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Sacred Gate - Countdown To Armageddon Award winner

Sacred Gate
Countdown To Armageddon
by Justin "Witty City" Wittenmeier at 27 March 2017, 5:41 AM

After a really slick intro that invokes images of the smoky aftermath of a great battle, the second track, “Angel of Darkness,” kicks in at full speed.  The fast tempo riffs (courtesy of Nicko Nikolaidis and Bjorn Walde) with melodic over tones, and tight, focused drumming of Christian Wolf pushes the song into the soaring vocals of Ron Slaets.  The thundering bass of Peter Beckers supports the song strongly.

The above paragraph aptly describes the entire third album from this German metal powerhouse.  The band plays traditional metal, eschewing any certain sub-genre for straight balls to the walls metal, although at times it can be thrashy.  I love how the music often plays upon itself, such as in the aforementioned “Angel of Darkness.”  After a blistering solo, the riffs slide in with ease at the 4:18 mark, increasing in urgency until it bursts into a thick set of riffs that break open quickly into a galloping structure that lead into a more melodic solo.  Nicko’s leads are very well done, finding their place into the songs so well that its feels like more of a necessary addition than something they are throwing in just because they need to. Bjorn is a monster himself; creating intricate yet catchy riffs that could often times find themselves on a thrash record.  In “Legions of the North,” at the 2:20 mark, the guitar duo work in tandem with their razor sharp metal work, great riffs backed by great solos. The two really are quite the team.

Flames of War” is a really great track; the song has such a sense of urgency, aptly supporting the song’s title, helped by the thundering drumming that opens the track.  Around the 2:20 mark, we get some more great, melodic bass from Peter.  A good metal bass player is able to support the band on the low end and still stand out as more than just the background guy and he definitely stands out consistently. Another highlight of the track is the awesome solo and headbanging riff about halfway thru the son.  The temp for both guitars increases as they slam their way down the song into a series of riffs that wouldn’t sound out of place on an 80’s thrash record from TESTAMENT or KREATOR.

Ron’s vocals are really great; he sounds like a cross between Ripper Owens and Joey Belladonna, although he uses a lower register than those two but that’s a good thing because he doesn’t sound as corny as either of them. One of the album highlights is the title track, especially towards the end where the band manages to slow down and create a melodic atmosphere. Peter’s bass really stands out here with a melodic and yet heavy undertone that highlights the guitars. This is a very well done metal album; perhaps the production is a bit too clear, taking away some of the band’s bite and making the songs run together but everything else is on point.  If you are looking for a no frills, straight up ripping album then you can’t do much better than this.  At the time of this review, the band has unfortunately decided to break up.  I hope they can turn things around and get back together, because the metal world needs more albums like this.  Regardless, I wish them luck on their individual journeys because they are all very talented.

Songwriting: 10
Originality: 9
Memorability: 10
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1. The End Begins
2. Angel of Darkness
3. Legions of the North
4. The Flames of War
5. Hellriders
6. Under The Normandy Sky
7. Sacred Gate
8. Mankind’s Fall
9. The Oath of the Damned
10. Countdown to Armageddon
11. Made of Iron
Peter Beckers – Bass
Nicko Nikolaidis – Lead Guitar
Christian Wolf – Drums
Bjorn Walde – Rhythm Guitar
Ron Slaets – Vocals
Record Label: Metal On Metal Records


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Edited 25 September 2020

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