Hardcore punk has been a staple of Michigan State since the early 80s, with influential powerhouses such as Degenerates and The Crucifucks hailing from one of the earliest breeding grounds for Midwest Hardcore and influencing the scene to the current day, including the Detroit-based band Gateways.
Gateways, with their breakthrough album ‘Departures’, continue the pedigree of their birthplace, but with a self-styled ‘progressive, melodic’ twist. Think Strike Anywhere, but with a little Detroit flavoured flare.
Although Gateways are not the most ground-breaking band, and hardcore punk has been steadily growing stagnant over the years, they do bring their own style and are certainly promising, talented musicians. A couple of ideas on the album are very clever, such as the midway instrumental which works as intended, as well as the back and forth vocals between lead singer Jayson Ignacio and guitarist/vocalist Rob Ketchum on a couple of tracks. My favourite features are definitely the tempo changes directed by drummer Jake Bell who switches pace expertly throughout the album, but not as predictably as some other hardcore punk bands.
The standout track for me of the album has to be track 4, ‘Retaliation’. Powerful, back and forth, hardcore punk screams and chilling clean vocals are set against shifting paces of rhythmic drums and harmonic guitars, culminating in a cacophonic mess of beauty. Unlike some of the other tracks on the album, ‘Retaliation’ closes very well, neither seeming abrupt nor played out, and leading into the soothing weaving of guitars in the proceeding instrumental. Lovely.
As is customary in hardcore punk, many of the tracks on ‘Departures’ are short; occasionally too short. But being only a 10-track album this leaves it well under 25 minutes in length, which was disappointingly brief for me. A further nit-pick is the lack of any major excelling from bassist Mike Howells who tends to get lost within the eye of the storm and doesn’t really make his presence felt.
The band itself aims to share the message of positivity and proclaims on their Facebook page ‘Always keep an open heart, and an open mind. Judgment free, and always welcoming’. One of Gateways’ aspirations is to ‘make a genuine, positive impact on the music scene’, and although they may not have such huge recognition for doing so, their no-nonsense approach to music is a great lesson for some other bands caught up in the glory of rock and roll.