01 - Fields of yesterday
02 - Soul collector
03 - Red light
04 - Back to hell
05 - Beyond the gates
06 - The key
08 - Garden of evil
08 - Merciless
09 - Silent cries
10 - Signs
12 - Forever ends
Joacim Cans, the singer from Hammerfall has recorded his first solo effort and it has resulted in a surprisingly fresh and very enjoyable album. Easily surpassing the last two Hammerfall albums, Beyond the gates is heavier and darker than Joacim's main band. So even if you don't like Hammerfall that is no reason not to check this one out.
Along with Joacim the following, very competent people complete the band: Mat Sinner (Primal Fear - Bass), Mark Zonder (Fates Warning - Drums), Stefan Elmgren (Hammerfall - Guitar) and Metal Mike Chlasciak (Halford - Guitar). Some of these guys and a few others have also helped with the songwriting. The result is an album filled classic Heavy Metal (classic in the sense that it is old school). Heavy riffs and lots of great guitar work fill the very melodic songs. Joacim sings in a harder way than in Hammerfall and fits the songs very well. Mark Zonder stands out, playing the drums with great precision and adding extra details here and there. Some songs make use of keyboard to enhance the atmosphere, but I think it would have been interesting if the band dropped the keyboard completely.
The heaviest songs on the album are Soul Collector and Back to hell, both written by Cans and Chlasciak. Especially Back to hell turns up the heaviness another notch and has some of the best guitar work on the album. A very cool song.
The most melodic songs are those penned by Cans and Ronny Milianowicz (Dionysus). Red light opens with a drum rythm that sounds like an exact copy of Manowar's Fighting the world. Well, always a good thing to honor the kings... Once the song gets going it has a great driving riff and the chorus is instantly memorable but also very simple. The highlight is definitely the powerful bridge leading to the chorus. With The key I again get a Deja-vu concerning the drums. This time they have a certain "Judas Priest - Blood red skies"-vibe to them. While this song was instantly my favorite due to it's fantastic melody, it is also the most repetive song on the album and when listening with critical ears the song could use some more variation. Garden of evil has a nice bass line and starts out strong, but in the end it doesn't quite match the other songs.
Beyond the gates begins slowly and then gets very heavy. The way the song keeps on building is great and there is a slight epic feel to this one. The rest of the songs all range from good to great. Especially Silent cries is very melodic and has a sing-along chorus while Dreams is a little more complex but nevertheless just as catchy. Forever ends, the "essential" ballad, is the only let-down on the album. It is the only standard song and doesn't feel very convincing.
All in all this is a great old school Heavy Metal album and I know that I will be in the front row singing along when Cans takes the stage at the 2000 Decibel festival in May