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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Twelfth Gate

Summoning

Review by Mike Korn

We are not very far into 2003 but we already have a candidate for album of the year. Twelfth Gate and their debut "Summoning" have burst out of nowhere (Chicago, actually) with a furious rush. This is sixty minutes and two seconds worth of nothing but top class heavy metal that will cause the blood of true headbangers to pulse with excitement. Every track on "Summoning" is at least good and in many cases, excellent.

Instant comparisons can be drawn with Nevermore, right down to the heavy chugging guitar tone, the shifting melodies and the operatic vocals of Scott Huffman, who resembles a less warbly version of Warrel Dane. But you can also detect influences from Iron Maiden, Queensryche and Helstar. The only complaint I have about the album, and it's a slight one, is that the production makes the guitar tone a little muddier than it should be. It's brutally heavy but I think some of the nuances are a bit lost.

It's nice to be surprised by something you weren't expecting. I'm pleased as punch that America is capable of turning out new metal bands of Twelfth Gate's stature. Take that, Sweden!

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2003 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Mortal Coil
The heaviness is apparent from the start as this kicks off with a surging, marching feel. The riffing here is a bit more simple and straightforward than the other material, but Scott Huffman weaves some interesting vocal patterns over the top of it.
Desire Brings
The excellence continues with this fine cut. These guys surely have the knack of writing riffs that are both catchy and brutal. Rich Knight gets to show a bit more of his guitar prowess here, and the vocal lines are again very strong.
Orpheus
What a killer song this is! It reminds a lot of something that might have been on Maiden's "Piece of Mind" album, and even if it appeared on that classic, it would be a top track. The opening is low-key and melodic but eventually bursts into a great fast paced guitar hook. The song really runs the gamut from progressive melody to all-out headbanging power -classic!
Innocent
The beginning of this one is moody and distorted and soon enough turns into some HEAVY chugging riffs almost like a power metal Fear Factory. It's a song with a strong overtone of Nevermore to it.
Flames of Anger
This semi-ballad is not a bad track at all, but if any song on the disc approaches average, this is it. It alternates between drifting gloominess on the verse and a catchy hook on the chorus and manages to build up some momentum towards the end.
Waiting In Shadows
This is more of a catchy, straightforward power metal tune with some great hooks and vocal work from Scott. It brings to mind early Queensryche circa the debut EP and "Warning".
Sugarcoated
This scorching epic throws everything but the kitchen sink at the listener, covering a lot of speeds and feels. Boy, these guys can jam! It includes great, great riffing in the central portion of the tune, sandwiched between a Middle Eastern flavored opening and a doomy, Sabbath-like closing fade out -outstanding!
Wheel Of Life
This is surely one of the heaviest tunes on the disc, with crushing down-tuned power chords throughout. There's a brief interlude in the middle where Huffman almost sounds like Pete Steele of Type O Negative but it's soon back to bone-crunching metal.
Bridge of Uncertainty
This is a fairly strong and heavy cut in a mid-paced mode but I really can't recall anything particularly memorable about it.

Malevolent Sky
"Bridge of Uncertainty" bleeds immediately into this speed metal belter, which has a frantic verse riff that sounds like an ultra-heavy "Flight of the Bumblebee" type thing. The cut meanders a little bit, but that central riff is awesome.

Forgotten Names
 The album ends with this up-tempo and classic sounding power metal belter. It's not as mind-blowing as "Orpheus" or "Sugarcoated" but there's something so purely METAL about this cut...it's the perfect capper to a great album!
 
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