Death metal is a tried and tested genre. Since it’s explosive entry, the style has been done to death which makes it difficult for emerging bands to truly shine. Arizona newcomers GATECREEPER have risen to the challenge with their debut, Sonoran Depravation, but does this debut do enough to make GATECREEPER stand apart from the pack?
The record opens with Craving Flesh and immediately the scene is set. This is vicious, filthy death metal. A meaty riff opens proceedings before vocalist Chase H. Mason unleashes his first barrage of guttural snarls and growls. Immediately the old-school style is worshipped here, reminding one of ENTOMBED, but this death metal done right. The drums are ferocious, the guitars down-tuned and savage and vocal deliveries are straight from the depth of hell. A solid start.
From there, there is no experimentation or flirtation with new techniques. Sterilized whirls away with double bass drumming from Metal Matt and doom-tinged guitar work from Eric Wagner and Nate Garrett. The slow and pounding death metal approach works a treat here, offering sheer brutality over technicality and it’s utterly aggressive. Desperation kicks things up a notch as instantly the track roars into life through thunderous riffs and relentless drumming that will have heads banging emphatically. Mason‘s vocals aren’t lost in the chaos, whose growls add another level of aggression to the monstrous sound.
The transition from the slow-paced approach of Rotting As One to the blistering speed of Stronghold comes as a welcome relief which injects a sprinkling of urgency. Whereas Rotting As One fails to keep your attention, the sheer intensity of Stronghold is an achievement in itself. This is where GATECREEPER truly shine, where their old-school approach to death metal works wonders. Riffs ebb and flow whilst backing rhythm of the drums from Metal Matt and bass from Sean Mears are blistering fast, adding enough variety here for the track to truly stand out.
The second half of Sonoran Depravation is more of the same and really that is exactly what GATECREEPER intended. This is a record of little experimentation and sometimes, that is exactly what is needed. Patriarchal Grip opens slowly with a pro-longed guitar tone but before it becomes irritating the track explodes into life through another dosage of blasts from the drums and vicious guttural snarls. Lost Forever packs an almighty punch with slick riffs from Eric Wagner and Nate Garrett whereas Flamethrower oozes influence from BOLT THROWER. Whilst there is nothing particular innovative about the record, it showcases a band that have taken all what has done before and produced a record of utter death metal worship.
Sonoran Depravation is a crushing record, it truly is. Whilst those looking for genre-bending innovation and experimentation will find disappointment, what GATECREEPER have achieved with this record is death metal done ferociously right. Sonoran Depravation is packed with influences from the greats in the scene and offers nine tracks of utterly savage death metal. And sometimes, that is exactly what is needed. Make no mistake, Sonoran Depravation is a monstrous record and one that will sit comfortably with anyone who appreciates death metal.
Sonoran Depravation is out now via Relapse Records.
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