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, rising from the ashes of
Conquest, a Death/Thrash Metal band first formed in early 1986 by guitarist and songwriter Necrolord (Kristian Wahlin). However,
this band didn't become totally twisted, insane and serious until unholy screamer Goatspell (Tomas Lindberg) joined in March
1988. When Grotesque hit the local scene that autumn, there were absolutely no other Death Metal bands around in the Gothenburg
area and there were literally just a few people into underground Death and Black Metal. Grotesque soon got a maniacal reputation
of being devoted Satanists, grave desecrators, blasphemers and a very brutal live band.
The original line-up featured Goatspell - vomits, Necrolord - high priest of distortion
and Nuctemeron - 4-string damnation as well as two other members who soon left due to wimpdom. Rehearsing in the basement
of Necrolord's house they soon got together their first violent pieces of death and mayhem. "Moondance Prophecy" was a slow
song reminiscent of Hellhammer/Celtic Frost.
In the early months of 1989 the drummer, Offensor, joined the order of blasphemy and
desecration thus completing the Grotesque line-up. They rehearsed heavily and decomposed more complex and evil Death/Black
metal material like "Ascension of the Dead", "Blood Runs From The Altar" and "Fall Into Decay". On the 4th of May they recorded
the blasphemous rehearsal/demo The Black Gate Is Closed, an avalanche of death and hate preparing the weak for Grotesque's
first studio recording. 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
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
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 Awaits.
"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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