Gateway – Galgendood (Transcending Obscurity)

Monday, 31st July 2023
Rating: 8 / 10

Having been living under the proverbial radar for quite some time, the Belgian solo project Gateway has quietly been building its discography. Debuting with a demo in 2014, quickly followed by a self-titled full-length in 2015; a filthy and gritty death/doom onslaught clearly inspired by scene trendsetters Coffins, as well as a dash of Hooded Menace, and has been the approach that lone member Robin van Oyen has been honing since. Four EPs followed, and now in 2023, we’ve arrived at the second LP, Galgendood.

What’s changed since that first album from eight years ago? The riffs have only gotten nastier as time has passed, which is the hallmark strength of Gateway and van Oyen’s inborn talent. Droning, murky rhythms drive opener “The Coexistence of Dismal Entities” into the depths, seasoned with a varied vocal approach, from deep nearly gurgling growls to guttural bellows. Ominous tolling bells add a layer of foreboding to the downpicked crunchy riffage of “Sacrificial Blood Oath in the Temple of K’zadu,” accompanied by black metal inspired tremolo leads to flesh out the despondent aura.

A similar feel continues with “Scourged at Dawn,” though drawing similarity in tone to accomplished peers Spectral Voice – definitely in a positive light. This entry certainly strays a little more on the slow death metal side than the more prevalent doom side of Gateway, with a sniff of Incantation to be heard within select sections. “Bog Bodies Near the Humid Crypt” and “Galgendood – Dagritueel – Duvelsput” merge into each other to eschew towards being a part 1 and 2 of a single, long-form song than two independent works; both deeply relying on the slow, plodding swampy doom metal of which is consistently thematic on Galgendood.

In the songwriting department, van Oyen has honed his craft slightly with each subsequent release; this album representing the most mature thus far. A definite coherence is present on Galgendood that binds each individual song into the whole, though some may get the impression that most songs bleed together a tad too much, resulting in them sounding a bit same-ish. Whether that detracts from one’s enjoyment of the album is certainly a matter of personal preference. This scribe indeed does enjoy a little variety, but any critique of this point isn’t a major one, as Gateway’s output hits with directness and purpose.

Ears who are piqued by disheveled, thick and fuzzy doom will find an album to sink their teeth into with Galgendood. The riffs are vilely uncompromising, and the album maintains a formidably dreadful atmosphere throughout. Some additional variety and twists in the arrangements will assuredly bring Gateway to the next level going forward, and one believes that this project will continue to fine tune in order to continue their ascent. For now, however, Galgendood surely satisfies and leaves the listener curious as to what’s next.

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