Gatecloser hail from Italy but you could be forgiven for thinking they’re an American heavy metal band from 1994 with a major label behind them. They look like rock stars, the singer has a heroic voice, and the lead guitarist is a shredder. Yet they also have a bass player who takes his inspiration from alt-metal and a drummer who loves the sound of a double-kick drum. Is it thrash, traditional metal or progressive?
The predictable answer to the question above is a mixture of all three, but this record is anything but predictable. Give ‘The Crow’ a swirl and marvel at the Flea-inspired bass riff and vocalist, Stefano Tarroni, as he introduces a full-on thrash metal onslaught at the command of “break”. It’s a cue for the rest of the band to demonstrate their maximum technical ability in thirty seconds of bewildering metallic proficiency. The same happens on ‘Bury Him Alive’ with its Annihilator lick and classic rock vocals. ‘White Bones’ is rock with a capital ‘R’ like when Death Angel ended up on a major label for 1990’s Act III record. Let’s be clear: this is no slur. This band can write a chorus, but they can also thrash with the intensity of vintage Evile.
The concept behind From the Wasteland is as mind-boggling as the levels of musicianship. The Gatecloser is ‘the personification of time, an impartial supreme judge guarding his own gate, waiting for the right moment to open it and unleash his power.’ Each track tells the story of people rescued by a main character who comes back from the dead at the behest of the world’s oppressed to avenge them against their tormentors. He is the Gatecloser… Interesting. But, uh, not the easiest concept to wrap your head around.
Yet don’t let that deter you, for every track on he is a deliberate attempt to avoid repetition. My God, does Stefano Tarroni know how to sing from the stomach? When he gets it right, it’s as good as English thrashers, Scarred by Truth. When he misses the mark, it comes off like Ugly Kid Joe. Most of the time he nails it like a more muscular version of James LaBrie from Dream Theater. Which brings us to the one criticism of this excellent album. If the first quarter sets us up for a remarkable hybrid of Megadeth and Clawfinger, the middle section ventures deep into Dream Theater territory to the point where they might owe the American legends royalties on ‘Blackout’. Likewise, ‘Will of the Dark’ and ‘Death Parade’ rely too much on the Dream Theater inspiration to keep momentum, which, to be fair, they do with great panache. They’re still enjoyable tracks.
At no point can you accuse Gatecloser of playing it safe or running out of anthemic choruses or exquisite metal riffs. Towards the end they recover the fury of the first quarter and bring things to a climax with the magnificent ‘Black March’, a song that could fit onto the new Heathen album with no problem. You can sense the exhilaration of each band member throughout this record as they put their life into their music and produce something equal to the wildest rock and metal fantasies from their youth. They say to you in every song, “Dare to dislike this, you motherfucker!”
The fusion of classic rock and thrash will always be associated with the 90s and the decline of Metallica, but Gatecloser, like Megadeth, show it can still be a force when done right. This is a strong debut and one that can appeal to fans of both Guns ‘N’ Roses and modern thrashers like Shrapnel.
Release Date: 22/09/2020
Record Label: Sliptrick Records
Standout tracks: The Crow, White Bones, Black March
Suggested Further Listening: Dream Theater – Awake (1994), Scarred by Truth – Blind My Eyes (2020), Megadeth – Youthanasia (1995)