GATEKEEPER returns after five years between albums, hopefully bolstered by new blood, with From Western Shores. Sure, debut East Of Sun (itself released nearly 5 years after the band’s initial 2013 demo) was solid “enough”, but if a power/epic metal band isn’t truly epic – if I don’t end up leaping about the Citadel fending off hordes, carousing with fairy maidens and raising my battle axe high whilst standing victorious atop a pile of my enemy’s vanquished – then I tend not to revisit the album too often if at all, and it lies forgotten. To be honest, I’m a bit worried going in, as the PR one-sheet already touts From Western Shores as “redefining epic, melodic heavy metal”. Don’t, you know, set the bar high or anything.
Instantly, the mix irritates, the guitars sounding lightweight, almost tinny, the bass-heavy mix stripping away almost all but the low end. New throat Tyler “Tex” Anderson seems dispassionate, clicking off tropes as he goes along, and, though the guitars move a bit more to the fore during the solo, I’m just not feeling this title track in the slightest. ‘Death On Black Wings’ is cluttered, the drums sound programmed (Is that the snare, or the sound of palms slapping skinny jeans I hear?), stripping away any enjoyment that could’ve been gained from the overall quicker pace.
Anticipation is revived with ‘Shadow And Stone’, Tommy Tro’s typewriter traded in for a heavier, more measured rhythm, befitting and blending well with this slower, yet more coherent and solid track. Could it have just taken a bit for the band to warm up? Could the fault be in my cynical ears? ‘Exiled King’ arrives, Middle Eastern guitar figures leading into militaristic drumming until suddenly we’re thrust back into mediocre layered vocals, a song that seems to wander aimlessly, more a few ideas stitched arduously together into a single work, each section forced into its place in an effort to create something grand, a poorly woven garment of chafing and mismatched fabrics.
‘Twisted Towers’ tries valiantly, evoking memories of any number of the 3rd-tier bands that clogged the era GATEKEEPER is aching to recreate, while closer ‘Keepers Of The Gate’, at 8+ minutes in length, drags itself laboriously forward, tribute though it may be to the band’s fanbase. Hoist high your plastic swords, gallop on your hobbyhorses to whatever LARP convention’s happening nearby, but From Western Shores isn’t redefining anything to these ears.
Review By: Lord Randall
From Western Shores
Cruz Del Sur Music