The Gates Of Slumber
posted on 7/2011 By:
Burn in Hell, middle ground -- the truly memorable works of our time are those efforts that populate the more intense realms of love and hate. And really, album number five from The Gates of Slumber is exactly the sort of release that genuinely defines the phrase "love it or hate it." The press has been overwhelmingly positive, which I personally feel is much deserved, but the root anatomy of a beast such as this that enunciates a slowly chugging engine completely devoid of bells and whistles is something I'm also unsurprised to see tackled with an equal share of cynical squawking.
But what really makes The Wretch work, beyond the fact that it's representative of a long-standing band finally receiving the golden touch of a perfect production job, is the fact that the elements causing the most bellyaching are precisely the ones that help push the record to a pinnacle for those of us who can't seem to put it down. The Wretch is raw as dogballs, wholly unadorned, and sounds like the band ripped the fucker directly to platter live in the studio with no interest in backpedaling to smudge away subtle imperfections. It's also a satisfyingly precise musical representation of its morose cover art: dark, elemental and with equal amounts of attention given to budding life as there is to things slowly rotting away.
Tack these elements to the band's newly elder method of re-emphasizing plodding roots-doom and you've got a record that folks will find either extremely compelling due to its peeled integrity, or severely tedious because of its lack of elaboration. Dark, slow and miserable numbers like the opening "Bastards Born", "Castle of the Devil" and the album's title track are that much more grim with Simon (guitars/vocals), McCash (bass) and newfound pummeler Clyde Paradis standing mostly stripped of the band's long-standing 'epic metal' battle garb. And the more galloping moments -- "The Scovrge of Drvnkeness", "To the Rack with Them" and "Coven of Cain" -- all wallop with a combat hammer's heaviness, but do so without relying on the fantastical sword 'n' axe themes that dominated previous releases.
So, with the Into Glory Ride-isms freshly toned down, the band's doomier progenitors shine beneath the spotlight more clearly. Saint Vitus is an easy mark not only due to the shared themes of hard life and booze, but also because Simon's craggy voice has a distinct Wino slant and his soloing hearkens that fiery 'spontaneous combustion' Dave Chandler style that sounds nearly improvised on the spot. But to call this record a simple Vitus knockoff is honestly way-the-hell off the mark. The decade-plus that these Indianapolites have spent toiling at the furnace equips The Wretch with a sound that's unmistakably "Gates of Slumber." And the fact that it's captured in its rawest, most elemental form, unfettered by extraneous studio trickery, is exactly what qualifies The Wretch not only as the band's strongest release to date, but also as one of 2011's best.
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