Gates of Winter - Lux aeterna 3/5

Reviewed: 3-14-08


1. Life force rapture
2. Burning kingdom I - A dark affliction
3. Burning kingdom II - Heavenly insurgence
4. Burning kingdom III - Lux aeterna
5. The wildwood pariah
6. Winter flight
7. Gates of Winter
8. From the flesh
9. Omega

This is the debut, full-length CD of this band of early 20s metalheads who hail from Northern Ontario. The band describes themselves as "symphonic, melodic metal". My description of them would be more along the lines of "dark, atmospheric progressive metal". This is more song oriented than the weaker progressive metal without any drawn out pointless instrumental wankery. This is an independently released CD, which has a very professional production and packaging. Releases like this make me less and less tolerant of poorly produced CDs.

The one element of the band that makes them stand out from the crowd for me is the vocals of Lee Maines (who also plays rhythm guitar). His vocals are a high point primarily due to his varied approach. The vocal variations consist firstly of a clean melodic style. I would draw this style to sounding somewhat like a cross of mellower Matt Barlow meets the clean vocals of Dark Tranquillity. The vocals get much more interesting to me when Maines adds some gruffness to his voice. At this point he reminds me a *lot* of Michael Seifert of Rebellion. This style is powerful and passionate. He also throws out some death growls from time to time, which add a freshness since I haven't heard much of this style over this sort of metal. The vocal melodies are generally memorable.

Musically, the band has dark, sombre, yet catchy melodies. The keyboards are prominent, alternating from providing the atmospheric/symphonic background to more upfront synthesizer tones - including some keyboard solos. The guitar riffing is nicely aggressive. The combination of prominent keyboards and the often slightly off kilter-styled riffing make me label the band as progressive metal, but there are some elements of power metal too in certain riffs and some quick double-bass sections. The lead guitar is classy and they even throw some guitar harmonies out which are always welcome. Personal highlights from the CD include the 3-part epic "Burning kingdom" (particularly 'part I', which has a killer opening riff and some nice guest female vocals), "Winter flight", which has some nice speed, and the title-track which has some of the more symphonic parts of the CD.

Given the band's youth and the fact that they don't even have label support yet, this is a pretty remarkable debut. About the only negative thing I can say about the CD is that while I enjoy it as a whole, it never really blew me away. Still, the musicianship and songwriting is much better than you normally get from a debut. So I will look forward to hearing how the band progresses on the follow-up. I certainly think most readers of the site will enjoy this CD as long as you don't mind the varied vocal approach and slightly progressive slant.




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