GATECREEPER - AN UNEXPECTED REALITY
Updated: Apr 10, 2021
IT WAS UNEXPECTED, ALRIGHT.
One of the more lauded modern US death metal acts, Gatecreeper dropped this record with little promotion or pre-warning in the early days of 2021. An Unexpected Reality is a feral set of short, concussive fuzzed-out, down-tuned blasts of punky death. With each song barely reaching the one minute mark, old school organic death metal careers through the record in terse grimy expulsions. Stylistically, this is not too distant from the drunken, muddied, necrotic sounds of early Entombed and Autopsy or, during the trashier moments, a more putrid Power Trip with a soupçon of grindcore.
Each blurry track gets straight to the unpretentious point whether it is the meaty thrash bludgeon of Starved, the punky crust-core of Sick of Being Sober or the manic, vintage gore metal of Rusted Gold and Depraved Not Deprived. Despite the brevity, each song is hyperactively packed with possessed riffing and signature changes that somehow make the record feel much longer than it is. All of this is uncomplicated fare - and certainly not novel - but there are twists, changes of pace, and sheer verve all concentrated into crisp, brutal death metal haiku.
To confound things, though, the record's finale is a comparative epic, the 11 minute mournful, doom-crawl of Emptiness. Funereal, morose, and crushing - if the first seven songs were a glorious, beer-stained, blood-splattered, grotesque knees-up then this is the desolate, barren, grievous hangover of the soul. Gothic, meandering and filled with all sorts of twists and mini-crescendos this is the funeral after an apocalyptic party. It is certainly an arresting conclusion apparently inspired by the concept of the two-sided vinyl, specifically Black Flag's My War (1984) that encompassed differing styles on each side.
While by no means revolutionary, An Unexpected Reality is rapid-fire death metal played with spirited conviction and undiluted rawness. In the high-velocity haze, this is seventeen minutes of good quality song-craft and intense zeal.