Italian doom quartet Return from the Grave may seem to wear their influences comfortably on their sleeves, as is evident with the band’s debut and the successive “Gates of Nowhere”, but they certainly manage to convey these influences without serving as nothing more than a doom-ridden copycat. That said, the band’s debut proved solid and tight with growing intensity, and “Gates of Nowhere” follows in much the same way, only with added heaviness and dynamics to the band’s groovy mix of doom and stoner metal.
“Gates of Nowhere” is, if nothing else, very variable. Though there are only six songs (or seven if you count bonus track ‘Inside Human’s Soul’), each and every one of them manages to have a slightly different sound to the other. From the opening ominous guitar tones of ‘Intro’ to the deep, dark rumble of ‘Inside Human’s Soul’, there’s a seamless amount of energy running its course throughout much of the instrumental performance here. Some songs obviously have more of a prominent guitar approach (‘Words in Words’, ‘Center of the Will’), whilst others develop a slow build-up through thunderous drum rhythms and warped bass grooves (‘The Rage of Rays’, ‘River in the Sky’), but it’s really when all instruments compete with each other that the band’s sound is at its strongest. The heaviness is created through multiple layers of stoner riffs and doomy production effects, but what lies at the core of all this is really the underlying tones of darkness and that slight nostalgia effect which makes you think of Sabbath in their prime. Just listen to the lengthier likes of ‘Center of the Will’ and ‘River in the Sky’, where riffs are laid down before anything else and invite you to bang your head each and every time. As far as musicianship goes, it’s hard not to like this if you’re after the groovier side of metal.
What may grate at the listener however is how awkward the vocal delivery sometimes seems to be. It’s not all the time for sure, as the harmonic section of ‘River in the Sky’ and ‘The Rage of Rays’ swiftly proves, but rather when the vocals attempt a more aggressive, rawer approach to the delivery. Because of this, the likes of ‘Words in Words’ and ‘Uncovered Fate’ are affected in such a way where you just can’t focus fully on the instrumental performance, as unique as it may be. Yes this is only a minor flaw, and like the musicianship, the vocal delivery has a lot of variety. The beginning of ‘River in the Sky’ is particularly impressive, where the soft build-up via calm rhythms and almost angelic vocal effects twist into heaviness almost immediately, and this transition is reversed just as brilliantly in ‘The Rage of Rays’.
That said, “Gates of Nowhere” does just the trick for those wanting a straightforwardly heavy, groovy metal sound. It does have a lot variety, and this is perhaps the selling point for such an expansive album, as short as it may be. Although you are likely to be unimpressed by some of the songs because of their simplicity and that sometimes so-so vocal range, there is still a monumental sound on offer here.
2. Words for Words
3. Center of the Will
4. The Rage of Rays
5. Uncovered Fate
6. River in the Sky
7. Inside Human’s Soul