Style: death metal, black metal, symphonic metal, experimental, Austrian
Label: Napalm Records
Home: Austria (disbanded)
Members: Peter K. ~ guitars/bass/keyboards
Thurisaz ~ vocals
Lucia ~ keyboards
Primarily the side project of Peter K. of Abigor, but including two past & future Abigor bandmates, A Death Gate Cycle is the first of two releases by the largely unsuccessful Heidenreich. This black/death metal release was panned by critics but at the same time it's endeavors to be creative have been what's kept in alive in death metal circles & amongst those looking for something different & somewhat obscure. The eight minute opening title track sets the mold for mostly what follows. It opens with a synthesizer spawned symphonic movement that is as authentically classical as any symphonic metal album can ever hope to get ... though symphonic/classical in a epic soundtrack sort of way to a movie about the Civil War or perhaps 'Lord Of The Rings'. But, this gives way suddenly to a typical death metal song of heavy Mayhem-inspired distorted riffing & growled vocals, only to just as suddenly be replaced by heavy winds blowing & another symphony but with some German voiceover a la Christopher Lee. The bridge, a highlight of the death metal part, features some creepy organ playing & a second singer trying to sound like he's in a church or more properly an opera but with a voice too weak & untrained to pull off the result. It's trying to be Satyricon with Tarja Tarunen on backing vocals ... but nobody has her voice & even she doesn't sing to death metal. While the black metal riffing sounds like all other black metal riffing, which is the problem with much black/death metal - its too imitative & lacking depth. Mayhem & Burzum were great for their originality & venomous attack but it's not music that holds up to scrutiny or imitation. Thus, we have bands like Heidenreich that try to be original but miss the mark with not disaster but boredom. Obviously this track is a mini-story but the German language fails to give its meaning to the casual listener who doesn't have any available translated lyrics while the sudden jarring from orchestra to metal to orchestra does little to create a flowing story or mood though it's trying desperately to be a musical epic. The tracks that follow tend to be in the same mold, though "Frozen Tears" has a monk-like chorus that's a bit better & a symphonic ending that's so out of a movie one can almost see the action. There's also a slow meandering guitar solo that does wonders to balance out the over-driven distorted riffing. "The Prophet's Sacrifice" & "Todeswunsch" are both instrumental orchestral pieces, though the later is a piano focused song with a Philip Glass-like repetetive rhythm that ends up sounding like a gloomy Yanni. Yanni should never sound gloomy, but at least they sound like Yanni versus just another symphonic metal band as something is obviously going right on some level. But, are these two bridges between the other songs creating a larger album length story or just symphonic forays for the sake of it? It's hard to tell, though if one removed all the death metal parts outside of the slow guitar soloing this would be an amazing genre-defying album. On some level Judas Priest would try to do similiar with Nostradamus with wild songs bridged by orchestral background music, but they'd link the pieces far better & let it all flow into each other instead interruption after interruption. Closing track "Memories Of a Descending Moon" opens with a sword fight & battle scene sounds with a guitar solo of droning notes & a Christopher Lee voice over with the battle drowning out as the song continues. It's not really a song, per say as its meanders too much. But, it's the most experimental song on the album & the only one where everything comes together & flows like one believes Peter K wants it to. It's well worth checking out. Sadly, this is just another moment when I wish I had the time to go back & study my family tongue of German again.