July 14, 2009

The review everyone knew was coming....

Transcending the Mundane is undergoing maintenance right now, so I can't upload the review there yet, but I will post it here first just for general viewing purposes.

I won't bother to say that I tried to be as objective as possible, because none of you would believe me anyway. So I'll just put it out here for you all to read. Enjoy.

Daylight by West Gate
by West Gate

If there's one modern music genre that needs a kick in the ass right now, it's hard rock. It's been almost a decade since any rock band not named Tool released a quality, unique album that furthered the genre's influence. Gone are the glory days of Deftones, Staind, and Incubus. While today's modern rock stalwarts like Shinedown, Seether, and 10 Years are respectable bands, their sound is mostly copied from the older bands. And it's extremely disheartening when the best-selling band in the genre is Nickelback, a band whose sound is completely generic and whose lyrics are written purely for shock value. Hard rock needs to get out of the rut in which it's so clearly mired.

Which is one of the many reasons why I've grown to love West Gate, an unsigned band from New Jersey that has a genuinely unique sound and can take the modern rock scene by storm with just a little more recognition. Formed in 2006, West Gate put out a demo immediately after forming that was good enough to earn them several local shows, including a spot opening for Flaw. In 2007, they recorded an EP, Selah, with Grammy award-winning producer John Seymour. The EP furthered their reputation and earned the band opening spots for Powerman 5000, Monster Magnet, and the Sonar Metalfest in Maryland, headlined by Soilwork and Darkest Hour. This cross-genre appeal is what makes West Gate so unique, and has helped them garner fans from a huge spectrum of potential listeners.

Musically, the band's influences are immediately recognizable. The guitar section of Kurt Andrews, Ken Abel, and Alex Goldenthal sounds very similar to Sevendust, with Clint Lowery's powerful lead lines and John Connolly's consistent and strong rhythm section. The polyrhythmic structures and overall prominence of Rob Struck's bass and George Roskos' drums recall Justin Chancellor and Danny Carey of Tool. And Pete Kelly's powerful, soulful vocals are reminiscent of Brandon Boyd from Incubus. West Gate's debut album, Daylight, brings these elements together to showcase both the full range of the band's sound and their ridiculous amount of talent. (Side note: Playing on and producing Daylight was Abel's last act as a member of West Gate; Goldenthal officially joined the band in May).

The songs on Daylight cover multiple rock subgenres and flow seamlessly to create a genuine album experience. "Bleeding Out" has a strong metal edge and a high degree of technicality, while the slow, crooning "Daylight" and "Gaslight" are just a few perms away from being genuine power ballads. "Want it All" is edgy blues rock at its finest, and the bass lead on "Way Out" recalls the best parts of funk and jazz. The three-song suite in the album's second half - consisting of "Alive Again," "With Time," and "Fiction" - carries a wonderful prog rock structure. The haunting, poetic melodies on "Rebirth" defy almost every possible genre classification. Even the cover of Seal's "Kiss from a Rose" reproduces the soulful atmosphere of the original, while still maintaining a definitive rock tone. Consistently, though, West Gate manages to effortlessly fit a guitar solo into almost every song on the album, a feat that almost no other hard rock band today would even attempt.

The vocals are a big reason why West Gate stands out so much among other bands. Kelly's soaring voice covers a huge range and is able to create many different atmospheres in a song. His beautiful balladry on "Gaslight," his anthemic choruses on "Ordinary" and "With Time," and his rough-edged spoken epithet of 'Girl, you better cut that shit out' on "Want it All" are just some of the highlights of his performance on this album. Andrews' backing vocals provide strong harmonies that add depth to the songs and increase the power of Kelly's delivery in some areas.

This album has too many great moments to choose just one as the best, but one of my personal favorites comes during the song "With Time." The beginning of the last refrain starts with Kelly singing an octave lower than earlier, backed solely by a piano playing the lead line of the song. But after singing the first three lines of the refrain, Kelly switches back to his higher voice just as the full band comes back in, creating an epic peak of emotion and energy that lasts until the final moments of the song. It is absolutely breathtaking to behold, and it caps off one of the best compositions on the album in perfect fashion.

If nothing else, West Gate have proven with Daylight that hard rock can be more than it is right now. But hopefully, they will do much more than that, because this album is positively phenomenal. West Gate deserves all the recognition they receive, and combined with their excellent live show, they will definitely receive much more as they reach a nationwide audience.

Score: 10 out of 10