Beyond The Gates
6/1/2004 - Review by: Eric Compton
Cans - Beyond The Gates 2004 Noise Records reviewed by: EC
During the late 90s, power metal seemed to create its own sub-genres; Medieval Power, True Power, Teutonic Power, Traditional Power, Speed Power, Prog Power, and even Symphonic Power just to name a few. With releases by German bands like Angel Dust, Brainstorm, and Scanner leading the way, another sub-genre was born, one that I like to call Power Groove. Fitting nicely in this niche were bands that played the traditional power metal songs, with fast riffing, clean vocals, and the ever important gang-styled epic chorus. Angel Dust did it with "Bleed", Brainstorm did it with "Ambiguity" and "Metus Mortis", Primal Fear did it with "Black Sun", and even the mighty Helloween took an ill-fated shot at Power Groove with "The Dark Ride".
The plan with Power Groove is simple. Play ultra heavy groove based riffs, throw in clean vocals (falsetto optional), and stick to the traditional power metal arrangement, complete with the big chorus, the epic vibe, and the medieval aspect. Basically Dungeons and Dragons on steroids, but it works well in my opinion.
Joacim Cans, frontman for traditional power metal act Hammefall, has stepped away from the traditional "true metal" style for the moment, taking on a side-project simply called Cans, the man's first solo album and one that I find mesmerizing and enthralling, surprising me with just how well this album works and making me a true believer of this type of sound.
Through four studio albums and one live album, Cans and Hammefall have been playing their brand of Swedish power metal, every note driven home in fine traditional format, building on the foundation of groups like Maiden, Priest, and Warlord. Often scrutinized by metal fans worldwide for lacking originality, I've always found Hammerfall's music fresh and entertaining, seeing the band as a great leader for this genre. Now, Cans has stepped away from Hammerfall for a moment to focus on his own material, a full length album called "Beyond The Gates" which is NOTHING like Hammerfall whatsoever. In fact there isn't a tremendous amount of traditionalism here at all, instead Cans stepping up to deliver a top notch record of Power Groove, with a highly polished sound courtesy of producer Charlie Bauerfeind (Rage,Blind Guardian).
Cans goes at it on his own here, but gets some serious help from friends. The Cans band features Mat Sinner (Sinner,Primal Fear) on bass, Metal Mike Chlasciak (Halford) on lead and rhythm guitar, Stefan Elmgren on lead and rhythm guitar, and Mark Zonder on drums. Along with this all-star band, Cans also brings in some special guests to help with songwriting, backing vocals, and guest leads. So not only is this a fine solo album, but a nice collaboration of notable musicians as well.
The album comes on like a Blaze record, with a heavy, crunchy sound that is very groove oriented. "Fields Of Yesterday" is the perfect opener and shows off the ultra heaviness of the record immediately, with Cans adding some really nice vocal melodies here, along with a sing along chorus that is very catchy. Both Chlasciak and Elmgren are in fine form here, giving up the hooks on a perfectly crafted soundscape. Cans and Chlasciak team up to write "Soul Collector", a solid track that moves like Nevermore, taking me by surprise how well Cans can sing this heavy stuff. I've never seen him in the same light as heavy styled vocalists like Warrell Dane (Nevermore) and Andy B. Frank (Brainstorm), but the man pulls off the task perfectly, with "Soul Collector" flirting with a German teutonic sound, as the chorus on this track reminds me of Paragon and Grave Digger. The same writing combo creates "Back To Hell", another track that reminds me of "Soul Collector", with its heavy German accent and Cans' extraordinary ability to "hang tough" throughout the song.
Dream Evil guitarist Gus G. stops by to play lead guitar on the title track, opening the song with a fine lead, as the track builds to a fast pace, with Gus absolutely soaring mid-way in with a blistering lead that is one of the finest moments on the record. Cans also invites Hammerfall guitarist Oscar Dronjak to play on "Dreams", a good 80s mid-tempo song that is written by Cans, Mat Sinner, and Primal Fear guitarist Tom Nauman. Also former Primal Fear guitarist Henry Wolter helps pen "Merciless", a superb power metal blaster that really grabs the listener.
"Beyond The Gates" is a winner from beginning to end, from the emotional ballad "Forever Ends" to the ballistic power groove of "Silent Cries", Cans delivers in a big way. Again, I'm completely shocked that Joacim's voice is able to keep up with this hard hitting stuff, as I've always seen Cans in bands like Hammerfall and Warlord, fast-paced bands that aren't particularly the heaviest bands around. Cans pulls no punches here, and really opens up my eyes to a different side of the man. I hope Cans gets the respect he deserves, because in my eyes he has done no wrong, and only continues to help the metal scene grow and expand.
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