GATEWAY – Flesh Reborn (2021)REVIEW

Gifted with the coughing throat of Hell and terrorizing the huddled masses with cruelest death-and-doomed labors for four years before placing his very well-received flagship atmospheric death/doom metal project Gateway on indefinite hiatus, it appears that Belgium based musician Robin Van Oyen (Terre) reverted to unholy fomentation during the year MMXX. This past year of trench crawling, which now appears to be an unending sickness, seems to have stirred within the artist an urge to reignite his funereal craft with an even deeper passion, making the leap from wall-to-wall outsider horror to an even higher professional standard as Gateway returns beyond the space of just a couple of years with ‘Flesh Reborn‘ — A nigh half hour EP that compounds the artist’s signature whilst sprawling ye olde funeral death/doom atmosphere to an impossible nuclear event, crackling away beyond the farseeing horizon.

Formed in Bruges circa 2014 and more or less an instant hit with the death/doom and funeral death/doom crowds for his impossibly heavy sound in the eldest tradition of the solo-manned sub-genre it’d make great sense to liken Gateway‘s core sound to that of Rigor Sardonicus and Coffins for the sake of long, elaborate and crushing death/doom that felt visceral and ‘outsider’ just as the non-gothic sector of the death/doom underground had during the late 90’s. Today we could look back on his celebrated self-titled debut (‘Gateway‘, 2015) and popular EPs ‘Scriptures of Grief‘ (2017) and ‘Boundless‘ (2018) as iteration without any major movement beyond his first demo (‘Aeternae‘, 2014) in the sense that the idea hadn’t changed drastically, only moved to include some pieces that could be compared to the underrated ‘Darkness Drips Forth’ album from Hooded Menace, a style we can also somewhat see within another group with a similar spiritus Eternal Rot. All that this would suggest is that the pace of the project had settled into a fairly comfortable groove and perhaps it didn’t have a place to push further into. It isn’t necessarily important to know why the project ended in 2018 but the point must be emphasized that ‘Flesh Reborn’ outshines past work in terms of recording dynamics, songwriting variety, and purposeful pacing. This is assumedly thanks to personal inspiration on the part of the artist as well as including a second musician M. on lead guitars for a layer of detail that the project absolutely thrives within.

Although we have noted sound design has generally reached a high professional standard without losing the forceful thunder of past efforts, it is worth emphasizing the thick and seeming endless obsidian atmosphere that opener “Hel” presents. The style they’ve barreled into from the start for this intro track is slightly akin to ‘Antithesis of Light’ but as the charging riffs and sliding, expertly placed solos ring through the finale of the first salvo it should be evident that Gateway have struck upon some greater magic here and also that they intend to fully grind into unholy death/doom beyond funereal passages. “Slumbering Crevasses” is nothing if not imposing, a cacophony that crawls and yanks at these Finnish death tendrils as it develops beyond the one minute mark. There is a chaos, a violent loss of control that occurs as these moments rise and fall to bookend a relatively simply arranged piece in conveyance of cavernous and grievously illustrated existential dread. This still falls into the wheelhouse of a band like Rippikoulu in spirit thanks to a raw and bristling reverberation during the faster sections of the song but as we progress to “Rack Crawler” we’ve pushed beyond the primal brutality of the early 90’s and perhaps represent the post-funeral doom popularity boon of the early 2000’s and its effect upon atmospheric extreme doom metal sound design as a whole. Downtuned trills and ringing distortion atop tribal drumming make for a death/doom beast that never sleeps, that trudges along without losing a second of momentum as the first half of ‘Flesh Reborn’ collapses into its final pile of grief, the title track.

The 12+ minute finale is perhaps the most signature Gateway piece of the lot here in terms of its lumbering funeral doom pace to start and intentionally eased into crawl-paced riffing. There is some superior old school magick conveyed within this format where we start with thunderous violence at mid-pace for exactly half of the record and then this second act lands as one grand characteristic statement for the project. Where this band continues to stand out in the increasingly rarified sea of sinister true death/doom is their attack, the strike of each chord is felt like the slap of a concussing knife wound out of nowhere wherein the trailing leads and pinched harmonic riff tie-offs build an extra layer of oppression from an already too imposing presence. You won’t necessarily find this particularly dark cthonic edge within death/doom elsewhere these past few years, excepting perhaps Bloodsoaked Necrovoid. This is undoubtedly a special release for folks deeply attuned to death/doom metal and as such, I feel it necessary to convey my own enjoyment of it as much as its exemplar value. A very high recommendation is warranted.

Very high recommendation. (90/100)

Rating: 9 out of 10.
TITLE:Flesh Reborn
LABEL(S):Chaos Records
RELEASE DATE:May 7th, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Death/Doom Metal,
Atmospheric Death Metal
Funeral Death/Doom Metal

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