Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Goat Horn - Storming the Gates - 2003

Gracefully recorded entirely in analog- Storming the Gates is a Canadian heavy metal menagerie marked with doomier tones, but overly a straight metal record. This trio, consisting of visionary Jason Decay, drummer "Steel Rider" and guitarist Brandon Wars, really set a thick tone for this album, brandishing the metal with some very 80's sounding blackened thrash. Jason Decay's vocals could be described as Cronos-lite, but with more actual tune carrying. There is so much charm to this rather fun, and evidently British heavy metal influenced record, and it could have very well been produced in the 80's. The 80's seem to have a very strong influence and grip on metal in Toronto, just by seeing and hearing bands such as Goat Horn and Skull Fist. The entertainment flourishes with these talented groups, and even if their styles might be either more hair, or more doom- they are still essentially kin in a world where false metal still breathes.

The album opens to a very slow and muddy sounding rhythm in Gates of Oppression, but quickly picks up to a classic heavy metal pace and tone. Already the head-bobbing creeps on, and there is no denying the effectiveness and consistency of the meatier part of this tune. Sliding back into the sludgier bit, the picture becomes clear that this bands dynamics already hit home, from fast and furious to a distinctive slow and grudging mood. That sludge and British heavy metal can be so clearly heard in the same track, and can be transitioned to, back and forth, so effectively demands some form of praise. The sound moving on to Rotten Roll is so full and textured in tone, just the entire feel is infectious. The beat picks up and mixes- complimenting Jason's vocals, which are never overbearing or overreaching- just within the means of the music, and still rough and rugged. "We are the rotten roll revolution, with the ultimate solution!" The guitar is almost entirely without effects, and uses the full availability of tone to punch out some very tantalizing licks and solos throughout this track and the album.

The rhyming scheme isn't subtle, in that it's a predictable, but satisfying array of rhymning words, very uniformly sprawled out:

The time has come to do away,
Clear the waste, none to betray,
Destroy the false, imposters we will slay!

It sounds catchy, and after about three or four hearings, you can't help but sing along, and love every second of the vocals. However, there really isn't any excuse to rhyme more with more, which does happen on this album. This makes the heavy metal influence even more apparent and makes the album more fun and camp to listen to. To The Cliff has a groovy vibe and a solid wall of sound that makes this just another fantastic tune on this album. Softly plucked chords open up the ending track of side A, and then takes a darker heaving turn in Final Sentence/Finally Sentenced. It's also amusing to see the redundancy that is purposely placed with Goat Horn and future project Cauldron, also with Jason Decay. The subject matter of this song is easily to most in depth and thought out, the person in question has clearly been sentenced harshly without much thought, but the relief of a death sentence is a great release from the obvious injustices in the world. Finally!

The B side opens with a short but sweet little instrumental Storming In, which effectively sounds just like storming in. Fortress Doomed also sounds exactly like what it's describing, which seems to be a medieval siege on a fortress. Rhythmically battering and letting arrows fly, the siege sounds long and hard, attempting to curb whatever power holds the fortress. A little more than halfway through the track, someone, I assume Jason Decay, let's out this mosquito buzz-like scream that sort of fizzles out into hilarity. Even if Goat Horn is very British heavy metal influenced, Jason still lacks the pipes to belt it like Bruce Dickinson or Rob Halford. As the song begins to close, it repeats the same quick tune from Storming In to tie up this part of the album very nicely. The pace for The Last Force continues to paint a picture of urgerncy, coupled with Jason Decay's relatively softened and subdued vocals on this track compared to the raw approach he has on the rest of the album. As the track climbs, Jason gets grittier and then lets out his mosquito buzz again- which must be a jocular aspect of this album. It has to be a facetious action to take, because Jason cannot really wail.

The guitar layering in this album is sometimes very well engineered, and nicely written such as in Re-Animation. Recording the chunky rhythm guitar and writing a catching lead lick over it likely took time, coordination and real commitment. Re-Animation is arguably the darkest track on Storming the Gates, not just with the subject matter, but with the over all feel of the track. This track is much like the tale of Frankenstein's monster with it's initial re-animation and confused birth. Sounding hard, and even enraged, the plot could be continued from Finally Sentenced where there is relief in death, but now being "synthetically revived" by chemical means, malice ensues from having the relief be retracted by unwanted new life. One part of the song with really slugdey shredding could be straight off of Darkness Descends by Dark Angel by how dark and aggressive it sounds. Resounding hate for being reborn and having the soul sent back from the flames very clearly comes through with this gem of a song. How ever well Re-Animation fits, it is still a Sacrifice cover, almost completely unaltered and raw. The choice was impeccable as it serves as a good track on the album to showcase the albums roots and influences.

The tale of  Fate Strikes is sort of a sad ending to the album, because the gates, although stormed, now become the end realized. The gates they come to see and besiege are actually now the gates of eternity into death. In what could be considered the alternate plot or idea, death is welcomed and achieved because the world is unjust, and it is even heinous to bring someone back to life. But through the main concept of the album, it would seem that the goal of overtaking the fortress is now lost, and the gates of light are now before the group.

Fate's brought us here tonight,
And now I see the light,
In through the gates we go,
On to the end where we don't know,
Our destiny finally told!

However still an awesome heavy track, it is still a lamenting one. The end so close, but now the struggle is over forever. Were they storming the gates into destiny all along, or were there really riches and power waiting for them inside a real fortress? This mirage of prestige and wealth may have been the prize all along. The music playfully uses reverb and softer picking bits with the familiar chugging that mark this album as a fatefully underrated album.
The rhythm of the album chugs along, with some very eclectic tones and parts that makes this a very unique listening experience that one hasn't quite heard anywhere else, despite the heavy and familiar influences. Some may argue it is a two-pronged concept album, but with some more inspection and thought, it might still be considered a solid single concept album. The subject matter is intrigueing, with some social commentating undertones, but overall a fun listen because of the raw approach. Recorded in analog and now re-issued on vinyl with a new cover, this is an album that shouldn't be left out of any heavy metal lover's collection.

Rotten Roll Revolution!
This is a War on Music record re-issue available on vinyl!

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