Date: May 19th, 2023
In the sea of promo materials that we receive every day, it is really hard to choose one band to review it. The eternal question is: why are we writing reviews for? In the era of the internet, one click, thousands of bands, everything is available. In ancient times when we metal dinosaurs lived, reviews were important especially in the third world countries from where I come from. We had no money to waste on bad albums and reviews helped us a lot. Of course, as better reviews, more sold LPs or tapes, later CDs. Today? I seriously doubt that “big” bands even care about reviews. The beginners (I will not write “small” bands) maybe do. But the fans… Enough with philosophy for someone who learnt it a long time ago in school. Back to the review, and the beginning of it.
In the sea of promo materials that we receive every day, it is really hard to choose one band to review it. Why did I choose Wings of Steel? First of all, newcomers. Second of all, Wings of Steel is one of my favorite metal songs (Pegazus, “Wings of Destiny”, Metal Warriors, 1997). Third of all: the band is based in L.A. I grew up on glam metal and nostalgia is one of the reasons I choose this band to review, although they have almost nothing similar to glam era.
Wings of Steel was formed in 2019 by singer Leo Unnermark and guitarist Parker Halub. Two guys released an EP. In the meanwhile it was clear that they needed back up, so rhythm guitarist Stefan John-Bailet, drummer Mike Mayhem and bassist Johnny Shankel filled the line up.
Unexpectedly, the album starts with the ballad (“Liar in Love”), where Leo demonstrates his obvious influence: Geoff Tate. Here I have to add that Leo sings even better than Geoff in his glory days. Although you might think the album is a great portion of heavy metal, the guys will surprise you with a blues sound (for example “Garden of Eden”). “Fall in Line” is one of the best songs I have heard for a long time. It has a great melody, great riffs, galloping rhythm, magnificent vocals that at the moment reminds me of late Warrel Dane. “Garden of Eden” will drive in the blues direction, another slow pace song. Once again, vocals will stand out. Here you can hear so many influences. “Cry of the Damned” brings back the power, and here we have more hard rock rhythms and Michael Kiske influence on vocals. Pay attention: “Oh, we rise and fall together, in a perfect harmony, the search goes on forever, we’re lost in chains, hear the cries”. I could easily say Kiske is a special guest here based on similarity of interpretation.
“She Cries” is another ballad, or better to say semi-ballad, and here I am starting to realize that the idea of a layered album is a great choice. Basically Wings of Steel started with a ballad, cut it with headbanging song, calmed down with another slow pace song and the result is the album as good as circuit training. In “She Cries” you might recognize a bit of Scorpions style and with every song the band actually shows a wide range of their metal heroes who influenced them which is amazing since we have really young guys who have not been even born when bands like Black Sabbath, Saxon or Rainbow where on the peak of their careers. “She Cries” has a really great guitar solo which speeds up the song and does not leave the listener to fall in the trap of monotonous ballads that some bands sometimes know to exaggerate with.
“Lady of the Lost” again brings back the spirit of Queensrÿche with an addition of Black Sabbath – Dio influences. Again blues is infiltrated successfully. Somehow this combination works perfectly. Whatever guys did, they did it perfectly and this album is in the realm of we need more of this…
“Leather and Lace”, as much as you listen to it, somehow reminds of “Black Velvet” by Allanah Myles vs. early Steelheart. Spiced by rock and blues rhythm this song sends you back to the time of the finest hard rock/heavy metal/blues sound.
“Slave of Sorrows” is maybe the song in which Leo demonstrates his vocal apparatus the best as well as the emotions. Maybe too similar to the other slower pace songs, but still effective especially when Leo unleashes the power. Here you can actually realize how easy he sings, so naturally and so clean.
“Gates of Twilight”, the title track, again, brings me back to Warrel Dane’s vocal interpretation. A mid pace song turns to hurricane and blows your mind with the guitar solo and very effective backing vocals.
In “Into the Sun” twin guitars are overtaking the lead role. This epic song is full of twistovers. Musically, maybe the most versatile song in which fans of Led Zeppelin, Uriah Heep, Black Sabbath and many more will enjoy. Somehow this song could be easily included in the soundtrack of some western cowboy movie.
“Gates of Twilight” is the great debut album that followed the previously released EP “Wings of Steel” in March 2022. The big brother is just a natural follow-on in the career of extremely talented and well educated musicians who turned their love for music into a band with a great future.
Absolute favorites, two adrenaline shots: “Fall in Line” and “Cry of the Damned”.