Artist: Gates of Tartarus
Album: Ascent of the Titans – EP
Those of you familiar with Mythology of any ancient subset—Grecian, Roman, etcetera—know that everything is crafted to be as enormous as humanly (or even beyond humanly) possible. Even small disputes or nascent details are blown up to gargantuan proportions. Mythology is the oldest example of grandeur on that sort of scale—a marvel of the imagination that transcends time and holds weight to this day.
So when I say that the trials and tribulations facing the release of Gates of Tartarus’ debut EP, Ascent of the Titans rivals that of Roman lore, you probably have an idea of just how long this release has been in the works, hyperbole or otherwise. Ascent of the Titans sees this brutal deathcore outfit finally release a comprehensive collection of tracks, and, boy, for the most part they are as whalloping and ruthless as the epic nature of both the band and album names might imply. Melding riffing, slamming, chugging and a dollop of groove into one behemoth of brutality, Ascent of the Titans is a streamlined taste of pure terror, polished off just enough to make the tracks fluid while retaining enough grit to slur the listener’s spit with blood.
Gates of Tartarus is a tremendous two-piece formed by members of Despondent and Necroexophilia—which means that they’re bound to infuse the boundless brutality of slamming death metal with a variety of metallic and –core influence. Instrumentalist Tyler Merendino does just that, and he does it well—with “Before the Judges of the Damned” and “The Hydra” serving as two immense examples of this. Merendino melds hyperspeed drums with thick bass and furiously fretted leads together to create a foundation of slam-based, sinister and surreal aggression, while stuttering breakdowns and moments of sludgy, despair-tinted doom fight for the climactic portions of Ascent of the Titans. While the back two tracks—“Fields of Punishment” and “Vale of Mourning” feel totally out of place and almost ruin the atmosphere of the EP, the remainder of Ascent is nothing short of invigorating, using all styles of heaviness in stride to smash the listener’s skull until their sanity leaks out of their ears. “Erebus,” an aptly-named dark an dismal journey through devastation and dissonance both, sees Merendino’s writing at its finest, while the aforementioned “Before the Judges of the Damned” is an example of pure, pissed-off power. All the while, whimsical technicality is sprinkled throughout, ensuring that Gates of Tartarus, while admittedly a slam-infused deathcore act, bring something intriguing to the table that elitists can find some solace in.
Ascent of the Titans is an instrumental lesson in intensity, true enough—but the vocal element brings just as much fuel to the fire, as it were. Frontman Dillon Becker delivers a barrage of bewildering, brutalizing guttural bellows mixed with occasional raw yells and shrill shrieks. Truly just about every track Gates of Tartarus put forth serves as an example of Becker’s prowess, but cuts like “Before the Judges of the Damned,” where Rouse goes toe-to-toe with urban legend Dickie Allen is where his talent truly holds weight. Amid the lofty guest appearances that define Ascent of the Titans, Becker’s vocals remain strong and immersive, keeping the listener hooked with a slightly dropped jaw and ears wide open, begging for more of the grisly, carnal onslaught.
Where Gates of Tartarus hit a bit of a hiccup is with the last two tracks Ascent of the Titans features. “Fields of Punishment” and “Vale of Mourning” feel as though they’re B-side to the record that were included as demose (hell, maybe they were)—and they earn this feeling through the simply shoddy production that makes them nearly a chore to push through. While the “fun” factor of having demos or old fan-favorites is an appealing and personal touch to Ascent of the Titans, it doesn’t quite pan out in making the EP as strong and comprehensively intense as it could be. Because of this, the last two cuts were almost discounted entirely from my repeated listening bouts of the record. With that said, Ascent of the Titans is immense—and the majority of the record is crushing, engaging, immersive and inventive, creating a dynamic blend of brutal death metal, deathcore, groove metal and more. If nothing else, it is absolutely worth a listen and then some, as the first several numbers are almost certain to stay stuck in high rotation.
For Fans Of: Kraanium, Analepsy, Within Destruction, Pathology, Shadow of Intent
By: Connor Welsh