2016 has been an amazing year for metal releases, and as we enter firmly into the fourth quarter, that trend shows no signs of slowing down. After bursting onto the scene just two years ago with an infectious EP and appearing on splits with artists such as similarly minded nihilists Take Over And Destroy (their new record is also out at the end of the week and is also fantastic, look for our review soon), rollicking groove inflected deathgrind doomsayers Gatecreeper are set to unleash their first LP, “Sonoran Depravation”, and these morbid Arizonans have an absolute beast of a debut full length on their hands.
Gatecreeper throws down with “Craving Flesh”, a driving thump courtesy of bassist Sean Mears’ world trembling low end, giving way to a demonic, positively evil guitar riff, mean enough to raise the hairs on the back of your neck and the dead from their graves. “Sterilizing” leads with a dissonant speed picking cacophony, from a thundering chug to an agonizing crawl. GC quicken the pace with thrasher “Desperation”, arch skinsman “Metal” Matt Arrebollo’s double bass and drum fill whirlwind keeping pace with Chase Mason’s no nonsense growl. Clocking in at less than two breakneck minutes, the track is one of the record’s best, anchored by an excellent melodeath flavored breakdown before the punishing buzzsaw bark kicks back in.
“Flamethrower”, “Stronghold” and “Rotting As One” are all excellent old school head bangers, death and rollers in the Entombed vein. “Patriarchal Grip” cranks up the doom quotient for a scorcher of a riff straight out of the self-titled Danzig playbook, and pulls it into a pit ready stomper with Mason’s attack shifting almost into a howl at the climax. “Lost Forever” twists and turns as if lost at sea, dizzying riff dynamics from talented axemen Eric Wagner and Nate Garrett, almost hopeful and triumphant around the 2:30 mark, then plunging headlong back into the depths. Grand finale “Grotesque Operations” brings the doom back in, full on Sabbath worship forced through the meat grinder, thrashing and grinding out of the stratosphere and into another dimension.
I’m usually not THAT much of a straight up death metal guy but “Sonoran Depravation” had me by the throat from the first second. Gatecreeper is at once reverent of the early 90’s Headbangers’ Ball classics that warped so many of our young minds, and refreshingly forward thinking and unique in the sea of sensory overload inducing and masturbatory brutal death technicality just for technicality’s sake that makes up the vast majority of the contemporary death metal landscape. This less is more approach makes “Sonoran Depravation” an incredibly surprising and satisfying feast for heavy music fans of all stripes.