I really quite enjoyed Mausoleum Gate’s 2014 self-titled debut – it was a spirited serving of 70s-inspired ‘proto metal’ with enough of a whiff of hammer horror ghoulishness and deftness of songwriting touch to elevate it above much of the pack. No mean feat these days – as ever more bands look back to the 70s and VERY early 80s for inspiration, Hammond organs, flares, low-slung Les Paul’s and cod-occult imagery seem to be ten a penny, even more so in 2017 than three years ago.

Returning to the fray with their second album, the question on my lips is how do Mausoleum Gate maintain their distinctiveness? Well, the answer seems to be very much ‘sticking to their guns’ and why not? Voxman Count LaFey has instantly recognisable pipes, their Uriah Heep meets Deep Purple meets first Iron Maiden album riffing style is all present and correct while the whole record is as warm and as analogue-sounding as they come.

Kicking off with the ten-minute slow-burner ‘Condemned to Darkness’ is brave but reaps dividends – laced with drama and hooks, it’s a classic in the making. More prominent perhaps than on the debut here are the myriad keyboard tones deployed by (ludicrously named) bassist Wicked Ischanius – simmering mellotrons and crusty synth sounds underpin much of the more elegiac moments of the record adding considerable depth to Mausoleum Gate’s established sound.

The opener is followed up by the short, sharp, sub three-minute shock of ‘Burn the Witches at Dawn’ which then sets the pattern for the album. That is – long song, short song, long song, short song e.t.c. until we reach the final heft of the title track. This is a true epic in that seventies prog/hard rock sense, bringing to mind Zeppelin, Rainbow, Genesis et al at their finest. Mausoleum Gate throw everything at this one with delicate acoustic guitars, lashings of mellotron, vocal histrionics and plenty of solos. It certainly works to cap off a strident brace of tunes and cement their place in this burgeoning genre.

(8/10 Frank Allain)