Released: 2011, Rise Above Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
Yeah…so this is a tough one. The Gates of Slumber have always kind of done their own thing, bridging flavors of traditional heavy metal and old school doom, regardless of what decade it is or what the current trends are. 2009’s HYMNS OF BLOOD AND THUNDER is an example of this Indiana power trio at their best; a massive slab of Candlemass/Cirith Ungol/NWOBHM worship, it had enough moving parts to please most that gave it a listen. Unfortunately, the band’s latest album, THE WRETCH, isn’t nearly as interesting. Plainly said, it’s damn boring.
Now, I give The Gates of Slumber props for bucking the trends, but THE WRETCH doesn’t seem to know where it wants to go or how to get there. Opening with the trudging plod of “Bastards Born,” the tune rests on its main riff and goes nowhere. “The Scovrge Ov Drvnkenness” shows a little more promise with its slow, rolling gait, but quickly settles into a similar trudge. And that’s the root problem with THE WRETCH. None of the tunes are “bad,” but they’re all cut from the template, with the same pace, with the same feeling of that the band’s just going through the motions.
“Castle of the Devil” is one of the few highlights on the album. It’s a more subdued track, but it’s simultaneously subtle and epic at the same time. “Coven of Cain” is the only upbeat track on the album and is a welcome break from the dirge-a-thon. The album’s title track sounds like Scott Reagers-era Saint Vitus (a good thing), while the closing 12-minute opus “Iron and Fire” aims for grandiose, but lands in a big fat sack of “meh.” They could’ve cut the track down by a third and merited the same results.
Beyond the tepid songs, the actual sound of THE WRETCH is weak and thin. The production on the album is open as an empty cathedral, but there’s no bottom end in the mix which makes it sound like a high quality demo rather than a fully produced album ready for international release. Maybe with a fuller sound, the sloth like qualities of the tunes would resonate more with the listener, but certainly not in their present condition.
It’d be easy to make a pun out of the album’s title to describe it, but that wouldn’t be a fair assessment. THE WRETCH isn’t a bad album, it’s just terribly mediocre. If an upstart band had put this out independently, I may have chalked things up to the naivety of youth. But from a band that’s a decade into the game, it’s disappointing to say the least.