The Gates of Slumber’s ultimate album, Wretch, was definitely their most downtrodden affair, a slight departure from their early days of ice worms and dragons. In the five years since its release, two-thirds of that lineup has passed away, leaving frontman Karl Simon fronting a new band, fittingly titled Wretch.
Suffice to say, this debut offering continues in the TGOS tradition of Vitus-worshipping trad doom, with even bleaker themes than Simon’s previous outfit. “Running Out of Days” opens the album with a Chandleresque burst of guitar feedback, before adopting a doomy mid-paced chug more akin to The Obsessed. “Rest in Peace” is a significantly slower stomp, with a sparse verse leading into a slithering instrumental break and poignant chorus. The Vitus is very strong with this one!
“Bloodfinger” adds some swirling desert-rock riffs to the equation, a four-minute instrumental with shades of Sabbath. Speaking of Sabbath, “Winter” contains a riff that’s reminiscent of “Electric Funeral,” albeit with a bit more wah. It fades out before eight-minute epic “Icebound” fades in, with a similar riff structure for the first couple minutes, before it takes on a jaunty march similar to TGOS’ “Ice Worm,” albeit played in slow(er) motion. Then, right around the mid-way mark, they pick up the pace to some faster Sabbathian fare, throwing in a swirling solo for good measure before getting back down to slowness.
Album closer “Drown” hits you right off the get-go, sounding somewhat like Sleep’s “Aquarian” with its burly, lumbering doom riffs. The verse here is even slower than Sleep, mind you, though the vocals maintain that underwater effect. My biggest complaint about this record is that it’s all over in less than 35 minutes. (Then again, so were a few of Vitus’ best…)