Welsh NWOBHM gems Traitor's Gate are back on the high road as they release their new EP 'Only the Strong'.
Cult legends Traitor's Gate are undoubtedly best known for their 1985 EP Devil Takes the High Road which is now considered an obscure but vital classic, as well as somewhat of a collectable item amidst NWOBHM fans and followers. Three decades later, Traitors Gate are ready to walk with the Devil once again as they release new EP 'Only the Strong' with line-up Steve Colley, Paul House, Andy D'Urso and Mayhem Messiah vocalist Sy Davies.
Made up of 5 tracks, the EP starts with 'Retribution' and delivers some atmospheric sound effects of pouring rain. In fact, the first few seconds of the intro are not too unlike the opening of their 1985 classic 'The Devil Takes the Highroad'. Does this mean that the band still have a place in their hearts for that prototypical NWOBHM sound?
The intro continues with a church choir, which is abruptly interrupted by a lone, heavy guitar riff that quickly becomes catchy. It's not until the vocals enter that Sy Davies creates an epic, atmospheric feel with his singing style, bringing an epic doom vibe reminiscent of doom bands such as Solitude Aeturnus as well as a handful of U.S metal bands. The lead solo comes in and I can definitely hear some of that classic heavy metal sound peaking through. A strong opener, with some simple but catchy riffs; a killer lead solo and powerful, melodic vocal harmonies.
Moving on to 'Deceiver', which again starts with heavier than expected riffing and a very strong rhythm section. This song continues to exhibit a doomy sound and those clean vocals are now mixed with a rougher energy, particularly throughout the chorus. The repetitive squeal of the word 'Deceiver' can be somewhat grating at times, however they are softened by another brilliantly played solo which I wish was longer.
The third track on the EP, 'Fall From Grace' starts with a bang as Andy D'Urso wastes no time ripping into a solo, backed with a toe-tapping riff. Sy matches the tone perfectly as he shows off his vibrato and pleasing high notes. At times, this newly produced sound exposes riffs comparable with newer 'metal' bands, however that classic sound still sneaks through, mainly through the welcoming guitar solos.
The echoes from the opening to 'Edge of Destruction' lure me in immediately. Andy's guitar is beautifully matched with Sy's pure tones and both send shivers down my spine. With a swift switch of tempo, the changes in speed are pleasing and the band are certainly embracing the new heavy metal feel here. With a chorus that stays with you for hours, continuously impressive soloing and a fluctuating speed that keeps you on your toes, this song certainly has me staying put.
Title track 'Only the Strong' is a total of 6 minutes and so i'm expecting something memorable. Starting off with a vocal harmony to warm your cockles, it continues straight into a now expected dark, heavy riff but with a clean, rising lead. Once again, i'm hearing some surprising influences in here and even riffs which you'd usually hear coming from the fingers of guitarists such as Iced Earth's Jon Schaffer. The chorus is heroic and certainly one to sing a long to with fists held high. We've not been denied solos by any shot, but you find yourself stopping in your tracks to focus on the guitar leads which definitely top off the EP perfectly. The guitar sound is emotively powerful, making way for the final chorus... and it's a biggun. 'Only the Strong' is the perfect track to finish off the EP and it leaves me wondering what else Traitor's Gate have in store for the future.
If you're expecting that quintessential NWOBHM vibe with low (but loved) quality production - you'll be disappointed. But, there's no denying that 'Only the Strong' displays the talents and the mixture of influences of all Traitor's Gate members. They deliver a hearty, heavy metal sound which is apparent in every track, particularly within the guitar solos and clean, epic sounds of Sy who also at times brings a 'newer' metal feel to the band, reinforced with a couple of simpler riffs. Overall, 'Only the Strong' is a solid EP and well worth a purchase to keep your Traitor's Gate collection up to date.
After seeing Traitors Gate at this year's Keep It True festival, we know that the guys have still got it; and this EP- despite some unexpected differences- has certainly paved the way for a future in heavy metal.
Sy Davies- Vocals
Steve Colley- Bass
Andy D'urso- Guitar
Paul House- Drums
Paul House- Drums
From August 18th the EP will be available for download as well as in CD format. The band are also considering releasing a small number of copies on vinyl, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled because once they're gone, they're gone!
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