Spare a thought for the weary men and women who toil unceasingly for the precious gems and metals, baubles we wear with pride. Whether it’s the gold panners with their sun-kissed skin, the pickax-wielding hewers dislodging ore deep in the mines or the blasters tearing the earth asunder with bushels of dynamite, these grizzled folk put in the hard yakka to sort treasure from debris. In a similar vein, music reviewers sweat blood, sifting through mountains of musical dreck, in the hope of discovering a diamond in the rough. At first glance of Apostate Viaticum‘s debut, Before the Gates of Gomorrah there’s not much that indicates if a diamond has been pried free from the earth or it’s just another lump of coal. Time to dust off the jeweller’s loupe to see if we have something that glitters.
I mentioned earlier that Before the Gates of Gomorrah is a debut, and while that may technically be true it’s not like these Irish lads lack experience, as the band is primarily comprised of members of the now defunct Morphosis. If the album name, band logo and album cover didn’t tip you off to the style of music being played here, then let me spell it out plainly: this is death metal. To be clear, not modern tech death with more notes than a movie script riddled with executive interference, no we’re talkin’ ye olde school death metal. It’s the sort of thing plague doctors would have blasted from their pallets had they the capacity to do so, back when they roamed the filthy streets searching for bodies. This music is angry, putrid, bloody and cruel.
Following the churning instrumental opening of “In Articulo Mortis” Before the Gates of Gomorrah disgorges “Anathema Inherent,” a relatively restrained but cantankerous track that lurches around with an almost doom-like languidness. Don’t mistake a lack of energy for a lack of emotion, however, as the track oozes malevolence, informing the listener that the apocalypse is nigh and there’s no shelter from the pillar of fire that’s about to descend. Apostate Viaticum sell their exhortations with a loose, barely in control cascade of notes. The unvarnished, gangly and ugly sound brings to mind an interview with Francis Bacon where he described how he would often paint on the untreated, or “wrong” side of the canvas. This technique born from desperation contributed to the raw, naked repulsion Bacon managed to capture with his coarse brushstrokes with the added benefit that the canvas would atrophy over time. Front-man George Thomas is a keenly effective vocalist, his bitter rasps (reminiscent of Mille Petrozza from Kreator and Tom Angelripper of Sodom) drip with venom and spite, speaking to a pent-up bitterness within.
Other tracks like “Moloch the Sanguinary” up the ante with a smattering of blast beats and hairy down-tempo riffs while “Bastards of Cain” channels the frenzied riffs and solos of Steve Tucker-era Morbid Angel, particularly Formulas Fatal to the Flesh. I mention riffing, but riffs pay second fiddle to the leads, an ever-present factor steering the overall presentation towards the disheveled sound mentioned earlier. Where things start to unspool is that while the music is enjoyable moment-to-moment it never quite feels like the individual threads tie together to create something meaningful and cohesive. The specific elements such as the vocals, leads, riffs and percussion are all performed well but a lack of focus stymied my engagement and led to instances where I struggled to recall just exactly what had passed betwixt my ears. The production is well handled at least, skilfully balancing the sound between clarity and detail without bleaching the music of character through over-production.
As debuts go Before the Gates of Gomorrah shows plenty of promise, hinting towards bigger and better things in future, should Apostate Viaticum manage to refine their song writing and composition. Is Before the Gates of Gomorrah a diamond in the rough? Not quite, but it is a gem, one that is coarse, uncut and saddled with blemishes.
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 128 kbps mp3
Label: Invictus Productions
Websites: bandcamp.com/album/before-the-gates-of-gomorrah | facebook.com/apostate666
Releases Worldwide: March 13th, 2017