Released in early 1989, The Black Gate is Closed is the second
demo from one of the earliest black/death metal bands from Sweden, Grotesque. One might not recognize this as the same entity
that spawned Incantation or the more widely available In the Embrace of Evil. However, it actually sounds like
the logical predecessor to the Gardens of Grief E.P. from At the Gates.
The production is completely different
from the band's better-known material. Unlike their later recordings, which possessed a razor-sharp guitar tone and more treble
overall, the sound here is dominated by bass. The guitars sound rather blunt and everything comes together to create a dull
wall of sound.
Though two of these tracks appear on later recordings, they are hardly recognizable. "Blood Runs from
the Altar", in particular, seems to have changed quite a bit from the version on this tape. The riffs are played in more of
a traditional death metal way, as opposed to later on. As well, the vocals are much deeper and somewhat reminiscent of the
black/death metal bands from Brazil, such as Vulcano. The drumming is more militaristic and rigid, unlike the style utilized
on Incantation. The blast beats are very stiff and give the songs kind of an oppressive feeling.
The Black Gate
is Closed was quite a bit ahead of what the other bands in the Swedish underground were up to, at the time. It sounds
more evil than Bathory's Blood Fire Death, released the previous year, and is almost more intense than anything Nihilist
was up to at the time. The sound may be a little shocking to those only familiar with Incantation, but it is still
a solid piece of death/black metal.
(21 Mar. 2014)
Grotesque was spawned out of the abyss in September 1988, featuring guitarist and
songwriter Necrolord (Kristian Wahlin) and unholy screamer Goatspell (Tomas Lindberg). In the early
months of 1989 the drummer, Offensor, joined the order of blasphemy and desecration thus completing the Grotesque line-up.
The coming months were spent writing new songs like the epic "Angels Blood" and "Submit To Death" as well as playing a few
crazy live shows. The legendary November recording of In The Embrace Of Evil featured five songs - this was originally
ment to be the first five songs of a full length album on Dolores Records, another three tracks to be recorded later on. Therefore,
the recording was never released as a demo. In August 1990, Grotesque released the Incantation E.P.
The E.P. begins with the foggy and dismal epic, "Incantation". A brief intro, sounding
like something torn from a horror soundtrack, leads into powerful riffs that fade in, crushing all in sight. A haunting solo
flows through your brain as a sinister tremolo melody seeps beneath the surface. The riffs shift toward something reminiscent
of Treblinka/Tiamat, as the vocals creep in. The song speeds up as before Goatspell's sickening screams send chills up your
spine. There are many tempo changes, as the song takes you on a blackened journey through the darkest shadows, far away from
the light. This takes the legacy of Bathory, Slayer and Hellhammer even deeper into the depths of Hell, only to emerge darker
and more malevolent. The spirit is closer to what Morbid accomplished on the December Moon release, and is much more
evil than the bands in Stockholm, such as Nihilist or Carnage.
"Spawn of Azathoth" begins with very disturbing and sickening sounds, before the
tremolo melodies and blasting drums assault the listener. This song is short yet still manages to leave an impression. The
solos almost seem influenced by old Slayer, while the ghoulish vocals are certainly unholier than anything else going on in
Sweden around this time.
The next song is "Nocturnal Blasphemies", which begins with an ugly thrash riff
and a horrid scream, followed by a very fitting solo. Soon, the song builds in speed, as the thrash riffs are replaced by
tremolo melodies that slice through your flesh like rusted blades. While it may have been released in the summer of 1990,
this release embodies the underground scene of the late 1980s. This song, in particular, has a feeling similar to Hell
"Submit to Death" is not as possessed as the previous songs. The riffs are more
thrash-oriented and the atmosphere is not as dark. It has a lot of energy and contains very memorable riffs. The pace is fairly
fast, though it slows down near the end. Again, this song is dominated by the thrash riffs. It displays variation in the style
of Grotesque and fits in well, here. It serves as a break from the more dismal and suffocating feeling that permeates the
rest of the songs.
This is ephemeral as "Blood Runs From the Altar" bursts forth, from the bowels
of Hell, destroying all in its path. The demonic screams and the blasting drums gives this more of a black metal feeling than
anything else. This song is unrelenting, during the first part. Near the middle, it slows down and Goatspell unleashes tormented
screams. This is later followed by an unholy chorus of demons, right before the haunting lead solo. The song then speeds up
again, before ending with a chilling scream that fades into oblivion.
Not long after Incantation was released, Grotesque played their last show
and due to contradictions they split up shortly afterwards. What they left behind was an obscure legacy of evil. They remain
alongside such bands as Merciless and Mefisto, being relatively unknown and unappreciated. It is a shame that they did not
manage to keep things together long enough to release a couple proper full-length albums. Some of the spirit of Grotesque
carried over into the first releases from At the Gates, before they went for the more simplistic sound that they would later
(17 Mar. 2009)
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