Not content with being hailed as one of the leaders of a New Wave of Death Metal bruisers (NWODMb anyone?) taking inspiration from the founding fathers of three decades past along with Blood Incantation and Tomb Mold – a pack that looks likely to be joined by impressive newcomers Frozen Soul and their glacial Bolt Throwerisms – Arizonian quintet Gatecreeper have taken it upon themselves to mix things up and show some gnarly dexterity in style and idea, and try and shake things up a little in response to the current COVID landscape and restrictions.
A response to short-term playlist culture, and released with no build-up, no lead-in, no lengthy campaign of lyric videos, cryptic Twitter posts or YouTube snippets, just “here you fucking go”… An Unexpected Reality (Closed Casket) is a success.
Seven tracks of grinding power-violence, averaging around a minute each in length, and one epic expansive doomier beast of an eleven-minute closer, the editing and running order means An Unexpected Reality plays like a classic four-song EP. Our opening pair of ‘Starved’ and ‘Sick of Being Sober’ integrate with pounding pleasure, while the grind-n-chug combo of ‘Rusted Gold’, ‘Imposter Syndrome’ and ‘Amputation’ are a headbangers delight of conjoined stomping, before the punked-up ‘Depraved Not Deprived’ and (particularly) ‘Superspreader’ add some Discharge fuel to the fire.
Yet the ace in the pack is closing ‘Emptiness’. Just when it feels that the sprawling culmination of deliberation is beginning to meander, the quality of their musicianship and vision takes over as harmonies cascade in and out of the fetid corpse, taking Gatecreeper into territories previously unvisited in an impressive coda that really does open up possibilities for where any new material may travel.
It has to be said that, while Gatecreeper has musically done little wrong since their vaunted debut Sonoran Depravan (Relapse Records), An Unexpected Reality is a well-realised move akin to Star Wars – The Clone Wars; something canon yet not feature-length – neither EP nor album – but a very much welcomed exploration of elements that haven’t been primary features of their sound to date, yet are contained within their sonic universe, with the ‘creeper testing and developing ideas and new avenues. By doing so, they are shooting laser-guided arrows from the taut, new strings they’ve mutated onto their proverbial bows.
If Departed established Gatecreeper as bonefide contenders for the heavyweight championship of NWODMb, An Unexpected Reality is both a welcome extra andan unexpected delight. It has also ripped the door of possibilities for album three right off its hinges.
8 / 10