There really isn’t a review or article about Gatecreeper that doesn’t in some way mention the influence of Entombed on their sound (and if there is, I’d like to see it).
I imagine that being tied to another artist’s work, with whom you have no direct contact, other than being a fan, like the rest of us, must be an incredibly frustrating experience for a band. As a result, it’s hard not to hear Gatecreeper straining against such astoundingly pervasive comparisons on their latest album, An Unexpected Reality.
An Unexpected Reality was released by surprise at the end of last week on Closed Casket Activities, a label notable for its dead-eyed selections in the world of hardcore and extreme metal, releasing albums from the likes of Full of Hell, Regional Justice Center, Harm’s Way, and my personal favorite, Downpresser, amongst many others.
What shocking revelations does Gatecreeper have in store for the filthy, feral masses of metal faithful on An Unexpected Reality? Well, it’s not more Swe-death. In fact, you get just about everything but another waltz down the Left Hand Path!
The first seven tracks on An Unexpected Reality are some of the most magnificently ugly hardcore I’ve heard in 2021, so far. In the same way that Massachusetts devils Fuming Mouth compress death metal riffs and vocals into a crust punk headlock, on these opening tracks, Gatecreeper takes every innovation early Incantation diabolically conjured and gives them a makeover with a few yards of barbed wire and about a quart of blood drawn from the willing veins of Discharge.
If you ever felt like Disrupt were attempting to tear your head clean off your shoulders, then all you’ll have to do is combine that sensation with the wringing pain from the massive, axe-blade shaped indent Dismember left in your skull the last time you listened to Massive Killing Capacity, and you’re in the right mindset for the first half of this album.
“Starved” is hungry for blood, with its stampeding-stomp beat and the crack of its churning, flesh-serrating riffs, feeling like Napalm Death steamrolling through a tribute to Tragedy. “Rusted Gold” turns the grind up into high gear while maintaining a thick, serpentine groove. Echos of the punkier moments from 2019’s Deserted reclaim the stage for a moment of blood-letting bliss to quench the thirst of the Sonoran sand on “Imposter Syndrom,” while “Amputation” gets both fists around the neck of a diamond-backed death-groove and ties it into a wicked, noose-like, neck-tie, in a way that is very reminiscent of the submission soliciting pummel of Texas’s Judiciary (not surprising as this is Gatecreeper’s first record with Israel Garza on guitar, who is also in Judiciary).
“Depraved Not Deprived” is an iron-jawed killing machine that belches Black Breath riffs from between its steely teeth while it masticates man and all manner of civilization, reducing them to a pulp and dust. The first half concludes with “Superspreader,” a d-beat, decibel pusher, where vocalist Chase Mason does his best Todd Jones impression over a spiraling descent of bucking, shrieking guitars as they swirl like a cyclonic thunderstorm around the negating locus of a thirsty psychic-drain.
The last track, “Emptiness,” slowly pulls the curtain on the album’s final act in the form of a desperately parched, nomadic trek through a sandstorm of battling, gust front guitars, that batter the listener as they are pulled along, one labored step at a time, through a barren wilderness at a methodical, Dopesmoking pace. At times, the song opens up into oases of reflective, post-rock guitars, only to be swallowed up again by a blackened, venomous howl and dogged by a menacingly atmospheric groove that stalks, like a hunter, raised by Wolves in the Throne Room.
At eleven minutes in length, “Emptiness” is nearly twice as long as the entire first side of the album. A lengthy digression and meditation on the fallowness of the contemporary, “civilized” human subject, that does not attempt to mediate the unpleasant confrontation with the self that it invites with any distractions bore of speed or aggression. A truly brutal end to a truly brutal album.
If you were curious about which outsider influences made Gatecreeper’s sound so potent other than Swe-death, you now no longer have to wonder. And if you never cared, even better. An Unexpected Reality is as good of an album as you can expect from such masterful cultivators of the sour fruits that germinate in the festering furrows of rotten sound.