Parallel Lives – Gates (Album Review)

2016 is a year for a lot of bands to do reunion tours, reconnect and release new material. Many of the bands we grew up with in the early 2000’s are coming back and making big splashes with great releases. But this is not about them.

This is about the newer artists making just as big an impact as the artists we know so well. These breakout artists have taken aspects of the sounds from the bands we love, and re-work the fundamentals to make their own landscape and create a space for younger bands to explore and make a path for themselves. A band that stands out among the rest is Gates. A newer band, formed only about five years ago, they have released two studio albums that have taken off with high praise.

With the atmospheric sound of explosions in the sky, a rhythmic drive like As Talls As Lions and a heaviness and complexity inspired by Thrice, Gates are a driving force in the post-hardcore field. They’ve been making a name for themselves for some time now, but their latest album Parallel Lives goes beyond that. This could be the breakthrough moment for the band.

Several bands will tweak their sound and add a few different elements to newer releases. It’s evident from the first track ‘Forget’ that Gates has gone in a new direction with this album. The album as a whole shows their artistry with having a more diverse sound. Their previous release, Bloom and Breathe, was a heavier album that broke the band through with a strong force. With that foundation in place, Gates have decided to lower the distortion, amp up the diversity and open a new door in the house that they have created. They keep the components of a pulsing rhythm section and guitars that they have developed, but add levels of depth. Not typically seen in post-hardcore music are guitar solos, it seems out of place in the genre of music that is more focused on vocal content and derived from punk.

Further to this musical shift, Gates also throw away the typical song format that has preceded them and create a fast-paced moment in ‘Shiver’. Adding a guitar solo (which sounds heavily inspired by synths) to the track gives a sense of movement to the record – it catches you off guard, engages you and makes you desperate to know what other sounds they have hidden away.  The album as a whole feels cohesive. Every track transitions so beautifully into the next that it’s difficult to single out any tracks that are better or worse than others.

It’s tough to distinctly give a track by track analysis when the album works so beautifully as a unified structure. The music is more of a dialed down sound compared to their previous release, which allows the vocals to hold more strength in each track. From the lyrical story of the dangers of living in the past in ‘House and Home’, to the poetic lyrics and upbeat movement of ‘Habit’, Gates make sure that they will be talked about throughout the rest of the year and make us anticipate whatever comes next for the band.

The album ends on the lyric, “all we seem to be are parallel lives caught crossing.” It makes the statement that Gates took recording this album extremely seriously, and the result is nothing short of inspiring. The interweaving and dream-like environment that Parallel Lives creates allows dedicated and new followers of Gates to be brought into a new world and to be shown the range of the members of the band. It also allows even new fans to look back and see how the band has grown from the more gritty sound of their previous release. This is a breakthrough moment of change for the band, without losing any of the momentum they’ve spent years generating.

4/5