Gatekeeper-East Of Sun
Label: Cruz Del Sur
Reviewed: July 2018
These reviews go ‘live’ on July 1st, Dominion Day (aka Canada Day) so I thought in a brief flash of patriotism I would review a hat-trick of recently released Canadian Metal albums; Gatekeeper (Vancouver) Ivory Knight (Ottawa), Kobra And The Lotus (Calgary). Enjoy all the bands in this mini- feature!
Some people have that determine and passion to make music and even if they fail, they keep trying. Geoff Blackwell (or is it Jeff Black?) of Western Canada is one of those people. I say ‘Western Canada’ because this guy has drifted around the region for a number of years playing in a number of bands (Eldgammel, Samandriel, Scythia, Trollband) before settling in Vancouver, BC. Now he is really getting some traction with his newest project, Gatekeeper.
Gatekeeper is a traditional Metal band and over the past five years have released a bunch of single, splits, cassette EP’s and the like. They first got broader global attention by appearing on the legendary Metal Blade Records, Metal Massacre series, the superb Volume 14, which effectively revitalized the compilation series, in my opinion, as Gatekeeper appeared alongside, Savage Master, Noctum and more. The Americans (Metal Blade Records) should have lobbied harder to sign Gatekeeper but in the end it was the Italians (Cruz Del Sur Records) that coaxed the band into a deal. Thus EAST OF SUN was written, recorded and released in early 2018.
I’m pretty impressed with this. I had got the digital album as a promo when it came out in February and it was decent but didn’t grab me immediately. Then I saw the band live in May of 2018 and was even more impressed so I bought the album at the merchandise booth and have enjoyed it ever since. The presentation and packaging is well done, cool looking ‘warrior with sword’ cover art, and the eight track album comes with a couple of bonus cover tunes Omen and Savatage, both very well done. Vocalist Abboud really nails the iconic multiple screams part in the later third of ‘Hall of The Mountain King’ which is no easy task! I haven’t heard many versions of this song for two reasons. One, it is an iconic song and not many bands are willing to tackle it and secondly to do justice to Oliva’s vocals must be a bitch, so that would scare away potential singers who just can’t hit those notes. I think the guys in Gatekeeper were probably not born when these songs came out originally so it is wonderful to my ears to hear young bands paying homage to the originals and keeping the spirit alive.However, many Metal bands record, dare I say it, ‘novelty’ covers as a marketing tool and to get attention and unless you think that Gatekeeper might fall in to that category, I don’t feel that is the case.
Their original material is extremely strong. So setting aside the covers, as good as they are, all of EAST OF SUN is very entertaining. The album starts off with ‘Blade Of Cimmeria’ and never looks back. Abboud vocals are in the middle register for the most part but he can hit the high notes when he needs to. Lyrically the band covers epic fantasy territory with ease and style. The traditional metal songs gallop along nicely, alternating tempo nicely on occasion, it is not all fast or all slow. Songs run the gambit from short punchy three minute songs to some more elaborate compositions that span seven or eight minutes. The guitar tone is very decent and the songs are all just well-written and entertaining and the big gang vocals on tracks like ‘Warrior Without Fear’ don’t hurt either!
I think we are still in a bit of golden age of traditional Metal myself. There are so many young bands getting back to the roots. Many people carry this heavy nostalgia for the past sounds and I ask why not check out killer, hot new talent like Gatekeeper? You won’t be disappointed!
Blade Of Cimmeria
Warrior Without Fear
Bell Of Tarantia
East Of Sun
Swan Road Saga
Hall Of The Mountain King