"some music was meant to stay underground..."

70000 Tons of Metal - The World's Biggest Heavy Metal Cruise

The Gates Of Slumber - "The Wretch" (CD)

The Gates Of Slumber - "The Wretch" CD cover image

"The Wretch" track listing:

1. Bastards Born
2. The Scourge of Drunkenness
3. To the Rack With Them
4. Day of Farewell
5. Castle of the Devil
6. Coven of Cain
7. The Wretch
8. Iron and Fire

Reviewed by on June 10, 2011

"'The Wretch' is that type of minimalist doom that will no doubt appeal to a broad audience of rockers, bikers and a more mature metal crowd that pays homage to their roots."

The term "prolific" comes to mind when describing Indianapolis doom trio The Gates of Slumber. Around for well over ten years, they have almost double that number of releases in their discography if you count EPs and splits with other bands. "The Wretch" is their fifth full-length studio release and it embodies a consistent, if not groundbreaking, sound.

Having listened to much of their material, I can say that The Gates of Slumber has settled into that niche of doom metal where they are the most effective. Pared down is the imagery and the fantasy, with "The Wretch" instead delivering everyman's paeans. Guitarist/vocalist Karl Simon embodies a comfortable maturity with his bandmates on this album that shows in the music's lyrics and themes of hard-won experience.

More so than most of the doom metal bands out there, these guys not only emulate the sounds of genre standard bearers such at St. Vitus or Pentagram, but truly have a retro-rock sound out of the 70's. The track "Day of Farewell" could comfortably segue between hippie rock, sludge or psychedelic metal without missing a beat and not sound out of place with its heavy infusion of drums, mournful wailing and jamming. The latter is another key attribute of this record. Many of the songs are characterized by nice breakdowns and jams throughout their mid-sections, such as "To the Rack With Them." This track is less introspective and makes for a nice partier with its onslaught of leads a few minutes into the song.

The tempo is pretty slow and solemn on most of the songs, giving a very old school feel. "Bastards Born" is very traditional retro doom that's slower than a strobe light image, with vocals giving the subtlest hint of misery. I personally like it when they vary up the songs more, as in "The Scourge of Drunkenness." On this tune you have a more electric sound with choicely distorted psychedelic guitar strains trailing off toward the culmination. Sometimes the intros and first few minutes of the songs are simplistic and redundant, like the beginning of "Castle of the Devil," but when the song gets underway - or in this instance when an acoustic segment breathes a bit of melody into it - the result is more meaningful.

"The Wretch" also tends to go from slo-mo doom to a more sludgy feel towards the last few tracks. It is almost as if the mood and jamming picks up as the songs go on and on. The title track is probably the most overtly metallic of them, with its portentous singing and sludgy guitar riffs. "Coven of Cain" also picks up the pace considerably from the first half of the album. The last spot on the album was aptly saved for a twelve minute jam opus, "Iron and Fire," which serves as a good rocking send-off.

"The Wretch" is that type of minimalist doom that will no doubt appeal to a broad audience of rockers, bikers and a more mature metal crowd that pays homage to their roots. While it could benefit from more variety in the beginning segments of the songs, it does deliver plenty of good jams throughout it that will appeal to the non-puerile metal listener.

Highs: Good jamming and solid purist doom

Lows: Songs could use some variety in their intros

Bottom line: Spot-on release from this consistent trio

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 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)