Released: 2011, Metal Blade Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
Full disclosure – I was prepared to loathe this record. I’ve been well past the point of tolerance for deathcore in general for a long while now, and Cincinnati’s Rose Funeral has been the genre’s whipping boy over the course of their last few records. But like it or not, the band’s latest GATES OF PUNISHMENT will no doubt be a big album for Metal Blade Records this year, and when the promo found its way to my inbox, I felt it was my duty to take one for the team and add GATES OF PUNISHMENT to my review pile this month.
First impressions: GATES OF PUNISHMENT isn’t terrible. It’s not great, but it’s certainly not the hot mess that 2009’s THE RESTING SONATA was. In actuality, it’s within eyeshot of being a decent slab of traditional blood n’ guts death metal, but the progress forward that the band makes on the album is offset by their readiness to kill the momentum with uninspired and unnecessary breakdowns. Comedian Patton Oswalt has a bit about the challenges of being an overweight dad trying to keep up with his 3-year old daughter. As the joke goes, his daughter dances frantically for 90-seconds, stops and props herself against a wall. Not because she’s tired, but because that’s what she sees daddy doing (‘cause dad’s fat and can’t endure more than 90-seconds of activity without a time-out to catch his breath and hopefully avoid a stroke).
And that’s analogy that immediately came to mind after listening to GATES OF PUNISHMENT – Rose Funeral is like a fat guy dancing. When the band is riffing along at a good clip, it’s not a bad time. Tracks like “Beyond the Entombed,” “False Divine,” “Malignant Armour,” and “Amidst Gehenna” are all strong tracks at their core, but just as the band is building some serious momentum, BAM! The pace stops like a crash test dummy hitting a brick wall, the band strikes their crab walk pose, and the breakdowns march into town. And it’s the same empty “DUNGH, DUGGAH, DUNGH, DUNGH, DUNGHHHH” each time. What’s truly sad though is that they sound awkwardly inserted throughout the album, and counterintuitive to what’s happening in 80% of the song. Almost like the band consciously made a decision during the writing process to dumb things down a bit, because that’s what fans expect to hear. That, or they’re really are like the fat guy dancing, and the breakdowns provide a metaphorical smoke break for the band.
If I could play Jiminy Crickett to Rose Funeral, I’d say 1) hire a second guitarist that can provide some real support in the lead guitar department and 2) cut the crap. I went from being ready to hate this album to being surprised at how close the band came to breaking away from the genre’s stereotypes. GATES OF PUNISHMENT get the “Close, but no Cigar” award of the month, but it’s closer than the band’s ever been.