TL;DR: If you’re into 80s NWOBHM stuff, still love the scene and you’re interested to see how a legendary band from that era sounds like after thirty years of absence, then “Fallen” by TRAITORS GATE is probably the thing you should be looking for. However, if you’re looking for the album that’s going to be remembered as the “comeback album of the year”, then you might want to reconsider.
I’m going to be honest with you: I’ve never listened to anything by TRAITORS GATE before. I knew who they were and that they had released an EP back in the distant 80s, but I never felt the urge to look more into them. Not because I didn’t like them, but because i) I’m not your typical NWOBHM guy and ii) it’s practically impossible to check every NWOBHM band out there. Of course, that had to change once I received a copy of their new album to review, “Fallen”.
Thirty years is a long time for a band to make the return to spotlight, so I wanted to listen to their “Devil Takes the High Road” EP before writing about the new one. And I have to say, after all these years, all three songs included in that EP sound like the way Heavy Metal oughts to sound like, even with today’s standards. I kinda regret for not having listened to it before, but you know what they say: better late, than never.
“Fallen” contains ten songs, five of which were previously released in the 2017 EP, “Only the Strong”. The first thing you’ll notice is the band’s sound has changed significantly compared to the 80s. It’s not a matter of good or bad change, it’s just different. There’re still some references to their roots, but if you tuned in to listen to a new “Devil Takes…”, then you might be disappointed. And to be fair, I don’t think any of the bands from the golden era of NWOBHM is able to produce albums to match their legacy anymore. It’s a matter of evolution: going up and then down, before reaching a plateau. Even “Firepower” by JUDAS PRIEST isn’t considered to be anywhere near to “Screaming for Vengeance”, despite being well-received by press and fans alike.
The band manages to capture the essence of “classic” Heavy Metal in the best possible way. Sy Davies behind the mic (also in REACHER), sounds like a combo of IRON MAIDEN and JUDAS PRIEST (just listened to “Edge of Destruction”), while axeman Andy d’Urso does a nice job in delivering guitar solos that remind me the glorious days of US power metal. And yes, just in case you’re wondering, we’re still talking about a NWOBHM band.
As for the music in the album, I’d say there are some really good moments and songs like “Fallen”, “Only the Strong”, “Sign of the Cross”, “Fall from Grace” and the opening track, “Retribution” are definitely among them. However, these good moments are matched by some weaker moments, that prevent “Fallen” from being an overall great album IMHO. I’d attribute these weaknesses (mostly) to the sound engineering work, as there were times the drums sounded louder than everything else, thus messing the way everything blended together. Also, when it comes to the actual drums-work, I believe they could come up with a few more interesting ideas, as some parts sounded pretty “standard” (to me) compared to everything else.
TRAITORS GATE showed everyone they kept the fire burning all this time, and all it took was a gentle push to get things moving again. “Fallen” is definitely not the spectacular comeback you might have expected, but it certainly stands for what heavy metal should be all about: love and dedication ’till the end. Let’s hope these guys remain active, as I’m pretty sure they can deliver some top notch NWOBHM while the iron is still hot.