Four suitably grim looking gentlemen from Denmark present us with some blackened death metal. I felt a tang of Hypocrisy and a waft of Amon Amarth in there but “Gehenna” wends its own way darkly and creepily and in a very controlled and deliberate way.
The problem I had with this album, which is By The Patient’s third, was its clinical nature which for me sucked out the excitement. It’s strange really because there is fire and drums trigger on “Deceiver” and other tracks, and there are distinct levels of darkness. Yet this incessantly death-like progress overrides the shadowy atmospheres which I sense is the idea, and gives the album a pedestrian nature. The title track is neither doomy nor funereal but strangely patient, and even when walls come crashing down, it’s as if they carried out a health and safety assessment and it’s all done in a controlled way. Even “Web of Beliefs”, which threatens to throw off the shackles with its thrashiness cries out constraint and control. It takes off in a technical way but at one point I found myself thinking that it’s like that music you hear while they’re setting up between bands at the Underworld. You don’t know who it’s by but you’re in the bar anyway, chatting with your mates. I can only think that a By The Patient live show is more dynamic than this recorded performance. They’ve played at Roskilde and Wacken and supported numerous big bands so there’s obviously something going on.
I’ve listened to “Gehenna” a few times in the hope of receiving an electric shock, but it hasn’t happened. My reaction to each track was mixed. The wall of sound of “The Sleep”, characterised by the murderous drumming, showed promise. It’s bleak and heavy, and the guitar work is fine but ultimately it lacked spirit and ends drearily. So too the robust death thrash of “Snakes” manages to be monotonous in spite of its punishing riff and deadly growls. “Nat” is a strange, desultory affair with deadened tones and the sound of human anguish and a bit of rain. I still wasn’t licking my lips. Probably the most authentic track for me was “This Barren Earth”. Feeding off “Nat”, thunder prevails. With its old school insistent riff and triggers, it entrenches itself in a deep groove but still doesn’t go much further. Then “Omnivore” finishes the job. It is dark and creepy. Typically it lacks emotion of any sort. It’s just hard-nosed death and controlled belligerence.
Maybe I’m looking at this album from the wrong perspective, although in my defence I wasn’t aware of any perspective or particular expectation when I picked it up. I found very little here to stir me up. By The Patient set a certain tone through layers of heaviness but all I felt was drudgery. “Gehenna” is alright, but that’s hardly a great compliment, is it?
(5.5/10 Andrew Doherty)