Written by Valkyrjiaa
Gatekeeper – From Western Shores
> Melodic Metal
> British Columbia, Canada
> Released March 24
> Cruz Del Sur Music
From vast shorelines to snow-covered peaks, through forests of lush greenery and poetic bird-song and as far as to the lakes that hold the deepest secrets, every bit of inspiration lays in wait for Jeff Black’s Gatekeeper to tap into. Attesting to the “endless quality of inspiration at his feet,” Black has taken only fragments from Vancouver’s ethereal surface to bring us an album five years in the making.
After the takeoff of 2018’s East of Sun full-length, Gatekeeper pushed on with 2019’s Grey Maiden EP, stretching their comfort in the underground melodic metal scene. Now, in honour of their home province, the band unveils the epic and powerful eight-song album From Western Shores.
We leave nothing to chance, kicking the album off with the title track “From Western Shores”. Catchy riffs sink in quick before the vocal howls commence and we get a taste of Gatekeeper’s heavy metal heart. It’s easy to headbang to, with lines that come in short and swift, as if to offer listeners a track they’ll easily come to sing along with. Not only that but, the midsection solo is killer, bursting with anticipating on its full release before exploding in a classic heavy feel reminiscent of legends. “Swords shall fall, and blood shall spill, stamping out your weakling will” chimes in before the “HAIL” chant commences, and you can’t resist the charm any longer.
Flying in second is “Death on Black Wings” that gives me a wicked “Painkiller” vibe – motorcycle riding and all. I love the classic, clear notes from drums to guitars on this one and it keeps that heavy metal foundation. Only adding to the old-school feel is Tyler “Tex” Anderson’s vocals that move seamlessly from solid verses to soaring highs like second nature. It’s a solid track that doesn’t overreach or try to prove anything, with a sound that fits old and new listeners with familiarity and sound they can easily keep up with.
Giving more of that Western feel is “Exiled King”. A track that comes in like an 80’s classic even though it’s barely born. The acoustic strings, solemn drums, they all become hellfire when the vocals call and our story begins. To honour not only a comrade but a leader – our King; it’s a homage to a kingdom and legacy lost due to disloyalty and fraud, but worthy of rebirth to those who still stand true. It’s a mix of heavy and melodic with a heartbreaking melody and perfect strings to get the emotions aligned to the story’s soul.
“Nomads” had me moving around in an instant with heavier guitars that command attention. Like wild horses it gallops through with a stunning melody. “Heed the call of the place where we belong” rings out like a war cry, to settle in and demand “no, we will not be chased out again” with strength and unrivaled passion. It’s definitely one of my favourites from the album, and one that stuck with me not only for its vocal lines but its wicked guitar riffs as well. It’s got a solid melody, and wonderful vocals that aren’t overpowered by the instrumentals, so I could really get into the passion of this track’s story, and damn do I love it!
“Twisted Towers” caught me off guard. That telltale intro let me falsely believe this was a “Take On Me” cover but that guitar drop said “SURPRISE!” With the infectious “whoooaa!” throughout, this tune is a total earworm. Filled with killer shreds, upbeat movement, and high vocals, this track adds a lighter note to this epic, battle-worthy album, creating a bit of complexity while still holding that melodic theme at its heart.
To close, we hear “Keepers of the Gate” that keeps the melodic rhythms steady and the theme close. “We are the keepers of the gate, guardians of steel” introduces us to the fierce warriors who have wandered throughout this album through exile, bloodshed, and broken bonds. It’s got an emotional harmony at its back and a deep heart-felt nod to these fictional soldiers that’s sung with high vocal praise. A hymn, a ballad, or a simple ode to their heroics and loyalty; a beautiful closing track that belts us with screaming vocals, speedy riffs, and hammering melody to bring might and myth back into our memory one last time.
THE BOTTOM LINE
From Western Shores is a delectable treat to hear. With a Blind Guardian vibe and a signature Fantasy feel, Gatekeeper lets heart and soul shine through on creative stories and mythical instrumentals to bring us a soundscape of loyalty, adventure, and standing your ground. It’s an album for DnD campaign work, for festival road trips, and nights around the fire. From battle hymns to tavern tales, From Western Shores takes the inspirations and puts them all into play.