*This is part of our State Of The Art series, showcasing bands every Monday from the featured State*
This month’s State is Idaho
Traitors Gate is:
Ken Mansfield – Guitars
Tim Allan – Drums
Colby Dees – Bass
Mister Y– Vocals
Alright my Metalhead friends, I have a special treat for this week’s State of the Art: Idaho series. Not only do I have a killer band that you are sure to dig, but also am including a review of of their new, self-titled debut! I have never done this before but the opportunity presented itself and I sure as hell was going to take advantage of it! New band AND new music?!? Good stuff. Let’s get to it. This week, from Boise, ID, comes Traitors Gate.
In the course of running our SOTA: Idaho series, we caught the attention of and were subsequently contacted by Mr. Colby Dees, the bass player, (formerly of Vault7) and manager of Traitors Gate, offering their new CD for review consideration. Never willing to turn down at least listening to ANY band’s material, I grabbed the tunes and sat back to give it a spin. Completely bad-ass! Definitely deserving of a spotlight and review. Maybe most impressive is that this band has only been together since January 11, 2016 when long-standing guitarist for Gypsy Saints, Ken Mansfield, former drummer of Brutal Season, Tim Allan, the aforementioned Colby Dees on bass and Mister Y covering vocals got together to form Traitors Gate. Admittedly having four very strong personalities with four very different backgrounds, this band pulls the best from all of them to create a very unique form of Hard Rock/Metal. So good, in fact, that the newly formed band of long seasoned players won the 2016 XFest Battle of the Bands, earning them an opening spot at 100.3’s XFest at the Ford Idaho Center Amphitheater in August that included other notable bands like Breaking Benjamin, Saint Asonia, Avatar, Shaman’s Harvest and Stitched Up Heart. They have also graced the stage with just about every local act in the area, Starset and are opening for Gemini Syndrome on the 25th of January. This comes as no surprise after reading a number of other reviews that highlight Traitors Gate’s dynamic and comfortable stage presence, tight playing and second to none work ethic. It also became very apparent that the regional scene around Boise is one of camaraderie, support and friendship instead of being competitive and combative. Absolutely love seeing this! If the scene is healthy, bands thrive, providing fans with a plethora of music to enjoy. Win-win for everyone! Kudos my Metal Brothers and Sisters!
Having just discovered the brute talent of Traitors Gate, I was most struck by the variety of influences the band brings to the party. Guitarist Ken Mansfield plays in the style of our guitar heroes from the 80’s and early 90’s. If forced to pick who I think he is most influenced by I would probably have to say Jake E. Lee or Zakk Wylde from the Ozzy days. Pinch harmonics, quick vibrato, epic bends, crushing chord progressions and bad-ass, tremolo heavy solos drive the band’s sound hard from the front. Colby’s bass lines add a thick depth and rumble that are one of the defining characteristics of Traitors Gate. His tone and style is just freakin’ sick! From the other side of the rhythm comes the drumming of Tim Allan. Like the guitars, Tim plays with a retro-cool groove, albeit more from the 90s style Thrash like Pantera and the like. No beat blasting. No 808 hits. No BS. Just straight up kicking you in the ass! The final piece of this thing called Traitors Gate is the vocals of Mister Y. Man. Where to start? Not exactly clean, not exactly screaming or growling, but completely appropriate. I guess a cleaner Max Cavelera would be the best that I can do in terms of comparisons just to give the reader a feeling of what to expect. Seriously. Go listen to them. Very unique indeed and pleasant to be able to understand all of the lyrics. I don’t mind the indiscernible screaming most times, but this is hitting me well right now. On paper, this is the recipe for a really good, Hard Rock/Metal throwback band, but manages to sound fresh, polished and exclusive to the sound and direction Traitors Gate have cut out for themselves.
As mentioned above, Traitors Gate just released their debut, self-titled CD on January 7th, 2017. Recorded at Osmosis Recording Studios in Meridian, Idaho, this thing has an extremely balanced and high quality sound with just enough rawness left in to avoid the over processed, antiseptic sound so prevalent today. As a partially DIY project, production is certainly not an issue anywhere and is all but transparent as it should be. As stated many times before: there is about nothing worst than a good band being tainted by rotten production. Opening the album is “Killing Fields”. A favorite among fans and often a show opener, this song is driven hard by the rhythm and is punctuated by some of the rougher vocals and lyrical content. It also has an anthemic vibe with a short guitar solo; made popular by early Punk bands of the late 70’s that continued through the mid-80’s. “Blitz” follows with much the same feel but is much more riffy, showing off the chops of guitarist Ken Mansfield. Taking a much more sarcastic and angry tone, “Eater of the Dead” knocks the intensity meter up a couple of notches while slowing the tempo just a bit. This song is heavy, dense and ominous and contains one of the most impressive solos on the release. Y’s throaty vocals add a zing to this track and make it one of the more memorable ones on the album. “Static” lies somewhere between the opening song and “Eater”. A little more traditional in feel, the drums are the force behind the power on this one. Everything is tightly wrapped around and skillfully layered on Allan’s hammering rhythms. This is as traditional as Traitors Gate gets. “Dear Miss Kelly” is on deck and is a showcase of Ken’s wicked, six string slaying skills. In stark contrast to “Static”, this song is slick and modern and would fit in cleanly with the likes of Hellyeah, BLS and Rob Zombie. Southern, Outlaw Metal appropriately finds its way into this track. Wide span of variety is much of the spice that makes TG so damned fun to listen to. In kind of a heavy ballad sort of way, “Plausible Deniability (Skully)” blasts it way across the ear drums. Being very melodic and just a bit cleaner in the vocal timber, this song remains heavy and robust while being somewhat sad and introspective. This is probably my favorite song on the album if asked to pick just one. Really, really potent stuff. Starting with some of the coolest and grooviest tones from any bass, “Acceptable Losses” blows up from go. This is, undeniably the heaviest and thickest songs on this entire CD and shows just how damned well these guys play together. Huge cacophony of pandemonium and pure Metal. Seeming to get stronger as the album progresses, Traitors Gate takes on a specter of anger, warning the listener about lose of freedom to government tyranny with “Burn Notice”. The heaviest drums, passionate, barked out lyrics, oppressive rhythms and the coolest guitar solo on the album define this one and is likely to become a fan favorite. If you want to try one song before you buy the CD, check this one out first! Crunchy riffs blow us into the final track entitled “Join the Gate”. Lofty leads pushed by heavy bass and blasting drums layered just under growly vocals and aggressive lyrics put a definitive period at the end of this kick ass debut.
Man! What a ride! I would like to thank Colby Dees and the rest of Traitors Gate for offering their music to us. This is truly a stellar release by any standard and damned near miraculous for a debut from a band less than a year old. With this level of talent and focus, Traitors Gate has a very bright future ahead of them. My only suggestion: bring your bad asses to Florida!
Tracklist for Traitors Gate:
“Eater of the Dead”
“Dear Miss Kelly”
“Plausible Deniabilty (Skully)“
“Join the Gate”
Now available on iTunes and most other media outlets