When it comes to heavy, many metalheads tend to look in the direction of faster and chuggier, looking for a tight punch with every note they hear. When they hear songs with impossibly-fast double bass, guitar solos that can’t be kept up with, and bass solos off the wazoo, they all lose their minds – because, let’s face it, fast-paced songs are heavy as shit. But in a world where everything around us is fast – phones, internet, music – one band shines through the slow crawl of death metal: Gatecreeper. Coming in with their sophomore album, Deserted, the album kraals its listeners slowly through the desert. The album is rough, a sharp crag layered with sludgey riffs and an old-school vibe someone could smoke a blunt to.
“Deserted” starts the album off, rightfully so, galvanizing the audience with its slow startup. The first riff rips the scene wide open, making listeners quake in their seats with impending doom. The growl of the guitars makes the beginning feel like angiostaxis; it’s eerily devastating. As the song begins to gallop with its speed, the opening riff continues to play with some sinister melodic tremolo in the background. Going between the throes of slowing down and picking up speed, the final minute comes in with a riveting solo that doesn’t overstay its welcome as the song comes to an abrupt finish.
“Puncture Wounds” follows right after “Deserted” and is a testament to the old school vibes that Gatecreeper has. Coming in with a slight gallop into fast double-bass makes it a nostalgic song making one want to mosh in their seat. Throwing it back to the old days of small venues where it reeked of beer, this song makes people feel how times have changed. Throwing in all the old school elements from the screeching guitar solos to the invigorating mixture of death metal and modern melodic influences, “Puncture Wounds” will make the listener feel like they’re going to be stabbed at any point. Ouch!
“Sweltering Madness” is my personal favorite off the record. The opening riff is absolutely drenched in filth; the tone of the instruments is gritty and disgustingly mixed, it’s perfect. The beginning riff to this song sounds like a Type O Negative song: very dissonant with its low harmonies and slow oncoming of fear. Driving right into a faster part of the song, everything speeds up just enough to jog to until delving right back to the realm of slow riffage. The song continues to perpetuate the dichotomy between fast and slow and is executed perfectly. It’s never one extreme against the next, rather an accumulation of the art of tempo changes. The rhythmic changes exemplify everything Gatecreeper stands for: heavy to any degree they set.
“Absence of Light” closes out the record, starting with a new style of playing. A slow melodic, nearly chordal guitar part plays ambiently in the background of the song before it delves right back into the doom and gloom. The vocalist’s entrance makes the listener feel like the sun is being snuffed out; there’s nowhere to run and there’s no light to be found in this tunnel. The instruments appear to counteract the vocals, offering some sort of refuge of light, but to no avail when the vocals come back in. Ending as a statement from Gatecreeper that they’ll be back with more, “Absence of Light” proves to everyone that Gatecreeper knows what they’re capable of and aren’t afraid to show it.
Overall, the album is phenomenal. Layered with riffs that will be etched into the minds of listeners, old-school vibes that will have fans of new and old be thrown back to even older bands from way back when, this album stands up to its name: Deserted. It inspires the feelings of loneliness, untenanted, but with groovy vibes to make up for these feelings. The album is not to be mistaken for sad or depressing, rather the feeling of some sort of overwhelming loss is going to be felt throughout every song; a continual message that cannot be forgotten.
FFO: Homewrecker, Outerheaven, Scorch