Released: 2004, Noise / Sanctuary Records
Reviewer: Luxi Lahtinen
Hammerfall´s singer Joacim Cans gets an idea of his own solo album while being alone in his hotel room in Lyon, France in January 2003 and when the rest of his band mates are out celebrating another well gone Hammerfall show. From that moment he was pushing himself even more determinedly toward this particular plan to get his first solo album out one day which was obviously meant to be a completely different stuff from Hammerfall musically. Darker, heavier and yet still melodic at the same time as he was hoping to get it to sound like...
Then Joacim asked some of his personal heroes to contribute riffs and ideas for his first solo thing and within a relatively short period of time, his mailbox was flooded with riff tapes sent by various musicians from many already known and established acts (Jeff Waters of Annihilator, Mat Sinner of Primal Fear/Sinner, David Chastain of CJSS, Ronny Milianowicz of Dionysus/ex-Sinergy, Corbin King and Metal Mike Chlasciak of Halford, etc.). And as Joacim only wanted to keep the darkest and heaviest material, you can probably imagine that BEYOND THE GATES should be quite far away from Hammerfall stuff musically, right?!
And it is indeed. "Fields of Yesterday" starts off the album and right from the first incredibly heavy and pompous guitar riffs you are about the notice that Joacim can well stand behind his promises. Heavy, dark and well-crafted Heavy Metal is what "Fields of Yesterday" is more than all about - spiced with some keyboard parts to give the song some more depth. A very good opener, I´d say.
And next song continues right from the very footsteps where the catchy opening track left off; "Soul Collector" is a little heavy fucker, too – with some totally heavy riffs that have been churned out by both Mark´s and Stefan´s 6-stringer battle axes, containing also some somewhat powerful background vocals. A very cool tune this one as well in my opinion.
"Red Light" again introduces a heavier side of Cans´s solo project as the whole song is basically based on a couple of downright heavy guitar riffs and a very catchy chorus part. This is also the very song the guys shot a promo video for and I have to say it wasn´t any bad choice by any means.
Up next a song called "Back to Hell", nicely a bit Priest –flavored song that´s quite possibly the album´s most aggressive and heaviest song off from BEYOND THE GATES. Mark´s and Stefan´s sharp and heavy guitar riffs and rhythm sections steal most of the attention again that are supported by damn great background vocals where the words "Go back to Hell” are repeated in the chorus part more than your worst enemy would wish you during your whole life.
The title track of Cans´ solo album, "Beyond the Gates" has a beautifully composed acoustic start until the whole song is burst into epic atmospheres that are both absolutely entertaining yet crushingly heavy as long as the song lasts. "Beyond the Gates" also happens to be one of my favorite cuts off from the entire album. Definitely HEAVY METAL with big capitals from H to L.
In "The Key" the band combines again some well-balanced heavy parts to a very memorable chorus part which is actually one of those things on the album that even may stick to your mind right after the first spinning of the disc. That´s what happened to me anyway. Funnily, the song is also Joacim´s favorite song on BEYOND THE GATES...
"Garden of Evil" Joacim and the rest of his band mates kind of make their own tribute to Manowar as the somewhat pompous chorus part tends to be something that you are usually able to hear on the Manowar albums. The song itself isn´t anything special in terms of any innovative or original ideas, but it surely is as Heavy Metal as one song can be. After all, it´s a good song without any intentions to make special miracles on the album, however.
The album´s 8th song "Merciless" is the whole album´s ´happiest´(!) song and I mercilessly ready to spit out that the song doesn´t do much for me at all. It´s ´so-so´ -feeling makes me think why on earth they ended up choosing that ´filler´ song for BEYOND THE GATES in the first place? The album would have stood out having only (!) 11 songs on it, too. Just my 2 cents...
"Silent Cries" brings BEYOND THE GATES back on the right track again. The song is based on the guitarist duo´s heavy riffs and rhythms once again and even the chorus part has its own potentiality to reach a few pairs of ears due to its ´easy-to-catch´ chorus.
"Dreams" continues basically this ´easy-to-catch´ tradition song-wise as the main emphasis has been laid down to a rather catchy chorus part which the whole album seems to possess more than one could expect first. There´s not much happening in the song at all and therefore it kinda goes from one ear in and comes from another ear out without leaving you any specific vibes about the song or anything at all.
"Signs" is a pleasently aggressive and heavy up-tempo tune again and I must admit I do admire the guitarists´ efforts to keep the song on a ´brutal´ Heavy metal level by an excellently shredding guitar work. Without doubts, Joacim has absolutely chosen the possible best yet most dynamic guitar duo for the line-up of his solo project and I hope if he will ever have any continuation for this project, both Stefan and Metal Mike could contribute the next recording line-up as well. These fellows are just too good to be wasted for just one recording. Time shall tell eventually...
The album´s closer tuner, "Forever Ends" has been written by Waters/Murphy and much to my surprise the sound actually sounds like it could have been ripped from some Pop –album, like from... (-eh?) a Robin Williams album or something?! Uh... it´s a very amusing song as a matter of speaking; soft, ballad type of song that you can only see and hear on MTV. Therefore a contrast to the rest of the songs on BEYOND THE GATES is a damn huge and maybe the song´s only purpose is to create this enormous contrast on the album and that´s all?! However, it´s still quite amusing as a single song and I bet many listeners will react the same way as I did when hearing it.
Still, BEYOND THE GATES could be considered a relatively well-made Heavy Metal album all in all with a modern studio production due to most of its relatively dark and heavy tunes in it. To be honest, I actually happened to dig this Cans´ solo project more than anything what Hammerfall has done on their albums thus far. So if you Hammerfall isn´t your cup of tea, then Cans may work out for you slightly better; I believe.