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Album Review: Traitor’s Gate – Fallen

When an NWOBHM band comes back from the dead decades after their formation, there seems to be a subconscious question of how much modern influence the band will allow over their sound. For every Hell that embraces digital production and heavier styles with open arms, there is a Pagan Altar that stays tied to their roots as much as humanly possible. The phenomenon is best evaluated case by case, as the NWOBHM movement did cover a whole spectrum of styles in its late 70s, early 80s heyday.

Traitor’s Gate may have gotten notoriety for 1985’s Devil Takes the High Road EP, but they sound like a bunch of young bucks on their full-length. Much of that probably has to do with new vocalist Sy Davies, as his gruff midrange voice occasionally gives way to Halford-inspired wails on tracks like “Edge of Destruction.” The beefy guitar tone and subsequent chugging also suggest that modern influence coming through while the bass provides a palpable underbelly throughout.

The band’s NWOBHM roots come through in the songwriting. The songs on Fallen are largely steady, operating at upbeat tempos accompanied by catchy vocal lines without either getting too in your face about it. It’s the type of material that you can imagine working well with an old school production and standard tuning. “Mean Streets” has a particularly infectious hook.

While the songs are written and performed well, I can’t help but feel like some could use an extra oomph. This is best demonstrated by the album’s drumming; the rhythms are smooth, but a more aggressive performance would make songs like “Deceiver” and “Sign of the Cross” feel less stilted. Fortunately, the approach does work in the band’s favor on more melodic tracks like “Fall from Grace.”

As much as I find myself wishing Traitor’s Gate would just a teensy bit heavier, Fallen is a strong example of how to adapt the NWOBHM sound to the modern era. The performances are solid enough to keep from feeling too limited and the hooks are catchy enough to keep the style from being too middle of the road. It’s easily as good as the most recent outings by Judas Priest or Saxon, and fans of those bands should enjoy this.

Highlights:
“Mean Streets”
“Edge of Destruction”
“Fall from Grace”

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