Album review: Gatecreeper – An Unexpected Reality

Surprise! Sonaran Desert death metallers Gatecreeper drop a quarter-hour of nuclear power…

Album review: Gatecreeper – An Unexpected Reality
Nick Ruskell

Just as it dropped suddenly out of nowhere with a whole 12 hours’ notice, so An Unexpected Reality does its business so quickly you’ve barely got time to take it in before it’s all over. Gatecreeper have called it a double-sided album – what this translates to is seven one-minute-ish bursts of grindy death metal frenzy, followed by 11 minutes of doom. Short, yes, but in this there is not just some of the most thrilling music to come from the U.S. death metal scene in modern times, but appearing with no warning as it does in a time where the fatigue of a year in COVID world weighs at its heaviest, the catharsis and excitement of it all is a cathartic, thrilling, welcome slap to the face just when you really need such a thing.

As with the established way of working for Gatecreeper, An Unexpected Reality is built largely of fat, buzzy riffs of the Entombed variety (indeed, there are moments that don’t so much nod to Entombed’s Left Hand Path as take it out to the best restaurant in town and buy it flowers), but here the compression into short blurs adds a boiling intensity to an already scalding sound. Sick Of Being Sober and Starved have no fat on them whatsoever, and Superspreader is a punky death metal joy that doesn’t hang around long enough to sit still. The 31-second Imposter Syndrome is more thrusting chug than blinding speed – even with a sudden burst that firmly worships Napalm Death’s Scum – but it’s a (brutal) breather between what it’s sat between. Closer Emptiness, meanwhile, completely turns a corner, a doom trudge that takes in the dirgy melodies of early Cathedral, the creeping dread of doom-death cult Disembowelment and a heaviness entirely their own, which lasts longer than the rest of An Unexpected Reality put together. It is a masterful touch.

In any context, An Unexpected Reality is a brilliant record by a brilliant band who are pumping adrenaline into the corpse of death metal. But dropping as it does when the excitement of music can feel far away and life can seem like a grey, fading photocopy against a backdrop of bad, depressing, worrying madness, the vitality and vivre here only amplify its thrusting power. "I can't wait to punish everyone for at least a full week about something I secretly worked on for the past year," tweeted singer Chase Mason as the album was announced. As with these 17 minutes, that's nowhere near long enough, pal.

Verdict: 4/5

For Fans Of: Power Trip, Entombed, Trap Them

An Unexpected Reality is out now via Closed Casket Activities.

READ THIS: How Gatecreeper are leading death metal out of the crypt

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