There are people in this world who don’t like surprises. While I can empathize with the fear of the unknown, if you’re that much of a tightly-wound, Type A personality, waking up to a new release from one of—if not the—best death metal bands around should excite even the most difficult-to-please person. Alternatively, shut up and enjoy some goddamn riffs.
So, when Gatecreeper waved a big, fetid middle finger to the traditional, three-month-long teasing cycle of singles and pre-orders, you know there’s something different at play here. The Arizona band’s two-sided EP An Unexpected Reality is aptly named both in its surprising timing and unforeseen execution. This is not, according to vocalist Chase Mason, the band’s next full-length; instead, when you press play and give Gatecreeper your undivided attention for 18 minutes, you should view this as an experiment in two-sided extremity.
If you’re weird like me, think of An Unexpected Reality as a juicy steak that is decidedly different depending on which half you bite into. Side A’s seven-minute, seven-song dive into grindy murk is still a bit raw and bloody, the kind of musical meat you fly through due to its flavor but almost too quickly. It’s like all the fast parts of previous Gatecreeper romps played at 2x speed.
Side B is just one long death/doom monstrosity entitled “Emptiness,” and it’s the most haunting dirge I’ve heard in years. It’s as close as Gatecreeper will get to doing a Hooded Menace or Mournful Congregation cover. It’s a stunning, 11-minute, elegiac beast that is like a perfectly-cooked ribeye steak that melts in your mouth, one that you purposely eat slower than necessary just to savor each bite.
Read our short interview below with Mason to get some insight on An Unexpected Reality and Gatecreeper’s future.
First, thanks so much for this little batch of joy in what has felt like an unending stream of worldly shit over the past couple years. Surprises are rarely this savage and sweet. Hope, all things considered, that you’re doing well and in good spirits. This one’s a simple one: why surprise-release An Unexpected Reality?
We wanted to keep things interesting and exciting. This record is a little different stylistically for us and meant to be absorbed as a whole. The contrast between the fast side and the slow side is important. We didn’t want to release just one song at a time before the whole thing is available.
I’ve loved both Sonoran Depravation and Deserted, but this one’s such a fun little diversion for you all. That patented oomph in the riffs is there, but I appreciate you guys playing with the musical recipes, so to speak. Blast beats, blackened hardcore, funeral doom, grind: these songs feel like Gatecreeper covering hypothetical classics from different styles while still maintaining what makes the band so uniquely entertaining. Aside from just wanting to stay busy during lockdown, how did you go about creating An Unexpected Reality?
I had the idea to do a release like this for a while but didn’t think we were going to have the opportunity to make it happen for a while. Switching up the Gatecreeper blueprint and throwing in new influences, or expanding on elements we have touched on before, made the songwriting fun and creatively inspiring.
What’s maybe most interesting for me is how side A feels like Gatecreeper at twice-the-speed, but I’m more enamored by “Emptiness,” which contains a shocking beauty you’ve only hinted at before. Was either “side” of this record more fun to create?
Both sides were equally fun to create. Writing an 11-minute song was a new challenge for sure, but writing shorter songs than we usually do was also a surprising challenge.
The press materials note that this shouldn’t be seen as hinting at a new direction for the band, merely a recognition of new creative tools you can leverage in the future. What do you think is the best “tool” you’ve picked up from the creation of this record?
Probably the different vocal styles or blast beats. We have usually strayed away from using blast beats in our songs in the past, but I can see them sticking around in one way or another.
Thematically, there seems to be a thread of dark humor throughout the record: a recognition of how fucked we all were in 2020 and a realization of how coping through COVID probably didn’t lead to many healthy habits. I know you prefer to keep lyrics to the background and let the riffs do the talking, but were there any lyrical through-line or concept in this record?
There isn’t necessarily a “theme,” but the lyrics are definitely personal and “current.” Every song could be traced back to exactly how I was feeling in 2020. “Superspreader” is obviously about the current pandemic, but the rest deal with things I think most people have felt or dealt with over the last year. Frustration, heartbreak, substance abuse, anger, depression, loss of purpose, self-doubt, etc.