Despite the band splitting up earlier this year, the third album from German group Sacred Gate was released just last month on Metal On Metal Records. Though branded as power metal, Sacred Gate has more in common with similarly labeled bands on the West side of the Atlantic Ocean than they do with countrymen Helloween or Gamma Ray. “Countdown To Armageddon” more closely resembles USPM bands like Jag Panzer or Attacker. This record contains an unending flow of charging riffs designed to energize even the tamest of crowds. For the near-one hour runtime, Sacred Gate rarely relents. They mostly offer a slightly upbeat tempo, relying on syncopated, downpicked riffs. Many of these riffs are variations on the “2 Minutes To Midnight” riff (among others), where the band will hit a power chord, chug a few notes on the E or A string, and then repeat. At times, it does feel like a bit much because almost every song has several of these riffs, and you can predict them before you even hear them. Regardless, it’s easy to appreciate the band’s enthusiasm, as the songs at the end of the record have as much energy as those that kick things off.
To complement these rocking songs, Sacred Gate has an impressive vocalist who utilizes an upper range with plenty of power. He doesn’t hit a ton of screams, but he sings each line with tremendous authority, also utilizing plenty of vibrato. The band’s clean approach makes it fairly easy to remember a lot of the songs on this record even after just a few listens. Both “Hellriders” and “Sacred Gate” immediately come across as being some of the stronger cuts, but similar to bands like Motorhead or Iron Savior, Sacred Gate’s sound is so consistent that there are no truly weak songs.
As good of a record as “Countdown To Armageddon” is, it tends to roll on into monotony. There’s no real variety in tempo or style. That would be ok if this record were sub-40 minutes, but as it stands, it can be a difficult listen. A couple of high-speed shredders would do the band a lot of good, as would cutting 2 or 3 songs. Still, there is an abundance of cool melodies, hard-hitting riffs, and great solos, meaning that “Countdown To Armageddon” is still a very worthwhile listen, just not necessarily one that will obtain a ton of repeat plays.
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3.6/5 or 72%.
Written by Scott