Artist: New Horizon
Album Title: Gate Of The Gods
Label: Frontiers Music
Date of Release: 11 March 2022
A new power metal band featuring former H.E.A.T. vocalist Erik Grönwall? Yes please! I was disappointed to hear that he had left the melodic hard rock group as H.E.A.T. have long been favourites of mine within that genre. I felt that Grönwall was the perfect fit; an amazingly strong voice fronting one of the best melodic rock bands out there. Happily, whilst H.E.A.T. continue with Kenny Leckremo behind the mic, Grönwall has returned to the spotlight, accompanied by his ex-bandmate Jona Tee. The partnership, which sees Tee handle the bass, guitars, keyboards and backing vocals is entitled New Horizon and yes, you read the first line correctly, this is a venture into the realm of power metal.
When you uncover a little more of Jona Tee’s past, the idea of the two musicians joining forces under a heavier guise is not quite as surprising. Growing up on a diet of Iron Maiden, Edguy, Helloween and others, heavy metal would appear to still be very much in Tee’s blood. ‘Gate Of The Gods’ is the result that we’re now presented with as their debut release.
I was incredibly excited when I first heard of this partnership and the heavier direction. I was even more excited to learn that guest musicians would include Robban Bäck (Mustasch), Sam Totman (DragonForce), Love Magnusson (Dynazty), Dave Dalone (H.E.A.T), Niko Vuorela (Temple Balls), and Laucha Figueroa. However, as much as I have tried to get on board with New Horizon, the final product feels just a little bit flat. I was expecting to be wowed, especially given the killer music that they were both responsible for with H.E.A.T. The depressing truth though, is that I’m not. And it isn’t for the want of trying either. This record has been on regular rotation in the hope that I would suddenly get that spark or have an epiphany that would get me raving about the music. Sadly, the spark has yet to appear.
I want to be perfectly clear at this point and say that the material on ‘Gate Of The Gods’ is in no way bad. Everything that you’d want from this style of music is present and correct, from a great vocalist to strong riffs, and big choruses to vibrant lead guitar solos. With Erik Grönwall singing, how on Earth could you complain, because the guy is one talented son of a gun. And with Tee handling most other instruments, you know you’re going to get some high-quality music to back up Grönwall. But…but…
I do wonder whether or not part of my overall disappointment stems from the fact that I had really high hopes for the album, because the feedback thus far seems much more positive than I’m being. Whatever the reason, as thoroughly competent as the music is, I am not drawn to it in the way that some power metal pulls me in. I don’t get chills and I don’t get a rush of excitement very often when I listen, which is something I look for with power metal.
The other comment I’d make is that far too many of the songs just sound like a beefed-up H.E.A.T. but without a killer hook. I was hoping for a bit more of a demarcation of sound and identity, I think. As the album progresses, I lose interest quite quickly as the feeling of disappointment is felt most keenly. I do feel like I’m being overly harsh though, because there are a few gems to be heard buried within the ten tracks.
‘We Unite’ is a fast-paced, up-tempo blast of energy and vibrancy that shows off the power of Grönwall’s voice perfectly. The song is actually very catchy, with some great hooks, particularly in the pre-chorus that features choral vocals for added pomposity. The lead solo from Tee is an expression of uncaged euphoria too, plus you get the triumphant closing bombast that is the preserve of great power metal.
The immediate follow-up, ‘Stronger Than Steel’ has a muscular presence as it stomps with a classic metal swagger, unleashing a powerful chorus and fist-pumping riffs along the way. Again, Tee is keen to throw his head back and blaze a solo.
From there though, it all starts to unravel a little. ‘Cry For Freedom’ is decent, with excellent vocals, a thunderous rhythm section, and lots of bold synth embellishments. But I find ‘Call Of The Underground’ rather dull as it straddles many different ideas without nailing any of them for my tastes – we get a bluesy feel, a vague country element, but it is neither a full-on monster or a committed ballad, falling somewhere in between. ‘Stardust’ is another that contains all the energy and passion, but fails to fully ignite me, whilst much of ‘Event Horizon’ wouldn’t sound entirely out of place on a H.E.A.T. record.
The final composition is the title track and the longest on ‘Gate Of The Gods’. It also happens to be one of the best and ends the album on a bit of a higher note than I was expecting. Its grandiosity is there for all to hear from the outset, with strong Middle Eastern flavour adding mystique to what is easily the most orchestral and overblown composition under the New Horizon banner. It starts off in slow, muscular fashion complete with a symphonic identity assisted by plenty of layered choir vocals. Keyboard solos, guitar solos, tinkling pianos, twists and turns through light and shade, shifts in tempo; this is much more like it, and more like what I hoped to hear a bit more often from this duo.
I might have not been the most positive about ‘Gate Of The Gods’ by New Horizon, but I still urge any fans of power metal, or H.E.A.T., or just Grönwall’s voice for that matter, to take a listen. It may be that you hear something different to me, and it’s entirely possible that you’ll love the record because, as I said previously, it isn’t bad. For my personal tastes, it hasn’t delivered to the level that I hoped or wanted, but it’s still a well-produced, professional, and slick affair that could be more up your proverbial street than mine.
The Score of Much Metal: 78%
Check out my other 2022 reviews here:
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