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Review: Cans - Beyond The Gates
Beyond The Gates

Label: Noise Records
Year released: 2004
Duration: 51:25
Tracks: 12
Genre: Heavy Metal


Review online: June 17, 2004
Reviewed by: Sargon the Terrible
Readers' Rating
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Rated 3.62/5 (72.31%) (13 Votes)

I don't hate Hammerfall, I just don't think they're that great, and to be honest I always thought Joachim Cans was the weak link in their chain, so I was not interested in hearing his solo album. That is, until I heard some of it.

This is a cranker of an album, and the only Hammerfall comparison I'll make is that Hammerfall never sounded this good, or produced and album this consistent. "Beyond The Gates" is a work of heavy and dark traditional metal (with one exception, which I'll get to later.) Now it is no big mystery how Joachim produced an album this cool when you realize that about half of it was co-written by Matt Sinner (the riffmeister behind Primal Fear and Sinner) and the other half was co-written by David Chastain. With collaborators of this caliber, it would be an effort to write an album that wasn't cool. Though as bands like Aina have proven, it's possible to do. The real kicker about this CD is that even if it has only one or two really classic tracks, it has only one that sucks, and even the rim-shots (like "Red Light" and "Silent Cries") are not too bad at all. "Fields Of Yesterday" is a great opener, and it's followed up by the dark, heavy "Soul Collector". But the quality does not peter out halfway through the disc (as is so common these days), and some of the best tracks are later on. The title track crushes, then the incredibly catchy "The Key" gets rammed into your head. "Garden Of Evil" has a so-so chorus, but the rest of it just kills. "Merciless" is another insanely catchy track with a killer chorus, and "Dreams" has just an incredible opening riff and is another one with a chorus you'll never get rid of. The only song you want to skip is "Forever Ends", which is just a song that stops this album cold. It's a terrible, terrible ballad that sounds like an alien ray hit the studio and turned all the musicians into women. I mean you've just had close to an hour of aggressive heavy metal goodness and then all of a sudden they're singing about rainbows and merry-go-rounds – I swear I am not kidding. So just don't listen to the last song, trust me.

The production is really good on this disc, with a heavy, crunchy guitar tone and a minimum of keyboard activity. The killer guitar sound and the heavy, chunky rhythm playing makes even the not as good songs enjoyable. I take back some of the things I have said about Joachim himself as well. He still has a nasal voice without much character, but at least here he sounds like he grew a pair. I guess we can safely say the vocal mix on Hammerfall's albums was just weak, as the man sounds fine here. He doesn't add much to the music, but he doesn't detract from it. Mark Zonder, one of metal's greatest drummers, is so in the background here you can hardly believe it's him, as the drumwork is competent, but hardly up to his standards.

Overall this is an excellent CD that really surprised me. I hardly expected such a lean mean metal machine from a Joachim Cans solo project, but I have to say I would much prefer he stuck with this direction rather than go back to cranking out mediocre albums with his old band. "Beyond The Gates" has the spark and swagger Hammerfall always wanted, but never really had. Joachim should get a real band name (so it doesn't sound like a band named after somebody's ass) and keep on like this. Even if you don't like Hammerfall (or maybe especially if you don't) you should give this album a chance, just don't play that last song.

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