Man, I really didn’t like this EP when I first heard it. The songs seemed bland and no riffs really managed to grab my attention, and overall I saw it as a big step down from what they did on their previous demo (“Visions Of Obscenity”, also reviewed by yours truly). I thus set off to sharpen my paper sword, and I had this really critical review line up, but somehow I couldn’t shake this nagging feeling that there’s more to “Cloaked In Doctrine” than meets the ear and that another listen (or two) was in order. Well lo and behold, my third listen proved fruitful, as the music finally began to kick my ass, and kick it hard!
I suppose my initial disappointment stemmed from the fact that this EP marks a significant change in these Irish metallers’ sound – on “Visions...” they rocked out in very scuzzed-out Death/Groove/Thrash vein which I really liked. It had a certain unique charm to it seeing as how the Irish scene is littered with Folk and Doom acts. While most Irish bands do their best to conjure up mental images of bloody battles and sinister incantations taking place in some misty wind-swept moor, these guys had a sound that was more akin to a booze-addled brawl down at the local pub. Well, two years on and GOR have scuttled much of their DISMEMER-meets-DOWN tendencies in favour of a much more pronounced Black/Death style not that far removed from early NECROPHOBIC or SACRAMENTUM. This led to the obvious “arghh, another Swedish DM clone” reflex but after a few listens it became apparent that these guys are quite adept at this style, and while this new material is less catchy than what I’m used to they have a knack for coming up with solid, fleshed-out riffs that perfectly accentuates their new sound. Consisting of nothing but subtle acoustic strains accompanied by the sound of falling rain the intro, “Upon The 13’th Hour”, succeeds in setting up a dark yet tranquil atmosphere which is soon shattered by the title track that races out of the gates with a superb main riff that simply reeks of that early Swedish Blackened Death vibe. They had the presence of mind to add a few extra licks here and there so that it comes off as more memorable than would otherwise be the case, and the harmonic solos near the end tops things off in fine style. “Burning The Olive Branch” keeps up the quality, being more mid-paced, while “Beneath Contempt” rounds off proceedings in a slower, doomier style with vocalist Dave Hynes doing his best Nodtveidt impression.
While it is true that this style has been done to death over the years this band make it sound viable and exciting due to their compact style of song writing, which is commendable. The riffs switch subtly between slow, mid-paced, and fast when the songs call for it, the instrumentation is tight, and the production is also miles ahead of muddiness that plagued their previous work. “Cloaked In Doctrine” isn’t a revolutionary piece of work by any stretch of the imagination but it will keep you entertained all the way through as well as remind you how good the Swedish scene was back in the early to mid 90s. They have proven themselves to be a versatile act and I really hope they get scooped up by a label soon because they are obviously a talented and hard-working outfit.
(Online March 10, 2009)