ALBUM REVIEW: Gateway – Galgeendod


 

Distortion and volume alone do not equate to heavy. Heaviness is the feeling these sounds invoke. Sonic alchemy can be oppressive, horrifying, depressing, creepy or somehow unsettling; Gateway finds themselves touching on all of these feelings on their new album Galgeendood (Transcending Obscurity Records). Belgium is not at the top of my list when it comes to places I might expect this kind of subterranean death doom to emerge from, but here we are. This album is the follow-up to Robert Van Oyen’s 2015 debut, under the Gateway moniker.

 

On his sophomore outing, Oyen proves himself capable of crafting an impressive display of heavy sounds that lurk with the menace of a Lovecraftian horror at the dark intersections of doom and death metal. This is Death / Doom, but at the opposite end of the sonic spectrum from the more refined rumblings of British bands Paradise Lost. Oyen has less lofty ambitions. Instead, he chooses to explore his sadistic side. The gothic finery of the nineties death doom is set on fire and left burning, while you are dragged into an underground lair, where the weight of the guitars chokes the life from you.

With extreme metal, it is easy to find yourself stunned by the sheer brutality hitting your ears and fail to ask if they are able to actually write a song. Here, the atmosphere balances out the otherwise cavernous madness being vomited forth. At times there is a murky uniformity of sound, with the breathy gurgle of the vocals only offering the demonic mutterings of something unleashed from a Ouija board, rather than employing a lyrical narrative. The production value of this album might be rough around the edges, but it also gives the songs their disturbing charm. If you are the type of person who likes to smoke weed and chill out when you listen to metal, I would not suggest it due to the way the effects coating the guitars are mixed. This creates an otherworldly swirl that haunts the edges of the songs, and it might give you a bit of a scare…

The depressive lethargy of a song like ‘Bog Bodies Near the Humid Crypt’ finds slow riffs crushing you with the persistence of waves seeking to claim an amputee crawling across the beach. The dense chug circles a similar sonic spectrum not unlike what was pounded out earlier in the album, yet it is allowed to gather momentum and create a less subtle dynamic shift This shift in the riffing proves there is some self-awareness when it comes to songwriting. This album is more about moments of mood, rather than songs that get stuck in your head.

 

What won me over most when it comes to this album is how dark it is. To me, darkness is just as heavy of a feeling as depression or despair, perhaps co-morbid to one another. For Oyen to capture this in a way that is convincing to me, says a great deal about his ability to paint songs in troubling colors. While it is neither black metal nor funeral doom, I think fans of both sub-genres will appreciate the sounds of opaque misery crafted here. As far as fans of Death / Doom go, they might have to expand their threshold for agony, unless already prone to bouts of depression.

 

Buy the album here:

https://gatewayband.bandcamp.com/album/galgendood

 

8 / 10

WIL CIFER