Gates Of Winter – Lux Aeterna
Gates Of Winter
Canada’s vast expanse contains a great number of metal secrets for the adventurous listener, and Ontario’s Gates Of Winter are one that you’re not likely to find unless you do a reasonable amount of digging. The band’s lone self-released full length, Lux Aeturna, was dropped in 2008, much to the confusion of metalheads everywhere.
Confused because, quite simply, the band seems to have the best sort of identity crisis going on. Broadly, I would describe this record as being symphonic and melodic progressive metal. However, this brings bands like Royal Hunt and Adagio to mind; neither of which sound anything like Gates Of Winter. Imagine a highly emotive progressive metal backdrop, rife with semi-complex rhythms, heavily shrouded with atmospheric keyboards, and featuring deep, throaty vocals like those of Dark At Dawn’s Thorsten Kohlrausch. Then, add some epic atmospherics, some fantasy/medieval lyrics, supporting female vocals, and the occasional death grunt or roar, and you may have an idea of what this album will greet you with. In places, this even reminds me a bit of power metal similar to what Borealis is churning out.
Straight away, I’ll tell you that this album will likely appeal to those preferring the more somber, melancholic emotions of darker prog and gothic-tinged metal. The tempo is generally middle of the road and the background plodding of drums, bass, and guitar can make the entire backdrop sound mechanical and dry after a time. This was one of my biggest complaints with Lux Aeterna, Because once in a while there will be a mad shred, followed by the rhythm section (including the guitar) settling back into a relatively unremarkable backdrop that almost feels dronish after a while, without being attractively minimalist.
Despite the under-utilization of instrumental talent on much of the album (with the exception of the keyboards), Gates Of Winter manages to pack a lot of sprawling, cold, and emotive metal into its songs. This isn’t an album I could listen to with any frequency, but it is quite singular in sound. Songs like the splendid “Winter Flight” could certainly find their way into my regular playlist, but beyond this, I would recommend Lux Aeterna to prog listeners that don’t mind some redundancy and heightened focus upon darker sounds. Listeners of extreme metal may also find this more accessible than typical prog/power offerings because of its vocal style and supplemental use of keyboards. Very much a niche band, and one that understandably could be a favorite, though not of mine.
Dan’s Rating: 3.25 out of 5