Wings of Steel – Gates of Twilight Review

Every so often a comment in a review regarding some act we didn’t receive promo from gets me curious enough to do some research. This is what led me to L.A.’s Wings of Steel. A young, unheralded duo made up of guitarist Parker Halub and vocalist Leo Unnermark, they unleashed a very ambitious, wide-ranging ode to classic 80s metal this month and it deserves attention. You see, this titanic twosome is highly talented and on Gates of Twilight they attempt a daring blend of traditional and epic doom metal with a side of cock rock that on paper simply should not work. Yet in the hands of these mad scientists work it does, and the monstrosity they create is 666% Steel bait! It stitches together influences ranging from Crimson Glory, T.N.T., Queensrÿche, and Dio-era Sabbath and somehow shoehorns in some Whitesnake for no good reason. To say this is an over-the-top piece of ironworks is an understatement on par with saying Doc Grier is just a wee bit cantankerous. This is one of those albums you really need to hear to believe, but I’ll do my best to relate the experience.

Going in blind as I did, I was overjoyed to hear strong Crimson Glory references on outstanding opener “Liar in Love.” It rocks that oversized, classy, and regal sound the masked ones did so well, combining soaring vocals with slick, fluid string work all wrapped in a slightly melancholic package that hits just right. Both Unnermark and Halub lay it on the line, showing their talent as the metal goods are delivered in highly polished style. “Fall in Line” is way more aggressive and in-your-face, reminding me of the sadly defunct Lethal with heavy, crunchy riffs undergirding Unnermark’s stratospheric Geoff Tate-esque wailing and warbling. It’s like a lost killer tune from the 80s and it brings enormous joy to my metal blood-pumpy device, especially when the chorus hits with sky-high vocals and Halub’s insane soloing burns down the world. “Garden of Eden” takes a weird turn, merging sleazy blues rock of the Whitesnake variety with the epic doom of Crypt Sermon. Should it work? Fuck no. Does it work? Yes… somehow.

From there the listener gets bounced around like a bumper car from the Dio-Sabbath brooding of “Lady of the Lost” to the disgustingly steamy NOLA blues boogie cock rock of “Leather and Lace.” The latter sounds like an unholy mix of Great White and Bullet Boys, and I hate that I sort of like it even if it stands out like a turd in a red plastic cup alongside the more traditional metal fare. The title track is epic doom in the vein of Sorcerer and Memory Garden and quite impressive, and ginormous closer “Into the Sun” is like an edgier, meaner Queensrÿche. Throughout all the style shifts and genre-bending, Unnermark and Halub amaze and dazzle with vocal and fretboard pyrotechnics. While no song comes close to bad, the kitchen sink writing can make the album feel too scattershot at times and there’s a strong tendency toward metallic overkill and exces, as on the bigger-than-Cthulu “Slave of Sorrow,” where they try to find the outer edge of too muchnees. Sometimes less can actually be MOAR, even in metal. The production is great, with a bright, crystal-clear mix and a retro sound that screams 1986.

It seems clear the duo behind Gates of Twilight wrote songs that would showcase their ample gifts and that they certainly do. Unnermark is a gifted vocalist with a very broad range and you hear every inch of it over the album’s runtime. At times he sounds like Andre Matos, Geoff Tate, Dio and Midnight, sometimes in the same song. This kind of commitment to excessive overperformance can work against him, as it does whenever he forces his upper range higher and higher into infinity and beyond. Still, this is what metal is about and it’s wild to hear him stretching those vocal chords to their limits. As he does so, Halub supplies a steady diet of ace riffing, tasteful noodling, and wild soloing. The man can tear it up and does so often with dynamic playing that skims multiple genres and styles while always remaining stately and elegant.

Gates of Twilight is a very impressive album and the potential these guys possess is limitless. If they can smooth out the genre-jumping and reduce the obnoxious hair-metal aspects of their sound a bit, they could create something massive and awe-inspiring. This isn’t there yet, but it speaks to the possibilities. If you’re a fan of classic metal and want to hear it done in the biggest way possible, let Wings of Steel carry you to grandiose locales. Big stuff awaits.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 10 | Format Reviewed: 269 kbps mp3
Label: Self Release
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: May 19th, 2023

« »