One of my most anticipated albums of 2009 was this latest offering by Indianapolis power trio The Gates of Slumber. To say their previous album hit me hard would be selling it short: their 2008 album Conqueror was my number one album of the year and I was curious to find out if their new one would have the same impact. Much to my surprise, Hymns didn’t. But, it has been a big grower for me, one that took a number of listens to finally click, but when it finally did, it did so in spades.
The most noticeable thing on Hymns is the drumming. It is absolutely monstrous. Although this is the second album to feature the current line up of the band (Karl Simon on guitar, Jason McCash on bass and Bob Fouts on drums), with a bunch of touring under their collective hat in the past two years, it is obvious the trio have become even more comfortable with each other than on Conqueror. With Hymns Fouts has delivered his best drum performance yet. Listen to the album’s third track “Beneath The Eyes Of Mars” for all the proof you need. Fouts pounds on this mid-tempo song with a heaviness that shows both taste and power. He doesn’t try to overextend himself beyond what the song needs, instead doing away with flash and thinking more of the bottom line.
There is in fact a greater cohesiveness over all to this new record that was not there on early releases. This is a band that is at their peak now as a true unit, a well-oiled machine as it were. Just listen to the breakdown before the guitar solo in “The Doom Of Aceldama” to hear that this is a band that plays together. I think that personally I still prefer some of the songs on Conqueror to what they have come up with this time – that album gets the nod still as my fave TGOS release – but this album is about as logical a next step as fans of the band would want them to take. It might be the slightly more proggy, 70s influenced approach that the trio has taken to these songs – there’s a whole lotta Stained Class era Judas Priest and classic Rainbow soaked into these songs, not to mention the odd synth line adding colouring here and there – but there are no complaints from this writer about this album even if it is not my absolute favourite by them.