Gateway - Boundless Torture - (8/10)
Published on September 1, 2018
When you were little, what kind of monsters did you fear? Don’t pretend you were a little knucklehead, we know you shat yourself the first time you watched Jurassic Park. So what was it that kept you awake? The bogeyman under your bed? Skeletons in your closet? The terrifying sound of your parents fornicating in an adjacent room? Or were you a less generic child than most? Maybe you sweated over orcs and uruk-hai or got the willies whenever someone mentioned “the Z word.” Serial killers? The movie Alien? The big boys at school?
Well kids, it’s time to tell you that monsters are real and now we know where they live. They inhabit the Gateway EP Boundless Torture. We don’t have any conclusive evidence on what kind of monster is housed within the 22 minutes, since the intensity of the filth in which they hide is such that distinguishing them as anything except really big fuckers is difficult to achieve. Distinguishing them as monsters, on the other hand, is a cinch because they do exactly what you’d expect, which is to roar fiercely and at random intervals, move ponderously, (if it was the raptors that did Jurassic Park for you, not to worry) and instill the atmosphere with the chill of fear. The guitars here are tuned so low and played so distantly that it could be the sound of a high-rise being demolished a block away, while the drumming hints at the kind of steady, inhuman cruelty that must be needed to satisfy the promise of a title like Boundless Torture. The key to the atmosphere of the release is that you’ll never see the true nature of the beast, just hear its roars and feel the shudder of the ground as it stomps away behind the scenes, thus being left to contemplate yourself and your own monstrosity instead. There ain’t no good vibes on Boundless Torture.
Regarding what Gateway sound like, metaphorical comparisons are all well and good, while musical description would place them in the underbelly of the extreme doom scene, though without many musical features except the low crush of super-distorted bass and guitar, plus sickened growls that head a little past the point of being “vocals” in a sludge or funeral doom sense and towards pure atmospheric effects. Finding comparisons is likely to produce as many results as fishing in concrete, but Disembowelment occupies one side of a field that Gateway are crossing to reach Cryostasium, the relentless song-based musicality of the former still encroaching on the cold slurry of black metal and industrial drumming of the latter. That means that no one would dream of describing Boundless Torture as memorable in a traditional sense, particularly as the four pieces (one resists the idea that these are songs) all blend together into one oppressive sensory deprivation trip; however, “Odyssey of the Bereaved” drives riff repetition home to the point of forming an actual groove, while “Iron Storms” presents itself as the moment in the torture when hot coals are placed on the eyelids of the listener, since everything suddenly intensifies from the regular stretching on the rack or tightening of the thumbscrews. Either that or the monster is pounding on the flimsy door of your bedroom with a handful of triggered blastbeats.
The general experience of listening to Gateway is not exactly pleasurable, but certainly thrilling in the sense that it makes you feel at once vulnerable and threatening yourself. For the EP to work as it does the brevity is significant, since a longer trawl through this dungeon wouldn’t be nearly so powerful, unable as most people are to sustain extreme emotions for a long time. It won’t surprise you to learn that Gateway’s previous full-length clocked in at under half an hour too, while this has even fewer musical aspirations than 2015’s self-titled debut. That such a focused and twisted commitment to nastiness sprang from the mind of a single man, Robin van Oyen from Belgium, will also not raise more than a cursory eyebrow. As for the actual musical merits of this EP, it epitomizes a wrong-track mind at its most dangerous, adding in nothing beyond the necessary elements for striking fear into hearts and maintaining the mystique of terror, proving that van Oyen is thinking clearly about how best to unleash sickness on the listener. If this were packaged with a warning label saying “Not for scaredy-cats”, Boundless Torture would have achieved its ultimate goal.