Giving credit where it is due, we all owe at least a head nod in the direction of the folks at Scion A/V, who have done a service to the metal community through their free EP series. The latest installment is a much welcomed new release from Indianapolis doom trio The Gates Of Slumber, a five track EP titled "Stormcrow." Their first since 2011's "The Wretch," the leaders in the new wave of American doom are showing no signs of musically aging, some 15 years after frontman Karl Simon began the project. An intriguing mix of classic sounds and modern thinking, the effort maintains the signature style that has become synonymous with their name. Recorded once again by Pelican's Sanford Parker, Simon and company lay down five tracks spanning nearly thirty minutes of clouded, murky riffs that make the free price tag seem almost criminal.
Completely filling the lower register, the guitars on "Death March" are as weighty as they are raw. There is an expectation, based on the density of the riffs, that when the vocals begin that they will be harsh in nature. But as guitarist and vocalist Karl Simon opens his mouth the first time, you get something far more rewarding. His partially melodic, yet beautifully unrefined tone solidifies the mix. It paves the way for ringing bass strings plucks, courtesy of Jason McCash, and the down tempo groove that builds from there. This is the new wave of American doom metal at its finest, clouded in a smokey haze of distortion. Infusing touches of bluesy southern guitar to the fold, "(Devil's Grip) Driven Insane" boasts a nearly two minute intro that could easily become one of the most hummed instrumentals of the year. Simon's vocal echo those of Ozzy Osbourne in his intelligible years, melodic yet haunting. But it is where the track goes from here that is the most exciting; a high tempo, high energy bridge is enough to light a fire under the ass of the laziest metalhead. It completes what is a song begging to be repeated for days on end.
There is also something to be said for the pure simplicity of a song like "Son Of Hades," trading in twirling riffs for more basic patterns. This is where delivery becomes key, something this band has in spades. Downtempo and devilishly catchy, thanks to great vocal hooks ("we are alone, we are..."). You'll find something unique in the opening verse to "Dragon Caravan" that may strike you as familiar. Simon's voice occupies a space in the middle ground between Pantera's Phil Anselmo and the aforementioned Osbourne, bringing to mind the once planned collaborative album between the former and Black Sabbath guitarist and certified God Tony Iommi. Each fiendish riff pulls you farther down into the pits of Hell, accompanied by the sizzling of cymbals at the hands of Bob Fouts. With the pace now slowed down to a crawl, or perhaps even slower than that, "Of That Which Can Never Be" recites the doom metal textbook for you in the most impressive way. It is a reminder that melody is not absent from the genre, but must be used and constructed carefully for the best possible results. But in voice and guitar, Simon brings the bleakness to the forefront, backed by one of the most rock solid rhythm sections in the modern American scene.
With the amount of utter garbage flooding online retailers and brick and mortar music stores, the musical landscape has changed in the US in a very depressing way. People are less willing to sped their hard earned money on music, mainly as a rebellion against a system they find unjust. Right or wrong (i.e. wrong), it means there must be alternative ways of getting music to the masses. The Gates Of Slumber are an established act with rabid fans across the world; yet this EP is being handed to you, for free. This isn't a b-sides collection or some measly live set. New music, great music, for the price of a click of the mouse. Sure, there will always be people who will complain about a handout, but the Scion A/V releases have made that harder and harder. And this might be their best so far. If "Stormcrow" doesn't change the way you feel about American doom metal and the way it gets delivered to you, it might be time to move to Canada.
Official Site - http://www.slumberingsouls.com/
Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/thegatesofslumber