Gatekeeper – “East Of Sun” (Cruz Del Sur Music)
If you’re a lover of true warrior metal then this new Vancouver band will add yet another trusty sword to your collection! Steeped in blood red battle riffs that would have Conan himself proud but equally deep folk melodies all making for helluva epic debut, “East Of Sun” boasts a mixture of older, unreleased material written by founder guitarist Jeff Black which are complemented by live staples that have recently been updated. With a strong sword and sorcery theme, expect plenty of aggression on the 10 tracks here, but equally tons of stirring melodies and flowing passion throughout. Adding his own bountiful levels of soaring passion is vocalist Jean-Pierre Abboud whose clean tones tell the tales here beautifully and with plenty of majesty of his own as amply demonstrated on the cover of Savatage’s ‘Hall Of The Mountain King’. Exuding plenty of interweaving work between the twin guitars of Black and Kenny Kroecher, each song has its own energy and identity with really nothing repeated, making for an energetic listen each time that left me eager with anticipation for the next delightful surprise! With a naturally warm sound similar to other bands in the genre like Atlantean Kodex as well as classic groups like Omen (whom they cover on ‘Death Rider’) and Manilla Road, the cover art comes from Duncan Storr, renowned for his work with Skyclad and Rage. Screaming into ‘Blade Of Cimmeria’ with its heavy chugging the soaring vocals and impassioned spiralling guitar work is enough to get a barbarian horde charging while on the drenched in epic fervour ‘Bell Of Tarantia’ a steady double bass drum beat is graced with expressive chord / melody interplay from the guitars throughout and Abboud soaring relentlessly over it all. Adding even more pagan pageantry on ‘Swan Road Saga’ through the incredible vocal harmonies and heart breaking lead work while keeping a strong warrior backbone, I can see what all the fuss is about in Gatekeeper, as they’re a truly talented young band – just get your hands on this treasure and you’ll know just what I’m taking about!