Review by Ves on April 20, 2023.
Last month I had a friend come over and bring durian, the fruit that smells of rotten flesh. We'd been talking about trying all the foods that make people dry heave (or worse), and this was the first step in that challenge. We stared at the prickly skin of the fruit for what felt like an eternity before cutting it open. There was no warning, no hesitation ever crossed the fruit's mind. It was out to get us. We immediately felt our breakfasts coming back to remind us of their presence, and had to take a breather on the balcony before bravely coming back in to have a taste. Here's the funniest part - once you get over the smell, the taste was fine. I could even imagine it being pleasant after getting used to the ritual of opening the hard shell. The durian saga reminded me of my first foray into the more exotic subgenres of death metal and adjacent flavours. I'd had plenty of bananas, oranges, and mangos by that point, or Death, Cannibal Corpse, Obituary, and what have you. But my first bite of the musical equivalent of durian was when the aforementioned friend played me Last Days of Humanity's "Putrefaction In Progress" way back in high school. My gut reaction was disgust, but only at first. Quickly, disgust turned into curiosity, turned into interest. It's been years since then, and I like to think that I've got a fairly resilient gut music-wise. However, I was definitely not prepared for Gateway's upcoming release, ((Galgendood)).
The second full-length album by the Belgian one-man band comes after 4 EPs since the debut album in 2015. I had not heard of the band before I was sent the promo, and was curious to find out how Belgian death/doom metal sounds, having only listened to a few Belgian black metal bands. Much like durian, there is little in between cutting open the shell by pressing play and being hit by the putrid scent in the form of a wet guttural noise. The bottom-heavy guitar tone immediately envelops you, as the thick atmosphere of ('The Coexistence Of Dismal Entities') starts building on top of layers upon layers of filth. The saturated tones are complemented perfectly by the minimal approach to drumming, mixed so that you feel like you're standing at the bottom of an old, moss-covered well which is about to crumble in on you. The second track, ('Sacrificial Blood Oath In The Temple Of K'zadu') kicks off with a bell's toll, as the opening riff builds up the tension towards a bass break, exploding into a nasty tremolo section. The picking is so heavy that even notes in the higher register feel like they would be sent through a subwoofer, rendering any speaker's tweeters useless. The third track is a 2-minute-long atmosphere building piece called ('Nachtritueel (Evocation)'). A bassy chant in the backgroudn, paired with tribal sounding low tom hits and repetitive growled ritual phrases gives off the vibe of a medieval summoning ceremony for a Lovecraftian entity, with you as the blood sacrifice. The track is followed by ('Scourget At Dawn'), an even filthier experience, with the vocals digging deep in the thick intestine for some of these noises. Trudging through mud in the second half of the song, the final minute is marked by a cacophony of just-off-pitch guitar leads, driving drums, and of course the vile vocal work. The penultimate track is ('Bog Bodies Near The Humid Crypt'), lower, slower, and muddier than anything so far, it takes you for a difficult walk through a swamp before disposing of your body in it to rot with the rest of the detritus. This is one of those doom riffs you can smell, and it is not pleasant. The haunting lead guitar kicks in around the 2 minute mark, playing a droning melody to mark your demise before a build up into the second act, reiterating the filth and grime of the album so far. The closer is called ('Galgendoor - Dagritueel - Duvelsput'), and sounds greasy and brown. The song simultaneously sounds like a beached whale dying for weeks on the shore and the war march of a orcish army burning everything in their path, leaving no life in their wake.
When listening to the doomier side of death metal, I most often look for and expect patient riffage, an atmosphere so thick that you can cut through it with a knife, and an overall layer of sludge in the mix. Gateway delivers, and then exceeds, all of those expectations with ((Galgendood)) being one of those albums that makes me feel like I need a shower every time I play it all the way through. If you are a fan of filthy riffs and guitar tones, and even more disgusting vocals, give this album a spin. Be warned, your first reaction might be visceral, much like mine. Once you've made it through the initial wave of revulsion, you will realise it's been 3 days, you're lying in a pool of your and Gateway's vomit, have had the album on repeat the whole time, and may or may not be in the company of one Yog Sothoth.
Rating: 8.5 out of 101.47k