"The Wretch"

By Earthdog

The Gates of Slumber was founded in 1998 by guitarist/vocalist Karl Simon, and the band's debut album, 'The Awakening' emerged in 2004. The following year the band recorded the EP 'Like a Plague Upon The Land' and embarked on their first European tour with Thee Plague Of Gentlemen. 2006 saw the release of the 'God Wills It' EP and the band’s second full-length album 'Suffer No Guilt.' A tour followed with US dates with Earthride and Slough Feg. The band then headed back to Europe to support Reverend Bizarre on their Death March farewell tour. From that moment in their history, the band only got busier. 2007 they played the 'Doom Shall Rise festival' as well as releasing their third album 'Conqueror' which received some rave reviews. Even more gigs followed by their 'Rise Above' début 'Hymns Of Blood And Thunder' which was released in September 2009. 2010 saw US dates with  Pentagram and a full US tour with Weedeater followed by more UK and European shows, this time supporting Cathedral. Upon their return to the States drummer ‘Iron’ Bob Fouts left to be replaced by ‘Cool’ Clyde Paradis (ex-Sourvein) who made his live début during an Autumn US tour. Without a doubt The Gates Of Slumber have built quite a fan-base as well as gained some major support from mainstream heavy metal publications, radio and even MTV and VH1.

Now to 2011, the new album, 'The Wretch' is almost due to be released and is already getting major promotion all over the Internet, jumping the gun maybe but the band is one of the most popular at the moment and I have a feeling, that popularity is going to sky-rocket once people hear this new album. I have been a little critical over the band in the past. I still hear most of their back catalog as being inconsistent and their production to be less than impressive most of the time. I am glad to say I have no such negativity with 'The Wretch' which I think is by far their best album yet. In many ways it is a return to the sound the band had in their early days. There has been a major shift to a more doom-metal direction but they haven't forgotten about galloping mid-tempo scorcher's either. The change to the more doom and gloom approach is clear from the opening track, 'Bastards Born.' The song has a strong early Saint Vitus vibe about it while still staying true to The Gates Of Slumber traditions of epic, old-school heavy metal. In contrast, 'The Scovrge Ov Drvnkenness' is mostly a mid-tempo burner and more typical of the style most people would be used to hearing from the band. Same goes with 'Coven of Cain' - these songs are perfectly placed in the albums running order offering some real variety to the mix. There is a lot to be said for where songs are placed on an album, it can really make or break the flow of a recording and The Gates Of Slumber have done an excellent job on this album with this track line-up.

'To the Rack with Them' and 'Day of Farewell' are two killer tracks but contain no real surprises really. The band has always been kind of predictable and these two tracks are no exception. Once these tunes get on their way, you know where they are going but it still kicks ass anyway so predictable yes, boring - no. One of the more interesting tracks is 'Castle of the Devil'. This has a bluesy feel about it, which they have dabbled int before but never as blatantly as this. It even has, dare I say it a jazzy feel especially in the song's middle section. It still holds the band's gigantic, epic sound and approach to metal but they really push their own boundaries in this tune. The last two tracks on the album take up to close to half of the albums playing time and more about that in a minute. The title track, 'The Wretch' and the almost 13 minutes of 'Iron and Fire' both have moments of brilliance but are a bit on the longish side of things. 'Iron and Fire' loses its momentum somewhat. The emphasis on minimalistic metal that they have embraced for this album mostly works for them in a big way but the album also has a few questionable passages - bits and pieces that don't really add anything to the songs and I can see some negative comments being raised from reviewers in the future over this and I hope I am not the only one that hears it. Of course, it is nothing that makes you want to skip a track or hit stop as it's all good but maybe the padding in some songs could have been done without.

Recorded during the British winter of 2010 at Orgone Studios, London and produced by Jaime Gomez Arellano, this is their best produced album so far. I know some of you feel their past albums have sounded a bit thin but you shouldn't hear any of those problems with 'The Wretch.' The album is full of tasty riffs, both doom and trad-metal styles and it constantly beats you over the head with pounding energy and rhythms. Much slower overall with an emphasis on the gloom so that of course will be welcomed by us doom freaks but more important for me is it is just a more consistent effort from the band this time. Give it a month or two and you will be hearing a lot about The Gates Of Slumber and rightly so. I feel the band has reached its peak with this album..............9/10