It is with great shame that I come before you today to admit that I initially missed Gatekeeper’s second full-length album From Western Shores when it released back in March. As Vice Premier of All Things Olde here at AMG, it is my responsibility to cover anything traditional that happens to sneak through the Steel Filter™, and in 2023, I have failed mightily in this duty. Not only did I neglect the duties of my sacred office, but as a reviewer, and music fan in general, nothing makes me feel more stupid than when I whiff on a release that is completely, perfectly, and incandescently in my wheelhouse. Consisting of epic traditional metal tales with power metal tendencies, From Western Shores has been living rent-free in my wheelhouse for the last couple of months, and its hold on me is only getting stronger. Now sit back, relax, and behold as I restore my honor.
Marching confidently amongst the ranks of Visigoth, Eternal Champion, and Manilla Road, Gatekeeper is highly skilled in the telling of tales of the sword and sorcery variety. Gatekeeper’s founder Jeff Black maintains rhythm guitar duties, and he’s written a musically diverse set of songs with themes that range from Vikings to Tolkien. Currently based in Vancouver, BC, on the western shores of Canada, the band opens the album with the title track, and it sounds like a mission statement as they make their intentions known to the trad-metal scene: ‘We hail from western shores/Submit to your new kings by conquest!’ The song reeks of Manowarian bravado, its driving rhythm gilded in resplendent lead work from Adam Bergen. A fantastic opener, “From Western Shores” nods towards many classic influences in addition to the ones mentioned above, like the Jon Oliva-esque wails from Tyler Anderson and the Blind Guardian-style subdued spoken-word passage.
There are so many great moments on From Western Shores that there’s always something to look forward too. “Shadow and Stone” tells the tale of the Dead Men of Dunharrow mentioned in The Lord of the Rings. It moves from a mild minstrel opening through a huge, triumphant chorus and into a snarling groove as Anderson speaks Isildur’s curse upon the oath-breakers, and it all comes together to produce one of the album’s shining highlights. “Exiled King” relates the account of Viking King Harald Hardrada (a man with whom I’ve conquered the world several times in Civ 6) in epic fashion, “Twisted Towers” speeds up the tempo and melody to call out any authority who would abuse their power, and closer “Keepers of the Gate” leaves us with one of the most awesome heavy metal choruses ever: ‘We, the keepers of the gate, guardians of steel, hale and true, forever proudly standing against the enemy tides/The gate shall be kept forever more…’ As an epic metal nerd, this never fails to give me chills.
It’s been my honor today to play the role of skald, singing praises of the mighty deeds of these West Coast barbarian kings. With From Western Shores, Gatekeeper have established themselves as a major faction in the fight to control the traditional metal realms.
Tracks to Check Out: “From Western Shores,” “Shadow and Stone,” “Exiled King,” “Twisted Towers,” “Keepers of the Gate”
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