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The Gates of Slumber have some new stories to tell with The Wretch (Rise Above / Metal Blade, 2011). Sure, they are laced with Biblical themes and wicked imagery - things that are nothing novel for metal. Stripped down, however, they lock in on punishing truths. Having been around for over 10 years, the band has slowly figured out what makes an impact. Hymns of blood and thunder aren't enough this time around and are left behind in favor of drug tales and narratives of self-deprecation. Cruel reality slaps us in the face, delivered by both lyrics and minimalist chord progressions. Somehow it all comes together to create enjoyable music. That alchemic transformation of turmoil into sensuality is arguably the biggest appeal of doom metal.

The powerful momentum on The Wretch is one of its defining features. Each track is carefully placed for maximum contrast. The band reels us in slowly (almost excruciatingly so) with "Bastards Born", which makes the pounding lead-in to "The Scovrge of Drvnkenness" that much more satisfying. Later, the two most haunting tracks - "Castle of the Devil" and "The Wretch" - are punctuated by the catchier "Coven of Cain". The flow of the songs represents a psychological struggle, complete with dragging lows and elusive highs.

This is the first time the band has worked with producer Jaime Arellano, and the result is a tightening of their sound. They've perfected the weighty, single-note guitar/bass fill (e.g., "Scovrge"); Karl Simon's wail doesn’t overpower the mix like it did on previous efforts; everything sounds denser. Those who appreciate Ghost's Opus Eponymous for its production but have gripes with the occult pop vibe will likely find this record to be a better match.

The Gates of Slumber use simplicity to great effect. In doing so, they draw from influences like Saint Vitus without sounding forced. In today's world of re-hashed material and doom try-hards, this kind of genuineness is notable.

— Julia Neuman

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HEAR THE WRETCH

"Bastards Born"

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"The Scovrge Ov Drvnkenness"

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BUY THE WRETCH

Amazon (CD)
Relapse (CD)

CM Distro (CD)

Rise Above (CD)

Metal Blade (CD)

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