In case you’ve had your head buried in the sweltering Arizona sand, you should know that Gatecreeper is that band. What the fuck does that mean, you may be find yourself pondering. Well my dear uneducated Neanderthal who somehow hasn’t heard the caveman music Gatecreeper made for you, that in this case means they’re the band that does it better than the rest. Heaviness and technicality, headbang and mosh, Gatecreeper does it all. Don’t know the words, that’s fine, like the Cocteau Twins before them, lyrics be damned (until now, reportedly). You can growl, snort, roar with reckless abandon and not look like a complete dweeb. Gatecreeper is an impeccable live band, a fun, unhinged entity of violent sight and sound.
Up to this point their image and tone has abandoned complete seriousness for the sake of that fun, unapologetic, classically-postured metal. Their EPs, splits and the unforgettable Sonoran Depravation checked off all the aesthetic death metal boxes while cramming a sea of buzzsaws into each riff. It’s all worked, and it would certainly continue to work if they so choose, but Gatecreeper is better than that. Their serrated hooks and slowbleed mosh breaks are ever present, yet enhanced with surprising melody and wealth of majesty. Deserted is Gatecreeper not just wielding metal with a master’s skill, but forging new steel all their own.
Deserted gussies up the vicious immediacy of its predecessor with howling divebombs and those aforementioned splendid melodies. Boy do those melodies hit. That’s not to say Gatecreeper’s songs were bereft melodious standouts prior, with the absolutely perfect “Patriarchal Grip” notwithstanding, but Deserted makes a lucrative war economy of it all. The album’s best track “From the Ashes” is exemplary of this progression. The brooding heft of the faultless IVth Crusade is referenced throughout Deserted, with “From the Ashes” part the former’s victorious menace. Elsewhere on the track, the creeping divebombs of Symphonies of Sickness explode into flourishes of arabesque melodeath akin to Intestine Baalism. Towards its end the melodies rain like silken blood on the otherwise maximum brutality at play. It’s a grandiose show-stopping moment commanding the listener to consider the beauty in an album brimming with bloodthirst. Deserted is rife with such moments, these expanses of guitar dominion that you could imagine some pagan war god toasting with a pouring of Olde English.
Album closer “Absence of Light” is as majestic, a sweeping contemplative vista of towering riffs, thunderous cadences and chest-rattling snarls. Gatecreeper afford themselves a horizon’s worth of space to breathe here, channeling the mournful wrath of Gothic-era Paradise Lost with the esoteric guitar complexities of The Sound of Perseverance. “Puncture Wounds” and “Ruthless” hew closer to Gatecreeper’s traditional hardcore-tinged death romps, yet even that convention is upended with rumbustious chuggery. Throw choice cuts from …Of Frost and War, slivers of Merauder with a B-horror monster into a blender, the result would be these carnivorous confections. “In Chains” feels like anything but, with an unbound Gatecreeper tearing asunder, reaping with glee, ricocheting from death metal surge to hardcore throwdown.
To state that Gatecreeper avoided the sophomore slump undervalues what they achieve with Deserted. One doesn’t break the Relapse Records online store by simply overcoming their already flawless material or not being in-demand. Their finely manicured imagery, at once retro and fresh, pairs with their sound as the perfect visual companion. This is death metal infused with reverence, matched by a concise drive to improve with each release.
As a person lucky enough to have witnessed Gatecreeper play a tiny stage on Halloween 2014 to herald the release of their demo, seeing where they are now is a privilege. Being able to sit here, waxing affectionate and hyperbolic about an album as special, focused and progressive as this is an honor. Consider yourself lucky too, having heard Deserted.
As said above, Gatecreeper is that band. Witness them.
Deserted will be released October 4th from Relapse Records.
Band photo by Pablo Vigueras.