Suite", for example. And the fuzzier/hazier stoner groove at the core of "Ice Worm" perfectly embodies the slithering, crushing nature of the beast. But it ain't all about sword swingin' and magic missiles. A number of these tunes have lyrics dealing with a much more serious and real nature: the venomous "Eyes of the Liar" is obviously directed at some sonofabitch that did these dudes wrong; the nightmarish "Children of Satan" (easily the most headbangable tune TGoS have written to date) touches on the recent Darfur atrocities; and "The Machine" focuses on the frustrations of dealing with (and being surrounded by) those striving to become yet another cog in the grand machine.
A more varied lyrical approach isn't all that's new in Slumber camp, however. Longtime fans heard rumors of the band infusing more of a classic heavy metal element before Conqueror was even released, and the fellahs sho'-as-shit weren't fibbing. While the whole of the record is still undoubtedly built on a traditional heavy doom foundation, you're gonna hear quite a bit of Di'Anno era Maiden, Cirith Ungol, elder-era Manowar, et al, and it really sounds like this infusion of galloping triumphant metal has injected the band with a fresh energy and general desire to wreck necks. Not that they're complete strangers to whoopin' ass through their music, but the outright savageness of opener "Trapped in the Web" and particularly "The Machine" is quite surprising when stacked up against the band's previous material. This ballsy energy not only blazes through in the overall songwriting, but also when it comes down to each player's individual roles. Karl's voice is stronger and more impassioned, and his lead work is fuckin' downright ripping; Jason's stout bass lines bubble and burst out all over the goddamned place; and Bob Fouts gets numerous opportunities to flash just how well he can roll and double kick his kit to ensure the faster paced measures remain rife with asskickery. In short, Conqueror has a strength and potency that's unmatched by any of the band's previous works, and it's quite welcome.
I can only imagine what kind of world Robert E. Howard could have cooked up if he had an album like Conqueror around to fuel his imagination. Perhaps we would've seen our favorite Cimmerian landing a haymaker on some skinny sitar-plucking dude instead of a camel in the first Conan? "Play loudah! Play heaviah! Crom commands it!!! Or to HELL wis you!!!" I dunno. One thing's for sure, this is a fantastic album that's left me very excited to see what these three veterans of the trade come up with next. Until then, I'd say Conqueror is an enormous success and I highly recommend it.
Register to post comments.
RelatedThe Gates Of Slumber
5/10/2011 The Gates Of Slumber
Hymns Of Blood And Thunder