GATECREEPER - Sonoran Depravation
The Sonoran Desert is the hottest place in North America, and includes a good chunk of Arizona. There might be a connection between that brutal climate and the intense death metal found on Tucson/Phoenix crew Gatecreeper's debut full-length, Sonoran Depravation. While heavily indebted to HM-2 godfathers Emtombed, the short, punchy bursts of blasts and sludgy breakdowns also owe to crust/hardcore institutions like Disfear and His Hero Is Gone. Though not the first metal band to combine these influences successfully, Gatecreeper do so with a vigorous hunger that cannot be denied.
"Craving Flesh" announces Sonoran Depravation's arrival with no frills, only riffs. There is an underlying groove to this and most of the other nine tracks not typically found in death metal, outside of the Obituary/Jungle Rot camp. It keeps the songs from stagnating and shows an understanding of the band's audience; barely a moment of the album goes by without something to headbang along with.
"Desperation" is exactly that, hurtling along with only a few breathless respites from its ruthless attack. "Rotting As One" brings it back to the Obituary influence in a huge way, reminding fans that they've always been one or two lyric changes from being metallic hardcore.
Deeper cuts "Stronghold" and "Patriarchal Grip" showcase additional affinity for Swedish DM with tri-tones and haunted crypt riffs galore, themselves owing a debt to Slayer. With a slightly different vocal approach, "Flamethrower" could be a bona fide sludge track, with the breakdowns more Acid Bath than Asphyx. Album closer "Grotesque Operations" stretches across nearly six minutes of punishing death/doom, ending on an unnerving blend of off-kilter solos that hopefully portend of a direction the band may take on future releases.
While much has been made of their influences, Gatecreeper are more than a mashup of great bands. While many of their peers fall into the trap of straight idol worship, Sonoran Depravation is proof that there's still originality to be found within the seemingly constrictive walls of death metal. They don't fit into any singular subgenre and, perhaps most importantly, their songs are memorable and separable. The album is inclusive of genre tropes while utilizing a host of other heavy metal and extreme music elements, all backed by the essentials: good songwriting, talented musicianship, and an intangible awareness of their craft. With their penchant for touring and a killer live show, Gatecreeper are on the way to becoming an influencer in their own right.
Gatecreeper will release Sonoran Depravation via Relapse Records on October 7. Preorder it HERE.