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Disappointing - 48%

Felix 1666, February 3rd, 2016
Written based on this version: 1999, CD, Osmose Productions (Digipak)

Much to my regret, the discography of the vast majority of (metal) bands contains at least one product that has "disappointment" written all over it. In the case of Bewitched, the stinker is called "At the Gates of Hell". The combination of speed metal and traditional sounds shows serious signs of lameness and weakness. Well, the airy production does not meet my taste. Its transparent appearance is clouded by the absence of vehemence and forcefulness. This leads to crude results. For example, the chorus of the title track shows an almost happy facet of Bewitched's art. Nevertheless, the hardly suitable mix does not constitute the crucial factor for the failure of the band's third studio album. The song material itself is the real problem.

The compositions do not reach a sufficient degree of explosiveness and impulsivity. It is no coincidence that the group decided to cover a song of this muscular clown that called himself Thor. This lame and meaningless piece illustrates the dilemma. Any kind of currishness and belligerence is missing and this reproach refers to the majority of the pieces. Especially the feeble riffs are frustrating. Anyway, Bewitched are hardly able to generate suspenseful moments. Few exceptions like the instrumental part after the second chorus and at the end of "Lucifer's Legacy" do not shape the output. Mid-tempo parts characterise the songs and the guitars do not intend to unleash any form of disharmony. Instead of creating a speed massacre, they offer Maiden-esque lines (without reaching the class of the British institution) and pay homage to most antique tunes of the NWOBHM. Even a fairly fast-paced number like "Enemy of God" is hindered by its lukewarm chorus. The squeaking solo does the rest in order to kill the power of this song.

Cruel truth, the album wallows in mediocrity. For example, a promising riff kicks off "Black Mass", but it does not initiate a gripping number. Instead, it is counteracted by the lame verse. This does not remain an isolated case. It is annoying to see how the band wastes its potential. Worse still, the dominant features of their previous works are missing. I am speaking of liveliness, malignancy and unconcern. It would not be fair to call the group lethargic. Yet it is a fact that sluggishness is the outstanding characteristic of "At the Gates of Hell" and an acceptable, fairly aggressive song like "Heaven Is Falling" does not affect the alarming overall impression. Needless to say more.

It would have been a classic in 1987... - 80%

Snxke, July 4th, 2004

"At the Gates of Hell" is a classic triumph of style over substance in the most base manner possible. It's well produced, well played and hits every button it's supposed to, but it does little to make black metal, or metal in general...step forward to a day and age where the art of metal has become a bit more intelligent and thoughtful. Even so, the playing and hookcraft on this CD make for a great beer-drinking and horns-throwing experience that one can put on during a party and enjoy more than anything else.

This isn't metal for the thinking man...but it's most certainly fun!

The key songs on this record are "The Devil's Daughters", "At the Gates of Hell" and "Sabbath of Sin". If you want black metal with refrains that you can chant again and again these are the songs for you. Catchy and tightly composed, the band brings you up...and drops you on your head at the correct moments. Lyrically, the band does the typical "we *heart* satan" bit and it works well enough to go with these idiotically catchy tunes. The band must know how goofy this is...and because of that it works.

If you love classic NWOBHM, Venom, AC/DC styled hooked or anything dumb, but brilliantly this CD now. Don't let anyone fool you into thinking that some sort of progression or typical Swedish violence is being portrayed though.