Blackgate – ‘Ronin’

Power/thrash metal band Blackgate formed in late 2013, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA.  Live shows and recording began in spring 2014, including festivals such as West Michigan’s annual ‘Carnival of Chaos’ and 2014 ‘Mosh Pit Bootcamp’.  Their debut self titled EP was released in the autumn of that year.  Met with widespread critical acclaim, amongst the underground metal scene; it led to them opening for Battlecross, on the opening date of their 2014 ‘Winter Warriors’ national tour.

Following a 2015 multiple date tour, which saw them opening for metal legends Symphony X and Overkill, Blackgate launched their first album, ‘Ronin’, in July 2016.  As with the EP, this was also well received, particularly, on sites such as www.Hollywoodmetal.com and www.Truemetallives.com.

BPS – Nice refreshingly low bass opening, then crackling and fizzing into life, with so much vibrant, life affirming energy and passion, you can’t fail to be impressed.  Rapid, lively, upbeat instrumental, creating the perfect intro.  Slowing the pace, to focus in on storming heavy drums, towards the close; it breathes life into the atmosphere, showing encouraging signs for what follows.

Ronin – Title track.  Bang!  Flaming intro beat there, soon breaking into a pleasingly melodic, catchy verse and chorus, interspersed with a grindingly heavy volley of drums and riffs, to crunch your neck to.  The pace, rhythm and track duration are just right – allowing you to get right into it, enjoy it and remember it.  You’ll get addicted to this.  It’ll pull you in and hold you prisoner, right to the end.

Dying Age – Nice, high-pitched melodic intro riff.  These guys are masters of catchy choruses, pumping up the volume and riding straight into the song, with absolute joyful, effortless abandon.  This is going to get inside your skin, in a big way.  Pure, unadulterated metal addiction.  Racy, orgasmic and exciting.  Finishing on a ‘Trooper’ like riff and drum hit, this is pure heaven.

Horizon’s Fall – Oh yeah!  Got to love that stoner heavy, thrudding intro.  I’m into it already.  Filled with fabulous, fire filled riffs, steel loaded drums and high octane, masterful power vocals.  It all fits together perfectly.  An intriguingly sinister section towards the end, top-quality production and performance.

Caesar – Yes!  Fast, driving riffs, of immediate power and focus.  A really classy feel, with that delightful sound of classic, old school influences, combined with NWOHM, you just can’t go wrong with.  Raging and rolling onto the mid-section, it’s like a pack of rampant stallions, galloping towards their target.

The Soldier – Great, flashy, stop start ‘Tallicaesque intro, with so many blazing beats, it’s prime headbanging territory.  Enthrallingly paced, audio production of the highest calibre, even including some Slayeresque riffs in there, this really is power incarnate..  It just blasts its way through your senses.

You Better Run – Raging, and racing, intense riff intro, seguing immediately into prime power metal depths.  A positive battallion of drum beats and riffs, eventually giving way to a sophisticated, brief pace and tone alternation, before moving, just as easily and fluidly, back into that tight, fast, focused, mood altering melody.  Climbing up the riff scales, towards metal heaven.  Complete with vocals of such stunning quality, there just aren’t words to do it justice.

Beneath – A slower, ballad like instrumental of sheer beauty and awesome magic.

The Veil – Opening with a slow, melancholic, low tone, filled with depth and meaning; there’s a definite darker feel to this beginning, but the darkness doesn’t last long, before opening itself up to the light once more, with a breakthrough of intense, colourful melody.  A fittingly longer track, of such fulsome durability and creativity, as to widen, stretch and enlighten your senses, opening them up to new depths.  Kaleidoscopic experience, fading out beautifully.

Last Son – Doomy, rhythmic, bluesy intro, just filled with steel and rapidly giving way to a perfectly paced, power trip.  Such consummate professionalism lives within this, it just speeds along, with absolute ease of performance.  It’s gone beyond impressive, to the point which places it rightfully within the higher echelons of the metal world.  Pure, unbridled feeling of the deepest depths imaginable.  Magical fade out.  I’m in heaven. 

I Am The Night – Visuals of a raging, stampeding bull, stomping its way through its territory and demolishing all in its path.  A fearsome, brain crushing drum section and epic riffage, to give the fiercest lightning storm a run for its money.  Sirens blaring throughout and just a positive, sustained attack of metallic glory.

Iron Legion – Opening with some glorious paradiddles, a blast of drums and a river of those gorgeous vocals, running smoothly towards its destination, till it crashes against the mountains, as the river bursts its banks, from the sheer magnitude of the full pelt of its power.  Ratcheting up the power and volume to the max, to ear-splitting proportions, this song lives totally in the moment.

Hollow Man – Blazing riff intro, followed up by a brain bursting performance.  This band are on fire.  Every classic metallic sound and feel you can imagine is alive and well within this track.  These guys do the world of speed power thrash metal enormous justice.  Strong is too small a word to describe it.

BPS (Reprise) – Lovely, penetrating riff, which goes right through to your soul.  A clear thread of contemplation here.  Smooth, flawless, closing instrumental and ending with a tinkling cymbal, of deep effect.

Overall – One of the strongest, most affecting sounds I’ve heard all year.  Blackgate belong with the greats and titans of metal.  Giants in the making.  Here’s one to watch for this year.  They’ve left a resounding impression of power and awe.  No words can truly do this album justice.  It’s actually stronger than words.

10/10 **********

For fans of Testament, Slayer, Iron Maiden, Manowar, Dragonforce, Yngwie Malmsteen, Judas Priest and power/speed/thrash metal, generally.

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