Blackgate are a five-piece power/thrash band hailing from Grand Rapids, Michigan. Last month, they self-released a six-song EP, clocking in at a robust 31 minutes. (Unfortunately, it appears to be available solely in digital form for the time being, but the band assures me that physical copies will reach the marketplace at some point.) A friend recently urged me to check out the EP, and wow, am I ever thankful that he did. For a new band (formed just last year), Blackgate are surprisingly cohesive and advanced in both the formation and the execution of their musical vision.
The band’s materials refer to their style as “power/thrash,” and I can certainly concur with that descriptor; however, I think a more accurate way to put it might be “traditional U.S. metal with elements of thrash.” Blackgate are decidedly not one of those cookie-cutter, thrash-by-numbers acts that have clogged the scene in the last few years. Nor are they overtly retro in that NWOBHM style that seems to have experienced such a resurgence of late. Instead, Blackgate have tapped into a sound and style that is timeless, coupling razor-sharp pummeling guitar riffs with melodies galore (both of the dual six-string variety and via the stellar lead vocals of David Cuffman), all laid over the top of a pounding rhythm section and speedy tempos. It’s the kind of combination that brings to mind Powermad’s Absolute Power album, or for a more recent example, the British band Reign of Fury’s awesome World Detonation album from 2012. Another convenient, albeit looser fitting, comparison would be to Iced Earth, in terms of the galloping riffs and thrashy parts, but overall melodic presentation. Songs and performances are uniformly top-notch, so this EP is easily and heartily recommended to fans of the genre.
So here Blackgate are, barely a year into their lifespan as a band, and already poised to do some serious damage in the heavy metal world. Songs like “Caesar” and “You Better Run” are simply masterful exercises in no-frills, hammer-down U.S. metal. Sure, they’re not exactly breaking new ground, but Blackgate never come across as dated, stale or a soulless copy. It’s not a stretch to imagine that these tunes could appeal to a wide swath of the metal realm, from the Keep It True old-schoolers to the thrashers to the power metalheads. For now, by all means check out this Blackgate EP, but more importantly, keep these Grand Rapids mavens on your radar screen. I for one can’t wait to hear what they come up with next.
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~