Age of Athena – Gate to Oblivion Review

I’ve tried a few ways to write this introductory paragraph, and it doesn’t seem to be working. I’ve written a lot of these this year, and I think that if you aren’t careful, they all start blurring together, sapping away your creative juices and leaving you hollow and empty, bereft of energy or appeal.1 Incidentally, this is also how I feel about symphonic metal, its glimmering, shiny surface often subject to intense scrutiny from those who say the subgenre has stagnated. Enter Age of Athena, a new band from Canada’s Ontario whose debut, Gate to Oblivion, combines “influences of American metalcore and European symphonic metal.” I’ve been on the lookout for new symphonic metal of late—is this the answer to my hopes and dreams?

It’s pretty close—Gate to Oblivion takes some of the best elements of its influence styles and blends them together in a way that results in an energetic, enjoyable album. While the riffing style is undoubtedly influenced by metalcore, with big, blocky chords dominating coupled with lead guitars, piano, and strings that inject nuance and melody into each song. Opener “Lost in Darkness” tells us what to expect,2 as strings, keys, and a riveting guitar lead offer feelings of symphonic and power metal before the metalcore riffing kicks in. Vocals are split throughout the album between harsh screams and soaring female cleans, heavily favoring the latter. Despite borrowing from what I imagine is a myriad of influences, Age of Athena offers a unified sound, without any threat of spreading themselves thin.

It’s the little details that set Age of Athena apart here, the tiny nuances borrowed from their European contemporaries that make Gate to Oblivion so enjoyable. The piano the plays behind the chorus of “Lost in Darkness,” the energetic tremolos that dramatize “Together We Fall,” the many guitar and keyboard solos that adorn the record—all of these feel like a breath of fresh air, allowing the backing guitars to do what they do best—make things heavy—without taking away from the music being dynamic and enjoyable. Of particular note is “Burn Down the Sun,” a song of frankly epic proportions. It’s big, dramatic, and incredibly catchy, owing to Zachary Sabean’s electric leads, and Helen Illumina’s versatile singing. Her leads are Age of Athena’s not-so-secret weapon, her range and strength helping Gate to Oblivion to hold an identity all its own. I could argue that I hear traces of acts like Bring Me the Horizon and Amberian Dawn in Age of Athena, but it’s these nuances that set them apart and help Gate to Oblivion feel like its own album with its own identity.

I don’t feel that there are any bad songs on Gate to Oblivion, but the album still feels like a bit of a mixed listen, in that songs like “Burn Down the Sun” are so much more enjoyable than ones like “Fallen Skies,” which, while energetic and fun, feels like the closest thing to “standard” metalcore Age of Athena’s released here. Gate to Oblivion is a little over forty minutes, and with each song being in the four-to-six minute range, it feels like it can be cleanly split into two halves, where the final four songs are noticeably stronger than the first four for how vibrant, varied, and how much bigger they are. In the vocal department, the first half of the album tends to lean on Sabean’s harsh vocals for variety, which I feel are placed a little too high in the mix, tending to take over the sound space completely when they appear, while the second half of the album prefers narrations for the same thing. Again, I would struggle to say anything about Gate to Oblivion is actually “bad” or “unenjoyable,” but it feels a bit overshadowed by its own successes—which is certainly not the worst problem for an album to have.

If you have a soft spot for symphonic metal, you’re likely to enjoy this record; if you don’t have a soft spot for symphonic metal, you should check it out anyway, because it’s a solid release. Age of Athena know what they’re doing in a way that makes it a bit surprising that Gate to Oblivion is a self-release from an unsigned band. It’s a really good start, and I will absolutely be looking forward to what they do next.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self-Released
Websites: | |
Released Worldwide: December 17th, 2021

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Yeah. – Dr. Wvrm
  2. Like any good introduction paragraph.
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