Gomorra – Dealer of Souls Review

All the way back in May 2020, when I was still a young reviewer with a smattering of hair, I reviewed Divine Judgement by Swiss thrashers Gomorra. Billed as the band’s debut, a little digging revealed that this was in fact a rebrand of the unfortunately-named Gonoreas, a band with six full-length hard-rock / power metal albums under its itchy and highly contagious belt. Now, although I don’t know what would inspire someone to name their band Gonoreas in the first place, I do understand why one might want to put that embarrassing moniker behind them and move on. And so the illusion continues on Dealer of Souls, the ‘second’ album from Gomorra. Divine Judgement attempted to balance aspects of heavy, thrash and power metal across its run and did so with reasonable success, albeit driven more by the vocal acrobatics of Jonas Ambühl, than the riffs of Destruction guitarist Damir Eskić.

Dealer of Souls is very much a continuation of Divine Judgement in stylistic terms. Although a thrash band at its core, built on the foundations of the likes of Sodom, Gomorra owes as much, if not more, of its sound to the likes of Judas Priest and Iced Earth. The combination of big, traditional riffs with Ambühl’s falsetto forays is very much The Glorious Burden-era Iced Earth, although a few of the tracks (“Green Gold”) lean into something closer to Megadeth-lite. For much of Dealer of Souls, the focus is on rolling riffs, that border on a chug, paired with repetitive drumming, leaving the spotlight shining on Ambühl’s vocals. For better or, more often, worse (“Lost in Darkness”, I’m looking at you). While there are moments that allow Eskić to show off and deliver some proper thrash riffs, as well as the occasional tasty solo (“Dealer” and yes, “Lost in Darkness”, I’m still looking at you), these moments stand out because they are scattered across Dealer of Souls, rather than forming its backbone.

On Divine Judgement, Ambühl’s vocals ranged from deep, throaty cleans, through hoarse barks and snarls to an ululating falsetto. On Gomorra’s latest, he has leaned harder into each of those styles, to mixed results. There are moments when each aspect of his performance works (“Dealer” and “A Chance for the Better”, being the most consistent examples) but there are also moments where it feels like Ambühl’s voice is maybe waning, feeling strained and tired (the weird, not-quite-Priest number, “Stand United” being the worst example, with its odd gang-choruses and tedious verse structure). There are also a few “what the fuck were you thinking?” moments, including the power ballad-esque opening to “Lost in Darkness”, on which the effects-laden cleans fall hopelessly flat (see also “Isolation”). The band pulls it back on the chorus, only to repeat the same mistake in each verse.

As a whole, Dealer of Souls feels like Gomorra decided to try taking a few risks compared to the solid, if rather forgettable, Divine Judgement. A few of those gambles pay off, like on “A Chance for the Better,” where drummer Stefan Hösli is let off the leash and Eskić’ work is brought into focus a bit more. Much of the record, however, is marred by missteps, including the forays into ballad-like territory, the car crash that is closer “End of the World” and the production, which with a very loud master and a mix that puts far too much emphasis on the vocals. Coupled with the album artwork, the lyrics for the likes of “War of Control” and “Rule of Fear”—as well as being utterly abysmal—rather suggest that Gomorra is on the ‘government bad’ train, as well as having anti-vax leanings, which I am not at all on board with. That may be my problem but this is also my review, so get over it.

After reviewing it, I don’t think I returned to Divine Judgement until the promo for Dealer of Souls landed. Having now revisited, I remain of the view that it’s a solid, if wholly unremarkable, album and the 3.0 I awarded it still feels about right. Gomorra’s latest effort certainly has more memorable moments, some of them even good (“Dealer”), but it also feels far less consistent. Dealer of Souls sounds like a band trying to find a unique sound or identity and, in that respect, is more like the sophomore effort this claims to be, as opposed to the eighth album from Gomorra / Gonoreas.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Noble Demon Records
Websites: gomorraband.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/gomorraband
Releases Worldwide: December 9th, 2022

« »