I’ve said it before and here I go again: I find very few things in heavy music as refreshing as a band that can make old school style sound brand new. Recent exemplary efforts from Grand Magus, Pharaoh, and Crescent Shield are prime examples of the modern take on traditional metal ideas and Voices From Beyond have fashioned an album in The Gates of Madness that captures that spirit with every bit the same fiery vigor.
The debut LP from this Italian five-piece features 51 minutes of kick ass heavy metal riff after riff after riff built on a solid foundation of NWOBHM sentimentality, bolstered by a modern thrash attitude and tempered with white hot power metal aesthetics. It’s a formula that benefits greatly from the band’s focus on making songs packed with the urgency of Friday’s five o’clock explosion from the swivel chair. Lots of interesting time changes and smoothly executed intricate transitions lend a progressive feel to the songcraft and reflect the band’s strong sense of technicality that never gives in to noodly excess.
Twin guitar melodies and sharp soloing are given free rein here, darting into and around punctuated crunchy riffs that draw interminable energy from a super solid bass and battery. “Voices From Beyond” (the song) is a great example of the players’ chemistry as they are just as tight in the thrashy stomp of the song’s body as they are fluid in its dark, doomy bridge and epic conclusion.
The songs are great and the instrumental core of the band carry their weight and more, but it’s the vocals that send this record to soaring. Robert Ferri’s one of those vocalists that can do just about everything and does. He runs an impressive range including both (a few) deathly gutterals and cadenced thrashy rasp, but he is a singer foremost and spends much of his time accordingly, spanning octaves with powerful vibrato’d cleans. A perfect complement to those driving, inspired riffs, the vocals open The Gates of Madness to loose comparisons with Angra (“Day of Rebirth”), and Pagan’s Mind (album standout “Time Dream”), in spreading its power metal wings (although there are no keyboards here and these songs really are most true to traditional heavy metal, if tags must be made). Whatever he’s doing at any given moment, Ferri brings an undeniable, unrelenting passion to the fore, infusing each of these songs with raw, fist pumping, foot-on-the-monitor energy.
The Gates of Madness, for all its obvious strengths, is one of those albums that has in it that ultimately indescribable “it” factor. Call it spirit or heart or whatever, this sucker hit me straight out of the, uh, gates and has yet to lull. Indeed, it sounds as fresh and feels every ounce as invigorating after a dozen listens now as it did on day one. As such, I’m damn confident in placing it in the early running for this year’s Top Ten.