Album: The Ninth Gate – EP
The Ninth Gate—an archaic book told to be written by Satan himself—is a text that attracts errant violence to whoever happens to own it. Granted, this is a fictional liberty taken by Roman Polanksi in his iconic film of the same name, but it still holds truth to the 2018 EP by the heavy music outfit Refuge. Bound to summon violence in all its magnitude and in any form it can take, The Ninth Gate is a short-but-sweet sampling of everything from heavy hardcore, slam, metalcore and more to grisly deathcore and beatdown—and beyond. Written with the solitary goal of inciting frank murder wherever it’s played, The Ninth Gate is a masterful display of musical malevolence, using every tactic in the contemporary heavy music arsenal to bewilder the listener into acts of manslaughter. So, if you’re reading this, steel your resolve and think hard before pressing play on Refuge’s latest offering—because once you do, it’s nothing but barbaric, brutalizing aggression until the last climactic breakdown draws to a close.
The Ninth Gate is an immolating experience that blends elements of metal, hardcore and everything in between to blister the listener’s ears without refrain. Built on shoulders of percussionist Jon Lievano, songs like “Withered To Dust” and “Tomb of Torment” highlight this, with Lievano roaring ahead all cylinders blaring, using fast feet and quick hands to blend speed and aggression into an excellent example of heavy music oriented drumming. Lievano, however, is rarely alone, working with bassist Matt Carroll as well as guitarists Steve Bacon and Andrew Petway to bring the entirety of Refuge’s ruthless dynamic to life. “Hollow Gaze,” the surreal and sinister EP closing number sees all of the above bringing heaviness and intensity in a way many bands could only dream of, whereas “Dead Weight” is—yes, heavy—but a little quicker and catchier at points, giving The Ninth Gate a touch of needed diversity to keep the record fresh. Carroll’s bass is positively crushing, whereas Bacon and Petway are punishing to the very last jug, with “Withered to Dust” seeing the two blending immense chugs and grooves with eerie leads to lure the listener into the otherwise oppressive experience that is The Ninth Gate. This New York based outfit is an unstoppable force hellbent on delivering any and everything they can in order to wage a malevolent and murky, dark war on the listener’s ears. While Refuge don’t reinvent the wheel, The Ninth Gate takes the band places that their previous release merely hinted at, capitalizing on the band’s ability to create heaviness that hits just hard the tenth, eleventh or twentieth time the listener hears it.
You probably got it by now—Refuge are heavy—and that’s as true of their vocal element as it is of their instrumental element. On one hand, frontman Casey Carrano dominates every track The Ninth Gate has to offer, using low bellows and raw, mid-range yells to flesh out and arsenal of aggravated, aggressive and gritty vocal prowess. On the other hand, The Ninth Gate is home to a great many guest vocalists (not the least of which happens to be Chris Brea on the lead single, “Hollow Gaze”) that add even more diversity into the ranks. While I don’t want to give away the remainder of the frontmen featured throughout The Ninth Gate, suffice it to say that Refuge have drafted some of heavy music’s finest voices of past and present in an attempt to add another dimension of devastation to their already impressively hefty release. This is all just icing on Carrano’s already excellent performance throughout the EP—so if you’re into releases that serve as a smattering of a plethora vocal styles and voices themselves, you need look no further than The Ninth Gate.
Refuge have graced 2018 with one Hell of an EP. The Ninth Gate has excellent replay value, remarkable stopping power and punch to add. Defined by intensity and aggression, laden with mosh-friendly moments and ear-catching riffs and grooves both, Refuge’s latest release is an astounding testament to heavy music that doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel to be excellent.
For Fans Of: Bodysnatcher, Grievance, Born a New, I AM
By: Connor Welsh