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The Gates Of Slumber - "Hymns Of Blood & Thunder" (CD)

The Gates Of Slumber - "Hymns Of Blood & Thunder" CD cover image

"Hymns Of Blood & Thunder" track listing:

1. Chaos Calling (5:31)
2. Death Dealer (4:23)
3. Beneath The Eyes Of Mars (5:59)
4. The Doom Of Aceldama (8:36)
5. Age Of Sorrow (2:50)
6. The Bringer Of War (4:44)
7. Descent Into Madness (10:45)
8. Iron Hammer (3:48)
9. The Mist In The Mourning (2:22)
10. Blood And Thunder (4:34)

Reviewed by on October 2, 2009

"The problem is that much of the album isn’t just a band that plays like Black Sabbath, but it is almost a tribute album."

The Gates of Slumber are a modern doom metal band that loves Black Sabbath. Now that that one idea is in play, the rest of the review is filler. Even the press pack doesn’t try to hide it, as the liner notes include such lines as “burley [sic] bastards bludgeoned it to a bloody pulp using a giant hammer forged of Wrought-Iommi.” I mean geez.

But give credit where credit is due. The band is upfront about their love for Black Sabbath (and other early doom and NWOBHM like St Vitus, Thin Lizzy, and Iron Maiden), and they play the genre pretty well, although the Sabbath influence is clearly the strongest by a farthing. The riffs are big and bluesy, the solos are tempered with style and subtlety over speed, and the bass just growls away underneath the high pitched vocals and sludged-up riffs.

“Beneath the Eyes of Mars” has a fantastic intro – the pounding drums of Bob Fouts give way to a great lead by Karl Simon. The song eventually slows to a crawl and the guitar and bass pound out monolith after monolith. “Iron Hammer” is short, clocking in under four minutes, but it brings the heat. A dirty blues riff drives the swing, and the clipped vocal delivery plays well with the riffs underneath. “The Mist in the Mourning” is a striking folk tune, transposing the doom style into acoustic guitars and a layered vocal croon. The touch of dissonance makes the whole thing tingly and goose-bumpy, instead of just wrote. And “Blood and Thunder” has stronger drumming from Fouts and a simple melody, putting the focus on the strong vocal delivery from Simon. The bridges and guitar fills add a counterpoint to the driving core melody and make the song a keeper.

The problem is that much of the album isn’t just a band that plays like Black Sabbath, but it is almost a tribute album. “Chaos Calling” rips straight from “Neon Nights,” “Descent into Madness” is “Iron Man,” and “The Doom of Aceldama” tries for the long, epic-style composition but ends up being an amalgamation of every eight-plus minute song Black Sabbath wrote. The music often feels forced to go places it doesn’t want to at times it doesn’t want to, like a fullback trying to shadow a striker, instead of going where he pleases. There is little of the music that seems to influence anything else, with many of the long and winding roads being quite arbitrary. Even the production – the album was recorded completely in analog – takes the sound back a few decades, when analog was the best they had.

While very little heavy metal is original these days, most does not follow a script quite so closely. On its own “Hymns of Blood and Thunder” would be an average shot at some sludgy modern doom. But with the Black Sabbath Altar practically imprinted on the album cover, it seems like The Gates of Slumber should have done a better job aping their heroes.

Highs: “Beneath the Eyes of Mars” and “Iron Hammer” are excellent doom metal pieces.

Lows: We already got half of the album on “We Sold Our Soul for Rock ‘n’ Roll.”

Bottom line: An average doom metal album that copies Black Sabbath a little too closely.

Rated 2 out of 5 skulls
2 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)