Apparently, GATEKEEPER’s “East Of Sun” debut album — released in April via Cruz Del Sur Music — has been exactly what the classic/power metal scene has been looking for. The Canadians, led by founding member/guitarist Geoff Blackwell and rounded out by vocalist Jean-Pierre, lead guitarist Kenny Kroecher, bassist David Messier and drummer Tommy Tro, have been hailed by Heavy Blog Is Heavy as “The real deal when it comes to the upfront nature of heavy metal,” while Metal Temple says “This is a dynamic album that follows the fervent spirit of heavy metal to the razor’s edge.” The metal buying public has responded in kind — the first CD and LP pressings of “East Of Sun” have already sold out.
As Blackwell explains, 2018 has been a year of huge growth for GATEKEEPER, including many “firsts” for the band—first full-length album, first music video, first appearance in a print magazine and first performance in Europe. “It’s been a wild ride indeed,” he explains. “We’ve had a very heart-warming reception to the record. Lots of great feedback and it’s interesting to see which songs stick out to people the most. The record took a lot of time and a lot of work and stress to finish. We sometimes talk about things we would change about it or elements that we weren’t entirely satisfied with, so seeing all the positive reactions makes it feel worthwhile and helps us see the bigger picture.”
For a band that was formed in 2009 as a way for Blackwell to teach himself how to play guitar, GATEKEEPER’s fast start out of the gate has taken the guitarist by surprise: “On a practical level, I expected that the album would generally be well-received, but I was worried that it might get lost in the shuffle of new music that is constantly coming out. In any case, I did not expect to sell about 120 albums through our pre-order campaign and I didn’t expect the record to sell out in less than a month. And the news that the CD edition is close to being sold out was a huge surprise. If you told me that this was going to happen five years ago then I might not have believed you.”
One of the highlights
of 2018 thus far for GATEKEEPER was their May appearance at Germany’s legendary Keep It True festival. Playing alongside the likes of FLOTSAM & JETSAM, CEREBUS, RAVEN, SARACEN and IRONFLAME, GATEKEEPER was quickly introduced to the glory and majesty of the European festival scene. Not surprisingly, the band immediately connected with the always-demanding Keep It True faithful.
“We spent a grand total of three days in Germany, which the average North American person considers insane,” notes Blackwell. “The festival was excellent. I got to meet a lot of ‘Facebook pen pals,’ some of whom have been following the band since our first demo. We also made some great contacts for future trips and I ate the best schnitzel I’ve ever tasted. Oh yeah, our set was pretty good too! People seemed extremely enthusiastic and I was very happy with the response. We can’t wait to return!”
Up next for GATEKEEPER is a series of live dates that will take the band throughout Western Canada, with the band hitting up new and old territories along the way. Comments Blackwell: “We’re really excited toplay with our friends in RIOT CITY and ROAD RASH this summer, and, we’ll be returning to Prince George and our hometown of Edmonton for some more action, plus our first-ever appearance in Abbotsford, which is a city we’ve been trying to book for years now. Canada is full of small, remote towns and playing them can be tricky to book and promote, but they are often full of people who love rock music and they deserve a chance to see live bands as much as anyone else.”
Furthermore, Blackwell promises a “very special surprise” to be announced closer to the end of the year, along with a possible return to Europe in 2019. And, perhaps best of all, it appears some new material is in the works: “We are writing tunes for the second album, plus all manner of fresh content. I’m currently working on a video series of guitar lessons aired through our social media networks so that anyone can learn how to play our songs and people can get more detailed insight into my songwriting process.”
GATEKEEPER upcoming live dates:
July 14 – Armstrong Metal Fest – Armstrong, British Columbia
August 04 – Shred The Loops Festival – Kamloops, British Columbia
August 17 – Pub 340 – Vancouver, British Columbia
August 31 – TBA – Abbotsford, British Columbia
September 01 – The Legion – Prince George, British Columbia
September 02 – The Industry House – Edmonton, Alberta