GATEKEEPER "From Western Shores"
By Dr. Abner Mality
One look at the cover on this sucker and you know you are in for epic true metal. This Canadian band is very much steeped in high fantasy and classic metal of the 80's like LIEGE LORD, OMEN and MANILLA ROAD. While that'a style I really like when done well, there are some quirks in GATEKEEPER's approach that take some getting used to. They are not an "instant" band.
The core of it is all the classics we know, but they have a kind of baroque twist to their songwriting that takes some work to get into. The opening title track is a pretty good example of this, as it starts fairly restrained and works itself into a bigger sound. There's something of BATHORY's most melodic Viking moments here. The vocals on the album are not bad...Tyler Andersen has a good clear voice with lungpower when called for...but the vocal lines are very "medieval" sounding and quite involved. It's not standard hard rock fare. It gives GATEKEEPER's music the feel of an earlier time, which I'm pretty sure they were after.
I tend to like the more straightforward "galloping"/fast tracks like "Death On Black Wings", the tribal chug of "Nomads" and ""Twisted Towers"...they just stick in the brain. The title track and "Exiled King" are a bit harder to decipher and don't have real memorability. One constant plus is the lead guitar soloing of Adam Bergen, which is tasteful but shredding on every song. "Desert Winds" is a somewhat more progressive track with some of the best soloing and the album ends on a high note with "Keepers of the Gate", which really puts together all elements of the band into one package. There's a great high pitched scream from Andersen showing he can really cut loose when he wants to.
"From Western Shores" certainly needs more than one listen to absorb. It is epic metal in true fashion, but I must say it is not the top of the heap of that genre...not yet.