Review Summary: Brutal and foreboding yet serene and uncontaminated, Gorement's The Ending Quest is a testament to what made old school death metal so special
It’s difficult to find an album that could be considered a better example of “pure” death metal than Gorement’s The Ending Quest. While the modern incarnation of death metal – just like any genre – has its merits, it seems as if any influence that can be attributed to bands like this is lost in translation. As modern acts strive to be the fastest and most brutal, they complete forgo the essence of what made old school death metal so distinct. In recent years, bands like Funebrarum and Cruciamentum have been doing a very commendable job recapturing that old school sound, but this imitation movement seldom pushes boundaries nor produces anything that the original death metal acts couldn’t do better. Perhaps this is why The Ending Quest is such a perfect representation of its genre, as it was unique in its time and has yet to be even vaguely replicated by a modern act.
If the atmosphere of The Ending Quest can be summed up in one word, it would be “eerie”. The production is buoyant, yet powerful and actually quite pleasant. Despite the fuzzy early-90s guitar tone, every instrument is crystal clear, with the lead and rhythm guitars contrasting with each other beautifully. But what is truly special is the band’s ability to utilise this perfect metallic blend of instruments to create some of the most emotive soundscapes heard in death metal. Throughout the 41 minute runtime, the captivating yet unsettling mood is maintained without fail, track to track, taking the listener on an unbroken journey that spans every human emotion imaginable. The hauntingly melodic yet heavy riffing sets the tone of each track, as the rhythm and bass plod along – sometimes at a snails’ pace – you’re frozen with anything from fear to infatuation. As you lay captivated, there is almost a sense that you’re being watched, or even perhaps that something is chasing you, biding its time in a malevolent game of hide-and-seek. As your mysterious pursuer slowly etches closer, travelling as the crow flies, every effort you make to run or hide seems futile as the feeling of your impending doom sets in.
Suddenly the music changes pace, you’re no longer captivated, you’re panicking. As the riffs seamlessly shift from slow and compelling to fast and aggressive, the unobtrusive but guttural vocals howl like a blood lusting wolf in the distance, further cementing the inevitability of your fate. As you’re running for dear life, adrenalin pumping through your veins, the music suddenly eases up, the wailing leads evoke hope, but this relief seldom lasts a minute at a time, and suddenly you’re running for dear life once again. This is, of course, just an example of the images this album can conjure, as very few death metal releases can claim to be as haunting as this one. The see-sawing between atmospheric bliss and mayhem continues almost endlessly, sometimes dipping into soothing acoustic sections but then immediately catching you off guard with breakneck blasts and tremolo picking. By the time the album has run its course, your immediate impression will vary from listen to listen. You can be left uneasy, relieved, enamoured or even saddened, but one feeling is consistent, and that’s that you want to experience what you just did over and over again.
The Ending Quest possesses a certain quality that is difficult to describe without resorting to hyperbole. Very few death metal albums can claim to summon such a profound emotional response. Between the beautifully balanced sound engineering, the beastly vocals, the lingering guitar melodies and the band’s no frills approach to their own brand of “brutality”, Gorement created something of a masterpiece. The Ending Quest is an album completely untainted by trends or by the desire to be faster and heavier than its contemporaries. It's death metal in its most uncontaminated form, focusing wholly and solely on itself, which is why there has never been an album quite like it, and perhaps there never will be.
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