Having generated quite the buzz with their debut album back in 2016, Arizonian death metallers Gatecreeper, have (if you believe the press surrounding the release of this their new album) quite the task in upping the ante and surpassing the critical praise afforded to them back then. I, honestly, have never heard of them, but given I am a mid-forties boring old fart that must be dragged, kicking and screaming, to anything even vaguely new, that’s not a surprise in itself. But I will say, that since I have been lucky enough (not sure how lucky the dark lord, eater of worlds and tomb master of all things Ave Noctum feels?) to write for this esteemed site, I am forced to embrace new things, ideas etc with gusto and enthusiasm and as such, try and give a balanced and non-curmudgeonly opinion on bands.
So, to Gatecreeper. Self-proclaimed ‘Death Metal’ and hailing from the blonde bleached deserts of Arizona they are in good genre company in terms of geography but to define them as such would be a mistake. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this has feet bloodies stumps in more than one genre camp. Yes it seems on the face of it that Gatecreeper employs all the familiar death metal tropes, non-more so in the impressive vocals of singer Chase Mason (great name by the way and certainly a shoe in for the next messy, colourful migraine inducing Marvel movie) which come straight from the John Tardy school of world destroying growling. And that is no bad thing. In fact, the vocals are one of the highlights of the album. Add in into the DM broth the slow, grinding guitars and so far all so very Death Metal with the occasional soupcon of later era Carcass in the guitar flourishes that pepper most of the songs on offer. But where you would expect the slow, grinding, growling to start to morph into extended solos and blast beats, it doesn’t, it goes the other way and segues into doomy, tar thick sludgy riffs, that are more akin to Crowbar than a more traditional Death Metal 100MPH Deicide romp certainly most apparent on ‘Boiled Over’ that grooves and heaves under it’s own meaty, behemoth like riff-a-rama.
It’s not all ‘slow-as-you-like’, Gatecreeper do speed things up on tracks such as ‘Ruthless’ but if still finds itself in Obituary territory with the slow pinballing double bass playing syncopating nicely with the slowed down riffs and Tardy like vocals. There is much to enjoy here, the productions is deep and rich (no surprise given that Coverge’s Kurt Ballou was involved in the mastering of this album via his studio God City) whilst retaining that reverb, empty room sounds on the vocals whilst the artwork is definitely in the Death Metal genre featuring as it does, some nightmare, ghoulish vision of an earth yet to come with skulls a-plenty. In summary this is an enjoyable, grinding, slow burning, dense album that fans of Obituary, Death, Carcass and slow downed DM will find much to enjoy.
(7/10 Nick Griffiths)