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Once Upon a Time [EP]
Released: 2012, Self Released
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
Gate XIII have been through a number of phases and styles, while seeking out their sound. Settling on symphonic gothic rock, they released second EP ‘Once Upon a Time’ last November. Based in Northern Ireland, Gate XIII is essentially the solo project of John Connor, accompanied by various guest singers. On this recording the main vocalist is Elizabeth McGeowan, with vocals from Shonagh Lyons on the opening song. However since the release of ‘Once Upon a Time' Shonagh has signed on as the permanent singer, bringing stability to the project.
This EP gets off to a gentle start with 'Till the Shadows'. A well constructed song with all the hallmarks of the gothic symphonic genre. Title track 'Once Upon a Time' opens with a bombastic intro, before descending into gentle melodies similar to the opening. Piano backing Elizabeth's vocals, produces an unexpected contrast to the intro and contributes to the attention grabbing attributes of this track. The introduction of powerful stings midway emphasize this effect further. Towards the end we get to hear John's vocals, backing Elizabeth's with alternative lyrics. Nicely done and not at all cacophonous, which is a risk with such techniques.
Third track 'Facing the Mirror' is John's turn to take the stage. The cited influences of Dream Theatre and Avantasia are particularly apparent here. Yet again this is a quite a gentle song; in some ways I get the impression that Gate XIII are holding themselves back. They are aware they have talent, but at the same time are shy of fully expressing themselves, and this is letting them down.
‘From a Dream Returned’ is an instrumental with a Nightwish-esq opening, and a lovely harpsichord sound throughout. Shame it is an instrumental, as it’s my favourite on the EP and would be quite a powerful song with the addition of the right of vocals.
Closing song 'Nightingale' is a male/female duet, which gallops along with hints of Sonata Arctica. A well constructed song, which would be improved if the male/female vocal interplay were tighter. Something which will come with practice and confidence.
Overall 'Once Upon a Time' would benefit from more production, however I expect Gate XIII will have no problem being picked up by a label who will provide the required facilitates and experience. With a full band on board, the sound would be fleshed out to it's full potential. Furthermore the lyrics need to mature, but that is something which will come with time, and I am just being over-critical, as unlike many bands of this genre, English is their first language. I can't imagine this minor niggle holding them back with non-native English speakers.
Essentially John and co have nailed it, with just a few rough edges. Worth a listen and definitely one to watch out for.
Review by Victoria Fenbane
1. Till the shadows
2. Once Upon a Time
3. Facing the Mirror
4. From a dream Returned
Elizabeth McGeowan – Vocals
John Connor - Vocals, Guitar, Bass, Keyboards, Drum Programming
Shonagh Lyons: Guest vocalist on track 1
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