SACRED GATE: “Countdown To Armageddon” CD

Three albums in, Sacred Gate is far from well known on these shores. The name gives little away and could be easily written off as unremarkable. But there is a certain spark to the band that demands greater scrutiny. The Germans deliver straight up Heavy Metal with an emphasis on driving rhythm guitars. They have fused the NWOBHM knack for melody with the fiery force of early Iced Earth. The drumming often surprises with punch and speed. On top of that, new singer, Slaets, has presence and conviction, sometimes recalling the great Brian Ross circa his Blitzkrieg days. Boasting ten songs proper over the course of an hour, it seemed like it may be too much to hold firm without flagging. Perhaps. Perhaps not. There is a reasonable volume of diversity here and repeated spins definitely deepens appreciation. “Angel of Darkness” promptly sets the standard. Power. Melody. Proper song writing. All of the nuances in earshot thanks to a crisp production. “The Flames of War” has a faster pace with memorable chorus and cracking leads. “Mankind’s Fall” also binds gallop and melodic hooks. Lethal. “Hellriders” aspires to become their anthem and is bound to raise fists. The band’s eponymous hymn strikes a classy middle ground between these poles and crowns it with a whopping solo. “Under the Normandy Sky” takes the adventurous spirit further again with a tougher layered chorus and inventive drumming throughout the battle scene. Much to admire really. Give them a go and you may be pleasantly surprised.

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