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Back to start would be a fitting motto for the fifth full-length album from THE GATES OF SLUMBER. I welcome the decision of the Indianapolis trio because 'The Awakening' and 'Suffer No Guilt' are my all time favourites in their extensive discography. I must admit, however, that the following two albums do have their charm, too, even though I'm not the biggest heavy metal fan under the sun. Discharge and Crucifix have had a bigger impact on my life than Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. But it was nice to hear that THE GATES OF SLUMBER didn't insist on limiting themselves to only one formula. However, it seems as if this guys have tasted blood again and have resolved to record an album that is thoroughly saturated with doom and gloom. Let us say straight away: they have definitely achieved their goal with 'The Wretch'.

And even though the new album is well integrated into the tradition of doom metal, there are also a few surprises, but later more about this. The slow opener 'Bastards Born', however, is untouched by any surprises and again shows that THE GATES OF SLUMBER worship Saint Vitus like crazy (preferable the Scott Reagers-era). This is no secret, but it has been a while since they did it in such a shameless way. In contrast, 'Castle of the Devil' is considerably more interesting than the title would suggest. In particular, the middle section reveals a new side of the group. The band touches on blues and jazz without affecting the characteristics of their monstrous sound.

In all other respects, however, 'Castle of the Devil' is pure doom metal and proves impressively that Karl Simon's expressive vocal style is still one of the trademarks of THE GATES OF SLUMBER. In contrast to the slow songs, there are a couple of faster tracks such as 'Coven of Cain' or 'The Scovrge Ov Drvnkenness' which guarantee the wanted variety. But 'faster' doesn't mean really fast. It's more like a high mid-tempo, but most of the time the feeling of wading through a tarpit overcomes my senses while listening to 'The Wretch'. It is also of note that THE GATES OF SLUMBER have placed emphasis on minimalistic song structures in combination with monolithic riffs, exactly like Saint Vitus. The result of this is that some of the songs are just too predictable, but probably that's precisely what they set out to achieve. In spite of my objections, 'The Wretch' is a good album which shows that THE GATES OF SLUMBER are not finished yet.