Reflections From The Other Side
Released: 2012, Innersphere
Once in a while I’ll come across a band that we haven’t reviewed for Metal-Rules.com and this case that band is Gothic Knights. Frankly, it embarrassing to me that I haven’t noticed that we had no Gothic Knights CD reviews in our database before because I love this band. Ever since Denis Gulbey of Sentinel Steel introduced them to me back in 1996 I’ve been a fan and have all their albums and they are perfect for this site. So as an indirect apology to the band and the fans for my oversight, I’ve decided to do quick review feature of their entire catalogue, you know, just to get caught up. Feel free to enjoy all the reviews in this feature of this wonderful band; namely GOTHIC KNIGHTS (1996), KINGDOM OF THE KNIGHTS (1999), UP FROM THE ASHES (2003) and the new one REFLECTIONS FROM THE OTHER SIDE (2012)
I’m a bit of a lazy fan. I’ll admit it. There are so many bands that I try to follow it is hard to keep up with all of them. When a band has a long period between albums, over time I stop going to the bands website for updates and news and eventually I just wait for the information to come to me. Such is the case with Gothic Knights. After three strong albums in eights years I was a committed fan. However, as time dragged on and on I just assumed the band had disintegrated because it has been nine years between albums for these guys. That’s right, it has been almost decade since UP FROM THE ASHES came out on Limb Records! Recently, I was on a trip when a colleague of mine, Sean of Hellbound, to my delight, handed me a copy of the new Gothic Knights album REFLECTIONS FROM THE OTHER SIDE. I didn’t know the band had put out new material and I’m thrilled.
The core of the band John (guitar) and Mario (bass) are still intact and Rick Sanchez is still on vocals after a brief defection in the late 90’s. He has short blue hair which to be blunt looks stupid. However he can still sing and as this is his third time behind the microphone for the band he seems to be getting better and better each album. Check out the opening scream on ‘Death From Above’! He has amazing range and power and is truly an underrated singer with a bit of a Halford/Owens style. The band has expanded into a sextet and for the fourth album in a row they have a new drummer in the form of Kevin DeDario and have added second guitarist, David Seligman and they have recruited a full-time keyboardist, Jared Sloan. He fills out the sound but not significantly so, just adding a bit of flavour to the classic American Metal contained within.
This album stands as my favourite of the catalogue because of increased tempos and little subtle influences that have expanded the bands sound a notch beyond standard USPM. That is not to suggest they have abandoned their roots but I think they realized to compete in today's young hungry market they had to bring their 'A' Game to the table. The package is good, lyrics and photos and notes although the dark, murky cover doesn't help sell the album as it does not have an image would not leap off the racks of the retail shelves. For those of us keeping track, they have changed their logo for the 4th time in a row! The lyrics and themes are darker than the past few albums dwelling more in the realm of horror than fantasy.
Musically, the album has a good driving force behind it, not necessarily all double-kick but fast drumming and the tempo remains quite quick. The solos are of course fast as well they should be. In terms of composition the band has expanded their writing range, just a bit as many of the songs fall in the six to seven minute range where on previous albums they were a bit more in the four to five minute range of verse, chorus, verse chorus constructions. That may not seem like a significant difference when you are arranging a song those little extras bits can take a good song to a great song. The aforementioned 'subtle influences' can be heard on the instrumental 'Ave Satani' which could sit nicely on any King Diamond album with a haunting melody, symphonic sensibilities and acoustic piano. The song bleeds nicely into 'The Omen', the longest song the band has ever done at 8+ minutes with a longer middle section with choirs and simple writing that accents the cymbals, keyboards in a sound reminiscent of the slower, middle section of Iron Maiden's 'Rime Of The Ancient Mariner', before ripping into the hinterlands with some killer soloing.
I feel the band have really hit their stride even if it is late in the game for their career arc. The increased intensity, the dark vibe, and the expansion the bands sonic palette with the additional keyboards make this the best album in their catalogue for my tastes. REFLECTIONS FROM THE OTHER SIDE is a dark gem and I hope that more people get to revisit (or visit for the first time) this under-rated band.