If albums, unlike books, could be judged by their covers, then Conqueror, the newest release from The Gates of Slumber, should rank as one of the greatest metal albums in the history of man. A barbarian warrior, his loincloth fashioned from a bronze skull, stands victoriously. In one outstretched hand is his mighty sword, rivulets of blood dripping from its cruel edge. The other grasps the severed head of his enemy, whose corpse lies sprawled at his feet. Reclining against his powerful form rests the nude visage of an exotic slave girl, obediently waiting to serve her new master.
Unfortunately this galvanizing scene bears little similarity to the ponderous fate that awaits the listener. The band tries its hand at a smattering of metal forms without ever truly capturing the essence of any of them. The album's slow songs are the worst offenders. Without the sense of creeping dread, as though the music itself might come alive at any moment and eat your soul, doom metal is just a bunch of plodding chords.
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The best tracks are those that seem to willfully remove themselves from the metal pretense. On "Eyes of the Lair," an acknowledged departure for the band, Slint-esque post-rock takes over, and the band works through the dirgelike structure and angular guitar intrusions in fine form. "Children of Satan," visiting similar indie-ish territory, finds Karl Simon channeling Hüsker Dü. With that kind of potential Pitchfork cred, perhaps it's time for the band to invest in some skinny jeans.