The Gates Of Slumber - Hymns Of Blood And Thunder
Rise Above
Heavy Metal, True Doom
10 songs (53:32)
Release year: 2009
The Gates Of Slumber, Rise Above
Reviewed by Goat

As good a band as The Gates Of Slumber undeniably are, I'll admit to hesitating before deciding to write this up. Hymns Of Blood And Thunder is the band's fourth album in five years, and greater bands than this have tried and failed to keep the quality quota high with such a prolific output. The biggest danger that this sort of old school Heavy Metal holds for me is that it's so easy to become bored with, your enjoyment of the whole thing resting or falling on the excellence of the songwriting, and considering just over a year ago I was rocking out to the brilliant Conqueror, am I asking too much if I want The Gates Of Slumber to once again rock my socks without losing their quality?

Thankfully, no. The moment that Chaos Calling kicks in with its speedy drive and powerfully catchy clarion call, it's obvious that The Gates Of Slumber still have that epic indescribable 'it' and as Karl Simon pauses the riffing to indulge in a bit of soloing and the band switch to a proggy melodic section, a wave of relief washes over you. Not only have they done it again, they've done it better than before! Although the band have been steadily decreasing the Doom elements in favour of hard rockin' Heavy Metal since debut The Awakening, they still sound like a Pentagram actually capable of playing their instruments properly, and the results are mandatory listening for everyone who ever nodded their head to a Black Sabbath song.

Brilliantly, the band refuse to repeat themselves - it would be easy for them to write ten similar songs, but they've decided instead to make an album that takes time to work its full magic, and so they take the listener gently by the hand, Death Dealer more subtly epic with a more savage, pounding groove. It's Beneath The Eyes Of Mars that really excites, however, a drum intro building up until the main riff explodes into your face, and Karl really working the True Doom melancholy as he wails majestically. The track gets more and more epic until it's rivalling classic Candlemass, which is about as good as it gets.

The playing throughout the album is pretty fantastic, Karl's guitar excellent of course but the rhythm section doing their job wonderfully. Far be it from me to question the Doomlord himself, but considering that both bassist Jason and drummer Bob played in a Deathcore band called Amongst The Swarm, is it possible that the Circle Of True Doom has softened a little to the outside world? In any case, the wonderful instrumentation on the likes of The Doom Of Aceldama is about as far from Deathcore as it's possible to get.

Throughout the album the band continue to experiment gently. The instrumental meandering of interlude Age Of Sorrow is a nice touch, genuinely sorrowful and acting as a great intro to the enormous The Bringer Of War, which stomps all over you before launching itself with some epic soloing and the sort of gruff catchiness reminiscent of Cathedral at their best. I loved Descent Into Madness, opening ambience continuing into the track like Hawkwind at their heaviest, before Dooming out wonderfully with subtle female backing vocals soon making it an odd trip indeed. Listen out for a stunningly beautiful bit of Pink Floyd-esque soloing that practically comes from nowhere, before the riffing restarts with a heavy psychedelic twist.

As good as moments like that are, it's the riffage which we all want, and The Gates Of Slumber have delivered in spades. Iron Hammer alone is better than practically every other Doom song from 2009, whilst The Mist Of The Mourning, a Folky duet between Karl and a female vocalist, opens up intriguing horizons for The Gates Of Slumber. A foray into Folk Metal? Fiddle-driven Doom? Bring it on! I very much look forward to hearing more from this band, Hymns Of Blood And Thunder being another excellent addition to their discography.

Killing Songs :
All, esp. Chaos Calling, Beneath The Eyes Of Mars, Descend Into Madness
Goat quoted 86 / 100
Other albums by The Gates Of Slumber that we have reviewed:
The Gates Of Slumber - The Wretch reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
The Gates Of Slumber - Conqueror reviewed by Goat and quoted 84 / 100
The Gates Of Slumber - The Awakening reviewed by Ken and quoted 85 / 100
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