The Wakedead Gathering is a solo-project from The United States. It has released a demo and a full-length album before this EP. The full-length "Tenements of Ephemera" from 2010 is to be re-released by I, Voidhanger Records in the near future, and a brand new full-length is to follow on the same label. The EP at hand features a 12-page booklet that wasn't included in the digital promo, but if the cover artwork is to be trusted, I'm assuming it looks great.

An intro of howling winds, monstrous voices and chanting paves the way for the opening four-minuter of oldschool death metal that most certainly doesn't sound like workings of just one man. The first track already makes things rather clear: you are to expect heavy and harsh death metal with rhythmic riffs accompanied by deep and hoarse growls. The base chugging is often coated with melodic and nicely ominous leads and wailing notes to enshroud the death metal-traditions with a layer of occult and cosmic energies.

Everything reeks of skill and acknowleding the great names of the past, but without fear of adding your own unique sear to its side. As the tempos vary from mid-tempo to faster comping, and the atmospheres from threatening to mysterious, this EP stays easily interesting throughout its suitable length. While the guitar-playing leaves no room for complaints, the bass-pulse is (as so very often, to my disappointment) buried somewhere in the background, and the drumming could use some bolder fills. The bass drum blasts are a nice spice, but don't make up for the otherwise very, very traditional drumming.

What bothers me with this EP is that it seems to have a dual character. On the other hand it uses more modern techniques and focuses on atmospheres, but on the next second it seems to execute a polished version of Incantation-style primitivism. I'm not saying that there'd be anything wrong with versatility and going for both heavy and crushing rhythms and calm but intriquing atmospheres, but I was left feeling like neither of these aspects is taken far enough. Because of this, the EP seems like a result of a compromise; it has a lot of good aspects and it's well executed, but, due to the fact I perceive the EP's style as a middle-ground approach, "Dark Circles" ends up sounding somehow held-back and tame. This is an exaggeration, naturally, but it's still a feeling I couldn't shake off even after giving the release a few spins.

I would hope that The Wakedead Gathering would take either one of its expression's core sides further by either adding some bolder twists, a deeper and more detailed soundscape and sharper, shrieking leads and other bolder atmospheric adds, or by taking a deeper bow towards the simple and primitive skull-bashing of the hailed filth-worshippers - or even doing them both by taking both of these sides further.

"Dark Circles" has a lot of potential and shows both compositional and musical skill, but is partially just a bit too traditional and "safe" to become a masterpiece and a center of worship. I hope mr. Andrew Lampe can really kick his brainchild into motion. He's certainly got the needed skills, but his vision of death metal needs a bolder execution and a hint better production values.

7- / 10