Sacred Gate: Countdown To Armageddon (Metal On Metal Records)
They're back, a band that I have an affinity with despite many not knowing who they are, Countdown To Armageddon is Sacred Gate's third album of traditional power metal, however it is unfortunately the bands last album, as they split up shortly after recording the record, this is a great shame as yes it's standard fayre but they do bring a lot to the table. Think twin guitars, relentless drumming and passionate vocals and you are in the right ball park, much like Swedes Sabaton Sacred Gate deal with the themes of war but they are more adult, more serious sounding, Manowar would be proud as this is crunch driven true metal, so if you don't like it you know where to leave.
You could throw around names such as Accept or Helloween and you'd hear them in Sacred Gate's sound but equally there is a heaving load of Maiden especially on opener Angel Of Darkness which slows into a Harris-like chug in the middle, Legions Of The North takes from Priest even dabbling in skyscraping vocals and some grunts, this record sees them with a new vocalist who although good I prefer his predecessor. It's all very Anglo-Germanic in its sound as the Teutonic speed metal fuses with the NWOBHM for what is an excellent slice of proper heavy metal, as classic as it get's, a fitting tribute to the band's legacy, they have 3 solid records of heavy metal anthems and personally it's a shame they are no longer a going concern. 8/10
Tower: Tower (The End Records)
As we've probably noted numerous times the rise of new bands that draw heavily from the late 70's scene where hard rock became heavy metal, this saw the rise of thrash in the USA but earlier still it was the birthing of the NWOBHM. There are literally hundreds of bands that are trying to reinvent and re-popularise this sound, if I were to list them it would number 100's so Tower from New York City have a steep mountain to climb as they have come late to the party, however they bring a lot of talent to the table, much like Thin Lizzy (Bad Reputation), Scorpions (Lovedrive) and Priest (Stained Class), they avoid the follies of the NWOBHM by taking from hard rock of the 70's and just making it quicker and adding an extra guitars. Looking at the band tells you all you need to know, tight bellbottoms, denim cuts, beards, waist length hair and a raven haired frontwoman decked out in velour, leather and tassles.
Yep it's all here musically too there are axe harmonies, bass gallops and wild vocals from frontwoman Sarabeth who has killer husky hard rock vocal that's displayed when she sneers, croons and bellows over the big riffs of James and Zak who duel and harmonise like Robertson & Gorham or Downing & Tipton at their best while the rock n roll element is held down by the backroom of Philippe's bass and Justin's drums. The whole record rocks, grooving and riffing as Sarabeth really gets you believing the rock n roll gospel they are spreading, her voice is full of conviction and it bewitches converting you to their cause as soon as the first track ends. Tower is a great debut, classy, polished and with enough of their own charm to elevate them above many of the bands doing similar, put it on turn it up and rock out like it's '78! 8/10
Damaj: The Wrath Of The Tide (Self Released)
Damaj are a Scottish heavy metal band and this their first EP it has an old school vibe, there's no glossy production or simmering ballads, just heavy metal like it was back in its early years of the American scene concentrating more on groove than outright speed. Much like Sanctuary or Annihilator the rhythms changes and progressive bent of The Wrath Of The Tide makes Damaj not just another thrash copyist, they are a very interesting prospect indeed. Dual guitars intertwining and a colossal rhythm section of David Douglas and Scot Macleod make for loud listening while the vocals of Daniel Stewart are clean and have hint of the Het although they need refining. It's the instrumentation that make this record, the solos of James Haggart are sublime and the riffs get the fist pumping and the head banging throughout. This is a great first shot from Damaj four songs that show what they can do, the four Scots in this band have hooked on to a sound that is rare, heavy but hooky and they deliver it well, I await the full length. 7/10