Indianapolis doom crew, The Gates Of Slumber, have quietly been going about their business for a few years now – their last album ‘Hymns Of Blood And Thunder’ was the first of theirs I’d heard but was already their fourth full-length release in five years! Having gone back and checked out the earlier records, I found a clear and marked progression from one to the next leaving ‘Hymns…’ at the top of an increasingly-impressive heap – news of the imminent release of The Wretch was received well by me, to say the least.
Seeing a change in lineup, with drummer Bob Fouts being replaced by ‘Cool’ Clyde Paradis (ex-Sourvein), this album sees the band reinvigorated. ‘Bastards Born’ gets us underway in the most classic style possible, groaning into action with weighty Pentagram-esque riffing. Victor Griffin is somewhat of a touchstone for the whole album, as it goes, with many of the vocals recalling the legendary frontman as well as a fair proportion of the guitarwork.
That’s not to say that The Gates Of Slumber are a rip-off act, far from it – there’s a timelessness to their sound that belies accusations of unoriginality. It’s more a sense of shared influences (of which Pentagram are surely one for all bands of this type) and respect for the history and tropes of the genre, and there’s more to ‘The Wretch’ than slavish copying of any one artist. Doom can realistically be considered a mature form, anyway, and what’s important at this stage is execution and feel, both of which The Gates Of Slumber carry off with some aplomb.
The psychedelic throb of the title track right near the end of the album, wound around some stunning verses, is the first real break from strict type, and is the area that I’d personally like to see the band develop into – it suits them so well, and leads into the crunching ‘Iron And Fire’ which is the true highlight of The Wretch. Nigh-on thirteen minutes of pounding misery proves the perfect way to cap the album off – showing a real command of dynamics, a hefty selection of riffs and just the right amount of bleakness, it’s a suitably dark and epic closer to a solidly entertaining, if not entirely unique, album. The Wretch continues the great run of form from The Gates Of Slumber – a healthy recommendation from me for devotees of classic doom.