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Originally published at http://suite101.com
If The Gates of Slumber aren't the biggest heavy metal band in the Indianapolis area, then they're at least the most recognized doom metal group in the area. Formed in 1998, the group has gathered acclaim in the underground for its particularly theatrical musical style and strong riffs. But for the group's fifth full-length studio album, a number of changes have occurred. For starters, this is the first album to feature former Sourvein drummer "Cool" Clyde Paradis alongside longtime bassist Jason McCash and founding guitarist/vocalist Karl Simon.
While most of the band's career has been spent mixing their dirge-like sound with traditional and power metal themes in a way similar to classic Candlemass, this is easily their most stripped down album to date. Nothing on here is really simplified or made more accessible by previous standards, but you could say that the album has a rather grounded feel. The riffs are downtrodden, the vocals are mournful, and the pacing is arguably slower than it's ever been.
As other reviewers have pointed out, this album does sound a lot like something that Saint Vitus would've put out in their prime if they were given the virtues of modern production. Opening track "Bastards Born" in particular comes off as a sluggish lament in the vein of the classic "Born Too Late." Of course, there are a few exceptions to the overall rule. Despite the morose themes of alcoholism and cocain abuse, "The Scourge Ov Drunkenness" and "Coven of Cain" are particularly upbeat affairs and the spacy "Castle Of The Devil" conjures the feeling of Candlemass' most recent album with its sombre transitions.
Speaking of themes, the lyrical themes are probably the most noticeable changes of all. For this effort, the band seems to have dropped its previous fantasy themes in favor of much more personal topics. Throughout the album, the listener is bombarded with tales of depression and drug abuse told in a voice that may be a bit more blunt than it needs to be. Regardless, the lines are quite powerful and should be a highlight for listeners that appreciate good lyrics.
But with everything that has changed, the band itself continues to impress and work well with what they materialize. The drums are quite solid and Simon has a pretty sweet Scott Weinrich impression, but it is ultimately the guitar and bass playing that proves to be the album's biggest strength. In addition to the catchy riffs and strong solos, the lead guitar also manages to provide a great foundation and effectively makes one forget that this band is a power trio. But there are also moments where the bass is allowed to stand out on several occasions thanks to this format and sounds particularly powerful on "Castle of the Devil" and the title track.
All in all, this is an incredibly strong album that is hard to fault and may end up being one of the best albums offered up in 2011. Newer listeners should be enticed by the band's full sound and older fans shouldn't have anything to fear due to the awesome songwriting at hand. In fact, I may have to recommend this album alongside such classics as Epicus Doomicus Metallicus and the previously mentioned Born Too Late to anyone that is interested in doom metal. This and the debut album from Premonition 13 should be enough to hold Saint Vitus fans over until they finish that album they've been working on...
"The Scourge ov Drunkenness"
"Castle Of The Devil"
"Coven of Cain"