Back in 2012, UK death metallers Binah released their debut album, Hallucinating in Resurrecture. It was an excellent squally mass of esoteric filth—check it out, forthwith—and at the album’s backbone sat drummer Anil Carrier. Anil, and his brother Shadie, play in multiple UK metal bands such as Towers of Flesh, Necrotize, Theoktony and others, and as a two-piece they operate under the banner of The Solemn Curse.
The Solemn Curse was founded in late 2011, and the band’s six-song debut, Gateways to Eternity, is more or less straight-down-the-line black/death metal. However, rather than burrowing deep into any coagulated, cryptic viciousness, Gateways to Eternity has a more decontaminated feel—its gaze directed upward at dark and brooding skies, rather than focusing on the mire we tread though daily. Opting for a sound that draws from the classics (Deicide, Death, Dissection etc), Anil handles all of the instrumentation, with Shadie providing the vocals and lyrical concepts. Gateways to Eternity is fleshed out by guest appearances from artists such as Aort (Code/Indesinence/Binah) and Dave Connolly (Rex Shachath).
Death metal certainly provides the velocity and percussive stomp to Gateways to Eternity, but the presence of cruel and clinical black metal underscores its character. Tracks like “Fourth Dimension”, “The Grand Design” and “Visible Light” hasten along with abundant death metal crunch, but there’s a polish to Gateways to Eternity, a dry-ice, melodic-black-metal core that pervades throughout.
Admittedly, the mention of ‘polish’ might be cause for concern, but it’s important to reinforce that although The Solemn Curse have filed down the jagged edges, nothing’s been taken away from the album’s aggression. In the end, it’s the difference between a razor-sharp scalpel and a rusty blade, and both have their uses.
That cleaner/drier production works well, especially where the ambience evokes the presence of the celestial void. Conceptually, it all makes perfect sense. As a recent interview noted, the band’s intention is to draw “heavily upon scientific thought” and address the “realities that appear to govern the universe”.
That thematically systematic approach is fittingly represented by Gateways to Eternity, which emphasizes the chill up the spine you get when questioning the nature of fundamental truths. However, while that resin of refinement certainly exists, Gateways to Eternity is very much a product of visceral underground metal—it simply happens to be committed to tackling big ideas, and who better to deal in such inquiry than inquisitive and belligerent metal artists.
Like all albums where the instrumentation is handled by a sole figure, Gateways to Eternity comes with the added risk of egomania running riot. But Anil doesn’t over-extend or under-achieve in pursuit of unattainable goals. The Solemn Curse represents a new path for Anil and Shadie, but neither has overstretched in their enthusiasm to mark that new course; they’ve carefully plotted their first steps, laying out clear conceptual and musical themes that leave room for expansion.
The tremolo-heavy riffing and dexterous drumming is all captured crisply, but a rottenness skulks about during the murkier churns of “I – The Suffering” and “II – Voices”, and an industrial shudder is felt where passages lurch, halt, and begin again. Overall, the mix of black and death metal riffing presents a solid balance of the bloody and the frosty—offering technical clarity backed by enough savagery to ensure Gateways to Eternity remains consistently cold-blooded. Shadie’s vocals are gruff, but not guttural in any unlit-cavern sense. They’re more barked than buried, orbiting somewhere around the David Vincent or Glen Benton range, with agonized shrieks emphasizing the unhinged eeriness.
In all, Gateways to Eternity makes for a strong introduction to The Solemn Curse, mixing elements of metal’s past and present, and providing hints to the band’s future direction. Certainly, these six songs hold your interest, which is the all-important factor for any new outfit, and The Solemn Curse have established their identity here. But what is most interesting is that they’ve illuminated a number of possible trails to follow. This is wholly apt for a band that investigates absolute truths—there’s nothing more absolute than our never-ending quest to make sense of our existence. It will be fascinating to see where The Solemn Curse head next, but for now, Gateways to Eternity is an imaginative, confident and spirited first step.