Gates of Darkness


Man, what does one have to do to put together a metal band that doesn't […]
July 17, 2023
Alastor - Gates of Darkness album cover

Man, what does one have to do to put together a metal band that doesn't sound like every other fucking band you've heard a gazillion times.  By 1996, it had all been done.  Hair metal was swept up and dumped under the thread-barren rug. METALLICA and SLAYER were on their way to immortal status.  Florida and their friends in Scandinavia had perfected the art of death and blackened metal. Kurt Cobain had long since shot himself in the head with a rifle, beckoning the end of rock and roll as a commercially viable hit machine.  Meanwhile, on the rest of the planet, tens of thousands of kids were growing their hair long, dressing in black and freaking their parents out by loading their bedrooms with these CDs.  And some of these kids managed to get their hands on instruments and do their own take on the music they had held so close to their blackened hearts.  Portuguese band ALASTOR is one of these bands, a collection of misfits from the Iberian peninsula that released "Gates of Darkness" way back in 1996.  It's a searing collection of tunes that conjure up memories of blackened thrash wrapped up in a blood-soaked blanket of death metal.

The album has all the elements of early '90s blackened thrash, a kind of minor league version of DARKTHRONE.  The occasional chorus-drenched solos will drop in once in a while to shake things up. Fourth song "No Exorcism" is a good example of this. It's a fairly typical chug-chug-chug thrash riff that gallops along for a few minutes as Desecrator growls over the punkish thrash, and the solo rips in. "Possessed By Darkness" is a punk-infused blackened riot cut from the same ratty cloth. There's a lightness to it that implies that ALASTOR are not really taking themselves that seriously and the vocals are enunciated and clear enough that you can understand the lyrics, which adds to the blackened comprehension. "Total Devastation" is a straight-up, no-nonsense four minutes of thrashed madness, probably the most Alastor-ish song on the album, assuming that's even a thing.

The last three songs on the album find ALASTOR stretching their creative muscles a bit more.  "Merciless Mayhem" is a dark psychedelic solo-guitar piece, drenched in delay and reverb over the sound of falling rain.  The guitar swirls from ear to ear as the thunder breaks and delivers you from the previous eight songs of thrash. The next song is a cover of BLACK SABBATH's "Children of the Grave."  It might be the best song on the album, a confident rendering of the classic metal song that contains all the elements of a dirty ALASTOR ditty: filthy, mud-filled guitars; thrash drums that pummel along like a steam-train; the guttural, evil vocals of Desecrator. Final song "Spawn of Evil," like a lot of closing songs, tries to showcase all of what makes the band ALASTOR, while evoking an almost epic version of blackened story-telling. The repeated chorus of the title gives the listener something to grasp onto, like the fingers clenching the edge of the cliff before falling to your bloody death.

This group of Portuguese metal marauders have been around forever, and I'm sure are an institution within that Lisbon metal-scene.  Unfortunately, the album sounds like a band in its infancy (which they were) trying to emulate the bands that have inspired them, rather than searching for their own identity.  The question as to why they wanted to re-release the album is one for them, as their more recent work seems a bit more adventurous and inspired.  If you're into traditional, old school blackened thrash, then there are some bangers on here that might suffice.  But at the end of the day, this album might go in the oh, I forgot I reviewed this band before heap of rock and roll promos.

5 / 10









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"Gates of Darkness" Track-listing:

1. Through the Gates
2. Sacrifice to Satan
3. Hell on Earth
4. No Exorcism
5. Bestial Wrath of the Antichrist
6. Possessed by Darkness
7. Total Devastation
8. Merciless Mayhem
9. Children of the Grave
10. Spawn of Evil

Alastor Lineup:

Desecrator - Guitars, Vocals
J.M. - Bass, Vocals
Destructor - Drums

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