Transmuting – defined as a change from one form, nature, substance, or state into another.
That’s the album title for the Brooklyn based scuzz-punk band Heaven’s Gate and, let it be said, they fit the definition perfectly. Named after the UFO doomsday cult, the East coast band’s debut sound is a combination of all that is gritty and good with modern American music. They’re not the monotonous teenage angst you would usually associate with recent incarnations of American punk, instead, they mix the luscious melodies and raucousness of the shoe-gazing bands of the 90’s. Unfortunately, unlike the suicidal cult they’re named after, the album won’t rescue you from an alien doomsday, it does however fully immerse the listener into their world of badass punk.
The band is fronted by the powerful yet soulful voice of Jess Paps. The backing takes the form of guitarists Jack Wolf and Michael Sheffield, bassist Alex Cvetovich, and drummer Patrick Stankard. Jess’ voice is nothing short of a wonder, her melodious harmonies and blunt outspoken lyrics allow her backing to be as harsh or as soft as the band desires, she is the glue that allows the cornucopia of contrasting styles to blend together throughout the album, with the harshness of the backing combined with Jess’ melodies being a terrific nods towards the loud-quiet dynamics of the Pixies.
Heavens Gate’s sound takes influences from the bands that inspired them growing up on the East coast. There’s 80’s new wave synths, quirky They Might Be Giant like lyrics, growling feedback driven guitars and Debby Harry like vocals. Listening to Transmuting is a symphonic pleasure, there’s so much diversity in the music that they play, the listener can easily recognise and appreciate their passion for playing the music they enjoy.
The 7th track on the album, Scream is an embodiment of Heaven Gate’s raw unfaltering power, or ‘powergaze’ as they describe themselves. The meticulously precise beat that Stankard lays down with Cvetovich is complimented by the chiming guitar riffs from Wolf and Sheffield. It goes without saying that Paps’ performance throughout the album is astronomical!
You would be forgiven for thinking that Transmuting is an album from road hardened veterans, however it isn’t. Transmuting is a debut album of tremendous quality from an extremely talented quintet with a long musical adventure yet to barely get going.
It will be interesting to see how Heaven’s Gate will develop as a band, and breaking the British market will be a considerable task. Hopefully they will follow suit of bands like Fidlar and successfully cross the pond to packed out venues. Until then however, be sure to buy the album as every song on the 11 track record is sublime and certainly worth the paper in your pocket.
Spotify users can now enjoy Transmuting in its entirety.