Lions at the Gate - The Excuses We Cannot Make album artwork

Lions at the Gate – The Excuses We Cannot Make (Album Review)

Lions at the Gate band

While sometimes painful to accept, the end of one journey can lead into another worth taking. The agonizing truth, in 2019 long-time Ill Niño Vocalist, Cristian Machado, bid farewell to the band he helped build. What can only be viewed as a tragic split, joining him on the way out the door were Guitarists Ahrue Luster and Diego Verduzco.

From here Machado put out his solo album Hollywood Y Sycamore in 2020, but many were left wondering where the three key members of Ill Niño would land thereafter. Then in 2021 it was announced Machado, Luster and Verduzco would team together for a fresh new project Lions at the Gate. Soon calling on Westfield Massacre Bassist Stephen Brewer and Drummer Fern Lemus, the lineup was solidified, and a new chapter had begun.

Releasing four singles between 2021 and 2022, it became clear that more was to come in 2023. With that they released the single “The Ledge” at the start of the year, followed by the very catchy “Drain” in June, not too far ahead was the full-length The Excuses We Cannot Make. Released on August 25th, the band’s debut record encompasses all prior singles from 2021 and beyond, plus five additional tracks. A well plotted plan of attack, the album forms together relatively seamlessly.

Eleven songs in total, what is offered here is a carefully crafted mix of Alternative Metal that harks back to the early 2000s era, all while still possessing Modern Metal elements. Heavy, melodic, and drenched with catchy choruses, the album has no shortage of material to enjoy. Naturally reminiscent of Ill Niño, the difference here is Machado is perhaps more refined than ever before. What does this mean? It means he still can roll hard with the rough vocals as good as anyone, but they are more polished, allowing his haunting cleaning singing to shine much brighter.

This is clear with songs that include “The Climb,” the singles “Find My Way” (featuring Jinjer’s Tatiana Shmayluk), “Bed of Nails,” “Scapegoat,” the aforementioned “Drain,” as well as other cuts like “Digital Sea.” All wall to wall with heavy guitars and balanced vocals, the keyboards are what truly stand out in the mix as a distinctive factor. Adding an ambience, they also amplify the sorrowful tone of the lyrical content; which touch on regrets, internal struggles, and second guessing yourself.

In all, The Excuses We Cannot Make is a thoughtful debut from a talented, seasoned group of musicians. It is modern, yet not overly chaotic like so many other acts floating around today. The approach is direct, yet atmospheric and catchy enough to please a broader audience. That is why Cryptic Rock gives Lions at the Gate’s debut album 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Lions at the Gate - The Excuses We Cannot Make album art
Lions at the Gate – The Excuses We Cannot Make
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