East of Sun is Gatekeeper's debut album, following a string of EPs and splits. The Vancouver band plays epic speed metal adding grit and velocity to the grandiosity of bands like Atlantean Kodex and Solstice. They enter a crowded field, with traditional and doom metal bands being a dime a dozen right now, but they manage to stand out.
Gatekeeper nail both "epic" and "speed" in their interpretation of metal, the epic side often slowing down into doom territory. The guitars nail double kick backed full tilt riffs and slower drawn out melodic doom with solos to match either style, be it aggressive fret-board pyrotechnics or mournful slow-burn lines. Vocalist Jean-Pierre Abboud is equally well suited to either style balancing technique and feeling. He shows great melodic and emotional range matching the flow of epic metal, but possesses a grit and "close to the edge" quality that's perfect when they speed things up but also works for slower passages backed by harmonized "aahs".
The deft merging of styles is matched by songwriting chops. Gatekeeper doesn't really do anything new but they write such great songs, jammed with sing-along choruses and ripping solos that they don't need to. "Blade of Cimmeria" opens the album with a rousing speed metal scream, immediately gripping the listener, then running through some of the faster material on the album, "North Wolves", and "Warrior without Fear". By the time they slow things down and get really epic on "Ninefold Muse", you're hooked.
The vocals sound great and the guitars have just the right crunch, but the mix robs the band of some of their hard earned epicness. The drums are too far back in the mix, and the master is too compressed to allow cranking it to compensate. The band deserves a better mix to really showcase their excellent material.
Still, it's a great album. Edge of Sun positions Gatekeeper as a strong band and is a hugely impressive debut, not to be missed by any fans of the New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal.
01 Blade of Cimmeria
02 North Wolves (Revisited)
03 Warrior Without Fear
04 Ninefold Muse
05 Bell of Tarantia
06 East of Sun
07 Swan Road Saga
08 Oncoming Ice