Gateway- Gateway

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Wednesday, November 4, 2015

One-man death/doom band Gateway released their debut full length digitally back in July, with a CD version provided by Hellthrasher Productions in September. It’s not clear how long Belgian musician Robin van Oyen has been honing his craft, but this self-titled effort follows up last year’s Aeternae demo and offers listeners close to forty five minutes of mid-tempo and slow death/doom that rumbles with the force of an earthquake. Though the majority of the songs do follow a similar pattern, there are subtle variations that keeps Gateway’s take on the genre from feeling too repetitive and anyone that enjoys the slower sections of traditional death metal or bands like Winter will want to take note of this effort.

After a short intro where the waves of guitar distortion slowly start to build up in intensity, van Oyen immediately kicks up the volume with “Vox Occultus”. Listeners are immediately bombarded with mid-tempo riffing that has enough distortion to shake walls at the right volume, and the bottom heaviness of the instrumental tone makes each song rumble forth with an immense amount of force. There’s an emphasis on keeping things as slow and methodically paced as possible, as rather than suddenly kicking things into a faster death metal pattern like Coffins or some of the other death/doom bands out there do Gateway sticks with mid-tempo arrangements that have some grooves or extremely slow funeral dirges. As I made my way through this album, the band I was reminded of the most was Winter, as van Oyen’s have that similar rumbling sound and allow some sparse melodies to seep into the mix every now and then that have a somber, haunting quality. The level of distortion works to the album’s advantage, as the layers of sound wash over the listener in a way that is both crushing and hypnotic and while the tempo may not shift that frequently the subtle differences each song has to offer kept me coming back to the entire release rather than sticking with specific tracks.

The vocals are split between low pitched growls and some slightly higher shrieks/screams, with the lower end dominating the performance. This is one of the elements that drew me in to Gateway’s debut right from the start, as van Oyen has one of those extremely full growls that reverberates over the instrumentation and only seems to gain more intensity and depth with each word. I would’ve been perfectly content had this been the sole pitch throughout the entire record, but the decision to head into some higher ranges on occasion does help to add some variation and jolt the listener back to attention with the way it suddenly bursts through their speakers. All of these harsh vocal elements work in tandem to touch upon tales of horror and rituals from the medieval period, themed around van Oyen’s hometown of Bruges, and it’s a nice change of pace from the usual lyrical content that is so common for this genre.

Gateway’s debut keeps its material at the perfect length, as any longer than the forty four minute run-time could have led to the riffs feeling a little too dragged out or repetitive. But this death/doom project manages to avoid that, and despite the similarity between a lot of the structures of each song there are plenty of haunting and absolutely crushing moments that will keep you wanting to come back for more punishment. Reminiscent of a one-man take on Winter with some jumps into funeral doom and death metal’s sparser moments, Gateway has made a very strong first impression and showcased that there is still room for bands to strip this genre down to its bare essentials and deliver an engaging record.

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