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USPM might not ever have been in a truly short supply, but there were simply so few bands that managed to make their marks before Europe essentially took over the game. Despite their good intentions, so few bands were producing the level of vocal quality that splayed a Fates Warning, Lizzy Borden, Omen or Riot out across the memories of the metal populace. Unfortunately Gargoyle, a fairly obscure act from Oregon who likely had ambitions to lock horns with the bigger bands of their region like Queensryche, Fifth Angel or Sanctuary, are one such band suffering primarily in the vocal department.
Now, Tim Lachman is not exactly a slouch, and I don't mean to mislead anyone into thinking that he lacks some degree of range or talent. He can hit a reasonable height with a shrill delivery, but there is just some elusive element of spirit missing from his performance here (I didn't exactly love him in the equally obscure Glacier, either). He works best at an octave below the power metal or NWOBHM gods ala Bruce Dickinson, Geoff Tate and Rob Halford, and perhaps he is most comparable to a James Rivera of Helstar, especially since the riffing of Kevin Sanders and Pat Lachman (the same Pat Lachman that would front the post-Pantera Damageplan, and return to the guitar for a spot in Halford) has a similar level of ambition and classical influence to that Texas legend.
Yes, if Gargoyle shines anywhere, its in the guitars, which balance some fairly well composed rhythms with a slew of melody integrated far beyond the mere leads. There was time and effort sunk into these 9 songs, and it shows, even though they really fail to capture the imagination in the long run. A track like the charging "Final Victory" delivers composition on a nearly Helstar level, circa A Distant Thunder or Nosferatu, but the band is not nearly so acrobatic, and Tim is just not the equal of James Rivera. There is certainly an added level of complexity here beyond the typical NWOBHM worship of 80s-era USPM, and a few tracks like "Out from the Shadows", the pumping mid-paced "Blind Faith" and the feisty if predictable speed metal of "The Burning" are ample evidence of a potential. Yet, for each of these, there is a song like "Aryan Diplomacy", no less carefully crafted, but musically gelded with few standout rhythms. Coupled with the underwhelming vocals, these add up to impassable gaps on the record which I just couldn't find the legs to leap across.
Had this band given themselves a few more years and albums, I have little doubt that they could have developed into something special. Alas, a few years would have placed them in the 90s, in which the vast majority of metal heads turned their back on the genre (outside of Metallica and Slayer); performing traditional, power or progressive metal here in the States was tantamount to career death, unless you were one of those few bands that had already been established, or one who wisely marketed itself in Europe (ala Kamelot). Pat Lachman would go on to bigger if not brighter things, and the rhythm section would support Matt McCourt of Wild Dogs and Dr. Mastermind for a few of his solo records in the 21st century, but Gargoyle was left to crumble atop the stone edifice of a potential never realized (i.e. New Renaissance Records), and certainly not delivered here.
(Best if http://www.metal-archives.com/review.php?id=17356#29772 is read first.)
“…castrating jackals that stand in our way so the seed shall never grow…”
Laid out spread eagle by the band’s three-tune trial disc earlier in the year, tracks “The Burning”, “Final Victory”, and “Look Homeward” foretold a sound bound heavily to the traditional vein, minor power and speed elements aside, and with six more the Oregon quartet managed to fortify themselves in the genre without actually becoming consequential to it. Considering the loneliness in the band’s tiny discography, it’s not much of a surprise. Regardless, the second metal act to use the Gargoyle moniker didn’t exactly suck.
With two of the lp’s most alluring, indispensable tracks already volunteered to the underground-hip masses, much of the additional musical machinery rolls up a little thinner in tire tread and a few pounds lighter, apparently having drafted “Look Homeward”’s more peaceful and submissive persona slightly over the controlled rambunctious flow of the ep’s other partners. “Blind Faith” sails slowly along its lines except with less obvious Queensryche burrs clinging to it, and the mudrakingly-titled “Aryan Diplomacy”, some of “Nothing is Sacred”, and most of “Down to the Ground” aren’t tracking far behind. On the other hand, there’s just as much brain matter leaking over from “The Burning” and “Final Victory” into the fairly animated minds of “One from the Shadows” and “Dark Mirror Dream”, bringing the album’s vitality to an almost even split.
But if there’s any real importance about Gargoyle that fans will commit to memory, it’s the presentation of their music that, incidentally, doesn’t boil down to one or two details, like the songwriting or the musicianship, but the whole enchilada. For songwriting's sake, most of these songs don’t/aren’t going to buzz around your head like flies with a couple hundred eggs to lay, meanwhile the musicianship, in particular guitarist Kevin Sanders and warbler Tim Lachman, while striding above the ordinary, doesn’t over saturate; it’s not daring or complicated, but it's not difficult to soak in (though its staying power wanes a bit over time).
With a little more umph, Gargoyle could’ve been a quicker springer to mind. They could jab you with ability, production (thanks to Triad Studios), and even distribution, but had a hard time landing the songwriting haymaker.
While nothing on the lp announces Nothing is Sacred as the title, a few people seem to think it’s the case.
"...we've got to put the devil in his place. Slap him in the face..."