I think I must have been quick off the blocks to get a hold of this from Thee Ed, as I know that both Iron Reagan and Gatecreeper are some of the most hotly regarded bands of the last couple of years, and this short but effective split EP would have been very much in demand. Iron Reagan, as well as having one of the best titles of any band, are comprised of members and ex-members of acts such as Municipal Waste, Mammoth Grinder and Darkest Hour.
They get the first half of the split, with the vicious opener “Warning” being just that; a statement of intent for the next four tracks. “Paper Shredder” is, ironically enough, a shredder in its own right, and easily the most frantic and aggressive track on offer here. “Take the Fall” Is a two minutes ish crossover thrasher, with more than a nod to old masters DRI.”Take the Fall” is also, of course, aggressive, but with a catchy riff that lurks in the memory rather longer than the song takes to play out, and may be one of the band’s more hook-laden offerings. “Proudly Unaccountable” is essentially more or less straight ahead hardcore punk, but for those of us who don’t particularly enjoy the form (myself included), at least it only lasts around 45 seconds. The final track of the Iron Reagan side of the house is “Burn for This”, which manages to have some pretty cool angular spikiness going on with the axe work, before the chorus comes on like a particularly dirty knife fight between early Exodus and Sick of It All. It’s a real highlight of the album for me, and a reminder why I prefer Iron Reagan to any of the other acts that the band members belong to; they’re not afraid to experiment with the form, no matter how well worn the formula may appear to be. Also: that outro riff demands to be heard live!
Arizona’s Gatecreeper are a very different beast to Iron Reagan. Moody instrumental piece “Daybreak” has all the heft, tone and brooding presence of any Bolt Thrower intro. It’s relatively simple refrain is accentuated by the absolute pounding drum work. “Dead Inside” follows, and yet again it’s an excellent, dark piece that owes as much to the likes of be-doomed death metal obscurists Runemagick as it does the more usual old school Scandinavian death metal outfits. In producing the creeping, oppressive atmosphere with the massive rumbling bass, mid-tempo rhythm work and cavernous vocals, it’s a stunning number. “War has begun” ends the album, and it leaves the listener feeling as if they’ve just been pushed firmly into the mud under the tracks of some cast-iron tank. Yet again, I can’t help but bring up Bolt Thrower, as the song could have been some out-take from the “…For Victory” album, with its deliberate, restrained tempo and suffocating use of minimalist guitar melodies laced over ruthless riffing. It’s premier stuff alright, and the production is just absolutely perfect.
So, as is often the way of split releases, I’m left wondering who the winner is? The answer? Why, listener, the winner is you.
(8.5/10 Chris Davison)