There is simply no denying the power and intensity of Swedish death metal. It’s been one of the main influences for bands the world over ever since groups like Entombed, Dismember and At the Gates first came onto the scene in the early 90s, and their reach hasn’t slowed down one bit. No metal fan can deny the raw power of taking a Les Paul and distorting the absolute hell out of it through an HM-2 pedal while pairing it with a relentless drum assault. But what made this sound and style truly stick with the underground at large? It was these band’s consistent reliance on melody, catchiness and stick-to-your-bones riffs that will resonate for lifetimes. Almost no other subgenre in extreme music has embraced this in the past five years quite like American hardcore/death metal, and Arizona’s Gatecreeper have certainly shown their reverence and respect here with their debut release, Sonoran Depravation.
Leaving no time for excessive performances or musician-oriented moments, Sonoran Depravation is an all-out bludgeoning from start to finish. There isn’t one clean guitar in sight, solos are deemed completely unnecessary and tonal dynamics are cast aside in favor of a veritable mosher’s delight. Right out of the gate, “Craving Flesh” immediately lays down the groundwork for what’s to follow in the next eight tracks; pummeling grooves, loads of punk-influenced drumming, and bellowing growls that are almost never decipherable. Listeners won’t find a single song here that isn’t immediately ready to be unleashed upon the sweaty, fist-swinging masses.
From a tonal standpoint, Sonoran Depravation certainly shares a lot in common with the likes of hardcore heavyweights like Trap Them and Nails, Gatecreeper have opted for a much swampier and beer-soaked approach. This album replaces all the grindcore influences that fans have come to expect from this style and keep things generally much more mid-tempo for the majority of the record. This record probably could have stood to pack in a few blast beats here and there for added emphasis, but it might be the band’s undeniable love of Pantera that keeps things from getting too blistering. Tracks like “Sterilized” and “Patriarchal Grip” are about as on-the-nose as they come, but then again, that’s the entire point. Those on the eternal hunt for breakdowns that can move mountains and give you a black eye through the speakers alone have got it here in fucking spades.
Sonoran Depravation’s overall approach could stand for a few more twists and turns in the future, but for right now, it’s an impressive debut that shows a band completely intent on crushing dingy clubs across the world. There’s still a healthy amount of melodic leads that can be hummed back after just a few listens and will surely provoke a vicious reaction from unsuspecting listeners. A lot of lesser bands would take years to attain this level of brute force and savagery, but Gatecreeper are already onto something great here. Lace up your shitkickers and get in the pit, you cowards.
Gatecreeper’s Sonoran Depravation is out now on Relapse Records. You can purchase it here.