Boethiah’s Celestial Gateway EP is out now! A mirage of space-fueled death metal like this should not be passed up for geeks and nerds like you. Out on the Rotted Life label, Boethiah’s got a lot of science-fiction themed contemporaries stacked up against them; read our review below to see how Celestial Gateway stacks up in the space arena.
While not the standard subject matter, science-fiction has been a water tread by those who dare venture past the typical metal themes of gore, hatred, and war. Pioneered by technical/progressive thrash bands like Voivod and Droid in the 1980s, this space-themed sect of the metal world was slowly expanded-upon up to the present day. The most notable contribution has been Vektor’s handful of modern full-lengths that, while openly taking heavy inspiration from Voivod (just compare their logos), managed to craft three distinct and beloved works that pushed the genre to even further lengths. While certainly a niche within the metal sphere, similar artists have shown that concept albums as such, or even building your career around these themes, proves viable from a creative and monetary aspect. Let’s see how Boethiah’s contribution stacks up against these contemporary works.
Celestial Gateway immediately diversifies itself from similar efforts through the use of an entirely different musical vibe. While Voivod and Vektor’s music seemed shed a friendly light on the intricacies and grandeur of our universe, Boethiah’s approach tries to mystify humans and their colonization-drawn views by depicting the vast assembly of galaxies in front of us as treacherous and horrifying. Such is evident in comparison of the groups’ singing styles as Voivod and Vektor sang with a certain inspiration and wonder in mind, while Boethiah’s vocals feel more akin to some sort of alien monstrosity looking down on us mere humans whilst pondering our grim fate.
This alien monstrosity in question is actually the protagonist of Celestial Gateway’s story, albeit with the help of his left-hand-man who plays that very-familiar hilariously-puny left-hand-man archetype you see in movies and books. Akin to the stereotypical dichotomy between the brain and brawn (think Immortan Joe and his very muscular son Rictus Erectus from the film Mad Max: Fury Road), Boethiah contributes to this stereotypical duo with a demon-voiced protagonist, who you could imagine to be a sizeable scary foreign being, who rules in unison with a high-pitched left-hand that would most likely resemble some sort of miniature humanoid with a floating brain in a glass bulb where his head should be. There is a moment in “Succumbing the Void” where there is a shared vocal segment between this demon and his ruling partner that plays quite nicely to the ears while contributing to the lore of Celestial Gateway. I found this section to be innovative and interesting from a listener’s perspective.
This preliminary setup between our duo of characters is coupled with a handful of other effects and design choices that make Celestial Gateway feel more like a science-fiction album. The opening track “Approaching the Gateway” opens the EP with a fairly-predictable takeover monologue from our demon protagonist which is essentially a recording of his discussion regarding our puny human race. Furthermore, there are a few sections whereby a cryptic expansive lead guitar solo is played over a ponderous harmony to either close off or open various tracks along the release. Finally, there are obviously some science-fiction samples thrown in here and there, with some beeps and spaceship noises injected in where they fit.
Ultimately, this undoubtedly sounds like a space-inspired record, but I can’t help shake the feeling that Boethiah didn’t travel as far as they should’ve in this direction. Yes, I know I’m comparing this to one of the sub-sub-subgenre’s utmost best releases, but Vektor’s 2016 album Terminal Redux is composed in such a manner with an incredibly thoughtful tracklist that upon a full listen, the album kind of leaves you speechless. I’m not really getting that feeling from Celestial Gateway, even though all the necessary but predictably-inserted stops were made to deliver that science-fiction feel.
The release does, however, introduce some themed riffs and audial sections that both fit the science-fiction getup and work on a sonic level. In its entirety, “Black Sea (Of Infinity)” is a highly-respectable composition that opens and closes with the aforementioned cryptic endeavouring solos. In between such sections lies a solid sci-fi death metal tune which happens to be my favourite on the release. I believe the song title and subsequent composition is a slight nod to Death’s “Cosmic Sea”, as both tracks unravel into this spacey atmosphere which is coupled with various foreign sound effects.
While Boethiah’s newest thematic science-fiction adventure is inspired, creative, and above-all features a fair bit of solid death metal, I feel as if the ambitious endeavour didn’t reach its full potential. Simply put, even though the release is good, it could have been something much more with the many directions available with such a theme. Unfortunately, it sounds like the group’s members sat around a conference room and discussed how they could sonically turn up the “science-fiction” factor on a death metal album, and thus injected an influx of spaceship sounds, cryptic solos, and speedy riffs which have all been done in the past. Despite this, fans of death metal will thoroughly enjoy “Celestial Gateway” and will appreciate the group’s fresh take on the subgenre, I’m probably being a little too harsh on this one for the sake of future improvement.
Pick up Boethiah’s Celestial Gateway EP on CD/digital via Rotted Life: