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By the mid-90’s, black metal was all over the globe and while my knowledge of Polish black metal (or Polish metal in general for that matter) is fairly limited, let’s say that Themgoroth weren’t interested in high-pacing intensity, but instead preferred to take a brisk walk over a sprint and I don’t blame them for that. Indeed, Gate to the Unknown is a mid-paced black metal album that has more in common with, say, the early Rotting Christ albums than any Norwegian outputs.
Based on these compositions’ durations, one might expect a fair amount of epics to dominate Gate to the Unknown, but that’s not exactly what you get here. The songs are fairly long, sure, but take a while to get going and certainly don’t rush towards any choruses and while the latter is hardly an issue, the former becomes frustrating at times. “A Poet Inspired by Pain” spends too much time hovering around thanks to the airy keys and by the time the guitars kick in, you end up with an unimaginative guitar chug that’s not really the best way to get things going. Still, the tune makes some progress for the best with its choppy riffs slashing between the prominent key lines. Similarly, “In the Name of…” has a welcoming theatric feel to it, not unlike that of early Sigh, but fails to reach a promising climax; instead you end up with some goofy vocals spewing out nonsense while the actual guitars vanish into oblivion. Let’s just say that I could have done with some more emphasis on actual riffs over atmosphere and there are times when Gate to the Unknown sound a bit too “empty” as a result.
That said, the atmosphere feels majestic thanks to the keys that are more of a mood booster than an actual downer (not unlike what you’ve come to expect out of, say, early Rotting Christ again). I’m a sucker for these kind of keys playing a huge role and Gate to the Unknown does turn into some serious black magic at times. The title track opens up with a welcoming guitar harmony and expresses itself like a haunting affair not unlike that of Argentum‘s debut, which would come out one year later. As the track progresses the guitars grind onward in a far more captivating manner though – if you can picture some of the crude guitar work of Worship Him mixed with the aura of Thy Mighty Contract you’re not far off.
I’m also quite fond of the vocals of Asmodeus. They’re snarly and raspy, not unlike that of well, again, early Sigh and they inject the right amount of passion to these compositions. The drums are fairly bearable and steady – while I could have done with a bigger drum sound, you could easily end up with a far inferior drum sound, or even worse – a drum machine instead of an actual drummer. Still, the big flaw of Gate to the Unknown is fairly obvious; it’s rather unfocused, even if all the actual compositions have their moments (I could do without a five minute introduction, though, screw that one). Regardless, I’d have liked to see Themgoroth improve their crafts, but based on a quick look, it seems that their follow-up record was (partially perhaps?) a re-recording. Certainly, Gate to the Unknown would have benefit from some obvious re-arrangements, but if it’s still fairly enjoyable for what it is, so don’t be afraid to pass through the gate.
Release date: 1995
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