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GATECREEPER Dark Superstition

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Friday, May 24, 2024 @ 7:18 AM


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GATECREEPER
Dark Superstition

Nuclear Blast Records




I am of two minds when it comes to GATECREEPER. On the one hand, the band's self-described "Arizona caveman music" is almost shockingly derivative: a mashup of all things vintage Swedish death metal, with any Southwestern overtones left to frontman Chase H. Mason's sometimes mystical lyrics.

GATECREEPER's first two albums and EPs reveled in the Sawzall guitar clamor of ENTOMBED, the heft and heave of DISMEMBER, the agility and depth of AT THE GATES, the technical flair of prime IN FLAMES and, occasionally, the melodicism of DARK TRANQUILLITY - all with a side order of old school Floridian death metal to pile on. The influences were ever-present and obvious.

On the other hand, the band has shown an increasingly crafty hand when it comes to songwriting and - derivative or no - performs the material with purpose and gusto. It has been able to shed, for the most part, the cloak of sounding like a mere tribute band - a big issue on its 2016 debut Sonoran Deprivation. And it's tough to not be impressed by GATECREEPER's passion and punch. These guys hit hard, period.

All of the above is on full display on the band's third full length. Dark Superstition is a veritable clinic in the sound of classic "Swe-death," from the HM-2-powered guitar grind, d-beat pummel, and gut-punch grooves to the nifty harmonized leads and clangorous production. Here, however, GATECREEPER explores a more death 'n roll approach with the material - a la ENTOMBED's transformative Wolverine Blues, DISMEMBER's Massive Killing Capacity or IN FLAMES' Clayman - making for its most accessible, relatively speaking, release yet. And that's perhaps no surprise.

GATECREEPER seemed headed in this direction. Deserted was a step down in the level of intensity of Sonoran Deprivation and a step up in hookiness, so it is a natural next step for Dark Superstitionto liberally build on the more melodic, groovier aspects of the band's repertoire. And it's not as jarring a change as one might expect.

For one thing, Dark Superstition is still plenty intense. There is a simmer beneath the catchier, more "laid back" - for lack of a better term - tunes like "The Black Curtain" or "Superstitious Vision" that seems to be teetering on the edge of going full boil. And the band takes full advantage of the inherent tension of this dynamic to maintain a sinister tone and the thunder and abrasiveness it had already established.

The album opens with the "Only For The Weak"-like "Dead Star" and its mid-tempo trudge, crunching but inviting hooks and rousing chorus build ups. But with Mason retaining his John Tardy-esque howl-and-shriek vocal delivery - which he does throughout - there is no lack of fearsomeness. Same goes for the chuggier "Oblivion" or the swaggering "Caught in the Treads" and "Flesh Habit".

Betwixt and between are the faster, friskier "A Chilling Aura" and "Mistaken For Dead", both still firmly rooted in primal death metal bluster, or the slog and sprint of "Masterpiece of Chaos" that brings black metal terms and a hardcore breakdown into the mix.

As was the case with Deserted, Dark Superstition closes with a spot of epic doom. Mason leads the six-minute creepy-crawl of "Tears Fall From The Sky" with an aching, syllable-by-syllable cadence - "Swal-lowed. By. The. Tide ..." - giving the track a haunting air, made all the more so by the mournful guitar harmonies Eric Wagner and Israel Garza employ to contrast their shuddering riffs.

When taken all together, Dark Superstition provides a nice variety of moods and pace that allows GATECREEPER to transition over to death 'n roll without sounding clumsy - or desperate. The songs may be simpler and, in many cases, catchier, but the muscle is there in abundance and the band forgoes the usual "listener friendly" contrivances, like clean vocals or arena-ready anthemics. And as GATECREEPER mixes things up and settles in here, you can hear a bit more of the band's own personality come through, which is certainly a big step in the right direction.

4.0 Out Of 5.0


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