Monday, February 20, 2023

Gates of Ishtar - The Dawn of Flames (1997)

The one with the boobs flopping out. The Dawn of Flames arrived to me first as a promo when I was doing the paper zine thing back in the 90s, I don't believe it was the version where they had hooked up with German Invasion Records, but another licensed version. It was already a little surprising that Gates of Ishtar hadn't taken over the world in the year since their debut, and like that, I wasn't immediately smitten with what was on the album, but like A Bloodred Path, this is one that has aged well enough that it's become a backup when I'm seeking out bands in this mid-range melodeath genre, and I'm just not in the mood for my favorite bands of the form like Darkane, Soilwork or the 90s material from At the Gates and In Flames

The band hadn't really had a large amount of time to mature through their releases, but having said that, The Dawn of Flames is a little more laid back and seasoned, and even I dare say a little less intense. The band were settled into writing melodic songs with a clear heavy metal background, and wanted to go a little less pedal to the metal and instead branch out dynamically. So some of the rhythms in tracks like "Trail of Tears" might seem almost pedestrian by comparison, but they are still well-seeded with riffing ideas, patterns that attach right to any melodeath fan's ear-space, and even some guest synthesizers and pianos from one Dan Swanö, who also produced the disc. His mix here is a little more washed out, atmospheric, less straight to the grill than A Bloodred Path, but then I think that tends to suit the song selection here a little more, even if it might have felt disappointing to a few fans. When the material here does speed up ("Forever Scarred", "Dream Field", etc), it does feel like a direct extension of what they put out the years before, but there's enough of a minor difference to the sophomore that some 'growth' had been achieved.

As for myself, I slightly prefer the debut because I'm not entirely in love with the production to this, but for individual song quality they're on somewhat even ground. I like the cover for its color palette and mammary appreciation, but I don't think it fits the band's lyrics or concepts whatsoever. You'd see that and probably expect some barbaric heavy metal circa Manowar, Cirith Ungol or Holland's Goddess of Desire, but it's a little out of place with the introspective lyrics and melody here. Nitpicking though, because this is a solid if not wholly remarkable follow-up that I still value when I'm in the mood to wax nostalgic about all those underground 90s melodeath acts my friends and I used to follow.

Verdict: Win [7.5/10]

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