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Simple Heavy Metal From Germany - 68%

orionmetalhead, October 28th, 2013

Sacred Gate's debut album, When Eternity Ends, a very acceptable record for the style of Heavy Metal which this German outfit produce. While there is in fact very little to set Sacred Gate aside from numerous other acts, they competently perform an album which is half Iron Maiden gallop and half mid-80's Accept without the notable riffage of the later or the songwriting and twin guitar attack of the former. Regardless, bands of this ilk are difficult to appease my love of the Heavy Metal art form which has been over-tilled like a field in the midwest during the dust-bowl. As average as Sacred Gate is on this album, there are some take-aways to mention. While two or three tracks offer some interest, all of the tracks including those that are better than average lack serious depth. The album was put together nicely and the layout, the production and the sound quality are all extremely professional however it doesn't hide the music's general flavorlessness. When Eternity Ends is like watching a carpenter build a chair that functions perfectly but no one would want to put in their house because he made it out of pressure treated two-by-fours.

The key word with Sacred Gate's When Eternity Ends once again is depth. It's not just limited to Sacred Gate of course. Plenty of modern bands lack this necessary attribute to propel an album from average to above average or better. Depth, as it relates to Heavy Metal can be found in rhythmic variety, melodic variance, harmonizing and playing against other instruments - especially the bass guitar - but there is none of that here. Sacred Gate rarely deviate from typical chugging in common time or triplet Maiden-esque sections. When Peter Beckers, whose bass playing is technically very good on this album, simply follows along predictably against all this - even if he does little fills here and there (all within the 'box') - it sets the album for a very mundane trip down Heavy Metal lane. Melodically, there is also nothing beyond what's presented immediately to the listener. It's all very novice structuring of chord progressions. The album is a great exercise for intonation practice for those that are not good with figuring out notes by ear. I know because I have terrible intonation and it was enjoyable to play along to the tracks to see if I could pick out notes and progressions. When opportunity arises for Sacred Gate to inject some harmonization or dueling leads into the tracks, it never arrives. Halfway through the title track the band goes about twenty seconds after one of the choruses where nothing happens and the rhythm guitars are very thin sounding. This would have been a great place to incorporate some variation or harmonization to build up to the lead afterwards.

More positive recognition goes to the effort put into crafting memorable leads on the album. Nicko Nikolaidis really rips it up in many of the songs with great leads and solos. "The Realm of Hell" for example sets up a kick-ass tapping solo with some finely crafted off-key bends and slides even if underneath this is the limpest rhythmic backing I've heard in a long time. The lead in "Freedom or Death" is also very good and this one has a better backing to it of marching snare drums. Another high point for me was Jim Over's vocals which were really strong across the album. I could see him being really animated and emotional in a live setting with these tracks. His voice has a slight waver which doesn't really come close to a vibrato but it's not totally stiff either. The added bit of sandiness and flex his voice offers is also unique. It's not really similar to a lot of other singers I've heard and that makes the vocals endearing to me. I touched upon the clarity and production value earlier but I'll just note again that it's well done. The guitars are crisp and sound like there has been very little post-production work on them. The drums are set back a little too much for my taste but they are clear and audible. The kick and snare are discernible and with the punchy bass tone and honest guitars, the rhythm side of things are well taken care of. Strangely, the lead tone sounds a lot like the lead tone which Orlok has used lately on the recent Countess albums. Unfortunately Orlok makes no appearance here. That would have made my night.

If you have to ask me, the second half of this disc is better than the first four tracks. Starting with "Freedom or Death," the album seems to take a slightly darker, more foreboding feel. "Freedom..." is the first track that has some more layered riffs and melodic stuff going on. It's essentially a ballad - something the Europeans love - and seems to be the track which Metal on Metal decided to go with as a single as it shows up on the Compendium of Metal Vol. 7 compilation. The song is well written and picks up later on with some leads and solos, touched upon earlier which give the track a bit of life and energy. "In The Heart of the Iron Maiden," shares similarities with "Freedom or Death" and the two pair well to create the best ten minutes on the release. These tracks are slightly more solemn and important sounding. Once the obnoxious intro and bridges in "Vengeance," which sound like plucking splinters out of your eardrum, are over, there are few terrible moments to follow. The final twelve minutes are pretty enjoyable Heavy Metal but Sacred Gate have to recognize they are doing very little to make me want to listen to them instead of listening to something with more personality and heft.


Originally written for Contaminated Tones.

True to it's values, yet flat in some ways - 80%

Ov_Cosmic_Pyres, November 3rd, 2012

It's not often you hear metal that is "easy on the ears". Actually, it's rare in today's day and age to have a band so defiantly prone to have as much melody as Sacred Gate does. But melody is what makes music memorable. Surely, if one thing can be said about Sacred Gate it is they are a very melodic heavy metal band, and one who delivers with replay value and excellent guitar work. Taking cues from the legends (Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Helloween, etc), Sacred Gate's style of metal is chock full of riffs you will remember for days and loud, tight bass lines. As with everything else traditional heavy metal, Sacred Gate has a deep affection for cliches and all sorts of metal attributes often scoffed at by the elitists. Do not enter this band's lair if you don't like cheesy lyrics, Iron Maiden worship, nods to ballads and all around metal fun. I will admit I am an elitist when it comes to metal, but this band, and this album is just so incredibly catchy and fun, it's really hard to not like it.

Overall, the songs are superb classic metal songs with a tight, crisp newer production. While not reliant on studio trickery, the band sounds polished and clean, yet aggressive on the same token. If anything, the band sounds more like Maiden's older stuff if it were remastered than anything else. While this may be true for the instrumentation, there is a slight flaw. Vocally, the album does fall a bit flat. Vocalist Jim Over is at times competent for this brand of metal, and at others lacking. He is the former vocalist of Made of Iron, which is exactly what it sounds like, an Iron Maiden tribute band. While Over is certainly no Bruce, nor do I believe he intends to be, the vocals seem to be consistently flatter than the instruments, leaving a gap of melodious intertwining. Luckily though, the vocals are backed up by an impeccable rhythm section that supports a near flawless guitar section. The riffs are sheer metallic excellence. While leaning toward the 1982-1985 era of Maiden, the guitars take influence from nearly any melodic metal band to ever grace the Earth. Some riffs are immediately recognizable as Maiden worship, some Judas Priest love, and then other times it can be either Helloween or even Iced Earth. But this does nothing but help the overall scheme of the album. In essence, this is melodic metal at it's finest. The riffs get your head nodding, and your mind can memorize them almost immediately. What is often lacking in extreme metal is memorability, and for that reason melodic metal is making a resurgence, especially stateside. But these Germans know their classic metal, and execute it with a will and determination even Manowar would be proud of.

As a whole, this album is definable by two things. The searing guitar work and the often flat vocals. If you can stand a vocalist who sounds a bit weak at some times, you will definitely enjoy this album. If this sounds like it would bother you, then this album is definitely not for you. Sacred Gate take what used to be all that was metal, and valiantly march into battle, guitars blazing while waving a flag with Eddie's head on it. If you want a good time, listen to this album. If not, there's plenty more stuff out for you.

When eternity isn't quite forever. - 74%

hells_unicorn, September 28th, 2012

Back about 8 years ago there was a little known Iron Maiden tribute band out of Germany known as Made Of Iron, a band that didn’t really stop being a tribute band even after they started putting out original material. Their brief existence culminated in a lone self-titled LP release that didn’t really make many waves in the metalcore dominated mid 2000s, and ultimately the project was scrapped, or at least that’s what most familiar with this obscure outfit would think. However, the recent signing of another band that shares most of the consequential members of said former project called Sacred Gate would suggest a very different story. In fact, barring a few slight hints at evolution in songwriting (and I stress the word “slight”), this is an outright continuation of said band under a different name.

One would rightly speculate that the newfound drive found in the membership here that brought “Made Of Iron” to a very small audience all those years ago has a lot to do with the recent success of several retro-NWOBHM sounding bands like 3 Inches Of Blood and White Wizzard. However, where the influences found in those bands is a bit more varied and multifaceted, the story here is a good bit plainer, as was the case before. The older sound heard out of Made Of Iron was lodged pretty comfortably between the “Piece Of Mind” and “Powerslave” era of Iron Maiden exclusively, while the character of “When Eternity Ends” takes a similar approach alongside a smattering of atmospheric keyboard elements imported from Manowar’s and Judas Priest’s Swedish followers of all things true metal Dream Evil and Hammerfall.

This is by no means a power metal album in the speedy; Helloween infused sense; but more a coasting at slow tempo or galloping at higher tempos approach that was heavily heard on Maiden’s “Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son”. Occasionally the riff work shows some signs of speed metal influence on the epic closer “Heaven Under Siege”, but largely the format is more of a pre-speed metal, 1983 format with a denser and heavier production job. Vocalist Jim Over is the strongest deviation from the Maiden tribute band sound as his voice hearkens back towards a classic, mid 80s German sound as heard on early Grave Digger and Angel Dust albums, but literally everything else going on around him might as well have been written at the height of England’s metallic 80s era. In fact, things go into full out homage mode on “In The Heart Of The Iron Maiden” where a principle guitar theme dangerously similar to “The Evil That Men Do” recurs frequently, among a host of other comparable elements such as atmospheric keyboard additives and galloping power chords.

While the upgraded production sound and slightly more varied format definitely does this album a lot of good, it still suffers from the lack of true staying power that typified the former incarnation’s lone offering “Made Of Iron”. The format here is really obvious in its influences and doesn’t deviate much from existing formulas, the lyrical theme of wars in the incorporeal realms of heaven and hell are realized in the most cliché way possible, and overall things are played just a tiny bit too safe. Yet on the other hand, given that Iron Maiden hasn’t written an album like this in over 20 years, someone else ought to be, and why not a group of rabid fanboys from the North Rhine area.

Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on September 27, 2012.

Classic Heavy Metal - 75%

Shadoeking, September 26th, 2012

Metal on Metal Records has sent me a number of requests to review their bands. I have noticed one thing about a lot of the artists on their roster. The label is very committed to the classic metal sound of the early and mid 1980's. Many artists are reunion projects from that time or are bands with a sound that is undeniably influenced by artists from that time.

Sacred Gate falls into the latter category. This is the band's debut full-length having only released an EP last year. The band's sound is a mix of traditional heavy metal and early power metal that calls to mind groups like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Cirith Ungol, Manilla Road, and Brocas Helm. Hell, one of the songs is called "In the Heart of the Iron Maiden", a not-so-subtle reference to a major influence.

Sacred Gate's music is energetic and fast-paced. There are no filler tracks here. Every song is a straight-forward rocker. The guitar leads weave in and out of the highly competent rhythm section easily. The vocals carry a lot of the songs. This is definitely fist-pumping, hard-driving pure metal.

While Sacred Gate do not really bring anything new to the table and probably will not set the world on fire, this is a highly enjoyable release. It's metal through and through and that is definitely a good thing.

In the heart of the Iron Maiden - 77%

Andromeda_Unchained, July 10th, 2012

This is the debut full-length from German metallers Sacred Gate. The band's style is that of traditional heavy/power metal with a suitable degree of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest worship. It's good to see a lot of bands mining this vein at the minute, and I've really enjoyed releases from the likes of Alpha Tiger, RAM, and Steelwing lately. Especially considering a lot of these bands are doing it well; Sacred Gate can add themselves to that category as well.

Whilst as unoriginal as they come Sacred Gate are energetic, and their songs and arrangements are always fun and catchy. Their vocalist Jim Over has a charming and charismatic voice, and whilst not technical amazing is always enjoyable. The guitar work is superb, with a lot of tasty licks and air guitar-inducing riffs. Holding everything together is a tight, classic-sounding rhythm section. The bass delivers the most in terms of heaviness, largely sticking to a rhythmic format with a great place in the mix. As for the drums, they're unspectacular but entirely right for the band's sound with the good old snare-kick-cymbal-kick type of beat.

As I stated before, there is a fair bit of Maiden worship on offer across When Eternity Ends and on further inspection I'd say the band's sound welded this heavy Maiden influence in with Tad Morose at their most rocking a la "Corporate Masters" etc, which is really cool. Tracks such as the title track "In the Heart of the Iron Maiden" and "Burning Wings" are just great, although it is a shame the band includes a little filler in the form of "Freedom of Death". For the most part though When Eternity Ends is a good release, and heavy/power metal fans that enjoy an 80's slant are going to want to check it out.

Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com

Sometimes the brightest fires can burn out quickly - 65%

autothrall, May 24th, 2012

Sacred Gate is a fairly new German band performing a brand of heavy power metal in a decidedly 80s fashion, in that they set the rhythm guitars to chug along in cruise mode, fire up the bold, simplistic melodies and aim for a huge chorus and decipherable lead in each individual track. Tradition is not necessarily a crutch in this case, and several of the members have years of experience performing in other, similar acts since the decade before last, but clearly When Eternity Ends is not aimed at the younger generation of power metal freaks bred on the busier, heavily digitized and brickwalled tracking sounds you'd recognize from an act like Gamma Ray or Blind Guardian. This is far more along the lines of early Accept, Judas Priest, and perhaps even a touch of Running Wild in the band's devotion to big rhythms and airier production.

Thick bass lines course through the veins of the bulky rhythm guitars like veins of precious ore, reminiscent of Steve Harris' penchant for keeping things busy without attempting to divert from the central note progressions. The rhythm guitars themselves don't do a hell of a lot out of the ordinary. You've heard most of them before, and they're merely used to set the pace and allow the vocalist, Jim Over to mete out his rather distinct vocals, which as often as not carry some of the tracks. I've listened to this disc a number of times now, and I can't quite figure out whether I love the guy's style, or find it mildly irritating. Or both. He's got a lot of lower end grit to him that you'd expect from other German vocalists like Rock'n'Rolf Kasparek or Chris Boltendahl, but then he shifts to this higher pitch which has an air of fragility to it. With a catchy chorus like that found in "Creators of the Downfall", with the supporting rhythm guitar melody, or the Maiden-like pumper "Burning Wings" I think he really struts his stuff.

Not so much the case the later into the album you go, not because the vocals or music differentiate all that greatly, but the songs feel like diminishing returns, if only that so many of them keep on the same course in terms of their speed and delivery, with only minor deviations. For instance, "In the Heart of the Iron Maiden" sounds more like...you guessed it, a Germanic iteration of something like "The Trooper" if it were dowsed in loads of melodies, while "Earth, My Kingdom" has a slower bombast driven by the bass line which belongs more to the Manowar camp. In general, though, they keep it to a mid-paced maximum, so you're never getting an outburst of speed nor a particularly slower, pensive piece. Ultimately, I thought the first half of When Eternity Ends was notably superior to the latter.

There is also this angels vs. demons, Heaven meets Hell apocalyptic vibe to the lyrics and song titles that lives up to the cover art. I'm not sure if the album was constructed for those of a heavily Christian persuasion, but mileage may vary: since I don't put much stock in celestial and infernal beings doing battle over my city, it doesn't work for me as much as it might for the next person. That aside, there aren't a lot of other complaints about this record. It's a solid debut, nothing exemplary but it packs a few memorable tracks, and I like that Sacred Gate are eschewing trends to play the music they grew up with. This is pure heavy metal with no apologies. They've got chops, they've got a front man who doesn't sound too much like anyone else, and they present the songs in a brazen manner which feels loyal to the nuclear destruction on the cover. I might not have a strong reaction to all the songs here, but a little more inspiration to the songwriting could push them over the edge.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com