Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Gates of Slumber - Stormcrow EP (album review)

Cover artwork by Dave Quiggle.
There are few names more trusted in the field of Doom than The Gates of Slumber.  With only some twenty months having passed since the release of their monumental 'The Wretch' album, much of the landscape has changed.  Some high profile bands have moved away from strict, traditional doom as a go-to sound and opted for a more heavy metal approach (Egypt), while others have broken up (Hour of 13), re-formed (Palace in Thunderland), returned (Corrosion of Conformity, Saint Vitus) and founded new bands (The Scimitar).  Others still have veered off into strange and challenging territory, but one constant has remained: The Gates of Slumber.

After 15 years of swinging axes and splitting skulls, it's safe to say that The Gates of Slumber are a veteran, capable band.  This maturity is obvious from the first minute of opening track "Death March" (see video below).  They are a band in complete control of their compositions, where 'The Wretch' saw a band exploring longer compositions concentrating in some parts on low end atmospherics and prolonged mood swings, 'Stormcrow' boils their essence down to five digestible songs without having to sacrifice atmosphere.

This band knows their stuff.  'Stormcrow' is an (abridged) encyclopedia of riffs, a (short) blue book for doom mechanics.  Beserker adrenaline rushes are followed by bone-tired battle-weariness in an endless cycle of survivalism.  All five tracks here are full up with seething, sneering riffs, leering, slithering basslines and powerhouse drumming.  The drumming may be the difference here as 'Stormcrow' hails the return of 'Iron' Bob Fouts to the fold after a couple years' absence.  There was nothing wrong with J. Clyde Paradis' drumming on 'The Wretch', but one gets the feeling that Karl Simon and Jason McCash were energized by the return of Fouts and the completion of the band's classic lineup.

On a side note, one thing that I really love about metal is the EP format.  Nowhere else in music can bands, musicians or paid lip-syncing faces get away with this.  Too short to be an album, too long to be a single, it's neither here nor there.  It's not really a respected or well-traveled format in any other genre of music outside of metal.  But it's a way for bands to stay in touch, to let the listeners know that they care and to say soothingly, "sshh-sh-sh, don't worry, we're still crushing skulls."  This is the band's fifth EP and 17th release in total since the time they were a one-man band (Simon) back in 2000.  Thanks to the EP format, Gates of Slumber are always crushing skulls.  They have returned once again to lay waste to eardrums and to plant the flag of doom deep atop the hill of battle.

Welcome to air guitar city, 'Stormcrow' is infused with energy and action, keeping the more pronounced somber moods of 'The Wretch' to the realm of post-battle reflection.  I would recommend this EP to metalheads who don't ordinarily go for Doom but are Doom-curious.

Highlights include: "Son of Hades" and "Death March"

Rating: 5/5

1). Death March (5:50)
2). [Devil's Grip] - Driven Insane (5:36)
3). Son of Hades (6:12)
4). Dragon Caravan (5:06)
5). Of That Which Can Never Be (7:56)
Total Run Time: 30:38

Karl Simon (Guitars, Vocals)
Jason McCash (Bass)
'Iron' Bob Fouts (Drums)

From: Indianapolis, Indiana

Genre: Doom

Reminds me of: Corrosion of Conformity, Egypt, Saint Vitus

Release Date: January 29, 2013

Suggested listening activity for fellow non-stoners: Cross the time-worn raider infested canyon with battleaxe in hand, taking heads.

Better Reviews:
Dr. Doom's Lair
Last Rites
Temple of Perdition
Perkele in Italian

Crows n Bones interview

Gates of Slumber official website
Gates of Slumber on facebook

The EP itself has its own facebook page ... no joke.


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