“East of Sun”

By Dr. Abner Mality

In metal’s golden age, there was a certain type of steel variously known as US power metal, sword-and-sorcery metal or epic metal. Full of sword-swinging fantasy and stately but heavy tunes, some of the classic practitioners were Omen, Attacker, Exxplorer, Manilla Road and Cirith Ungol. This tradition continues today with Gatekeeper.

This band for sure looks to those giants for their inspiration and they don’t make any secret of it, but as they rightly note, they “don’t want to be a pale imitation of any of them”. Mission accomplished here. This will definitely have you reaching for your sword, a comely wench and a horn of mead. “Blade of Cimmeria” opens in ripping fashion with a medieval thrasher, but that is a somewhat atypical track. Gatekeeper is more comfortable with slower, more majestic epics that aren’t quite doom metal, but which owe something to Candlemass and even Viking-era Bathory. “North Wolves”, “Bell of Tarantia” and “Swan Road Saga” are all in the mold and “Ninefold Muse” is close to 10 minutes of austere power metal in the 80’s  tradition.

Vocalist Jean-Pierre Abboud has a clean melodic voice well suited to tales of warriors and wizards. He reminds me a lot of somebody, but can’t quite put my finger on it. The guitar playing is resolutely excellent. There are time when I think the band drifted a bit too much(“Oncoming Ice”, “Ninefold Muse”) but it’s never to the point of abject boredom. There are two ultra-faithful covers of Omen’s “Death Rider” and Savatage’s “Hall of the Mountain King” to cement where Gatekeeper is coming from musically.