Death and thrash metal are really the most related subgenres metalheads like. The two grew up together like siblings, being related to each other but with enough slight differences between them that they are each individual in their own ways. Now that the two genres are a bit older, they’ve grown apart enough that they are almost totally different but you can still sense some connection between the two. At least that’s the case with Iron Reagan and Gatecreeper.
The two bands are back from heralded recent releases, Iron Reagan’s Crossover Ministry last year and Gatecreeper’s Sonoran Depravation in 2016. The split shows that the two bands had a few things they left off those records but thankfully were kind enough to share with us.
Iron Reagan best represents the organized chaos that is crossover thrash metal. It teeters the line between hardcore punk and thrash metal, keeping that fast pacing and tight sound of each genre. It results in what some people derisively call “party metal.” While that may be hurled out as an insult, it should not take away from what the band is capable of.
Take the song “Paper Shredder.” Sure, it sounds like some silly crossover song when you read the title, but turn the song on and prepare for your face to melt. The ludicrously flashy drum roll gives way to fast-paced riffing layered underneath a mind-bending finger-tapping guitar solo. When the verse kicks off with a group shout of “SHRED! SHRED!,” you know you’re invested in a crossover record. When vocalist Tony Foresta shouts his way through the mix, your ears are being assaulted in every conceivable way. You are left with the question, “How can something this chaotic work like this?” It’s almost inconceivable how this all works together.
The one complaint is the same as almost any complaint about a split: it’s all too short. While the band contributed 5 songs to the split, they speed by at less than ten minutes. By the time Gatecreeper’s section starts, you’re completely discombobulated and could use a little slowdown. That’s just how Iron Reagan does it: a flashy party that leaves you feeling wasted. If that sounds unpleasant, then maybe you ought to learn how to rage harder.
The chugging old school death metal from Gatecreeper never disappoints. It hits a sweet spot of being able to nail slower tempos and also being able to turn it into overdrive the next second. That ability makes them very unique in the death community, and it makes everything they do a far more interesting listen.
Gatecreeper has a wonderful dual-guitar threat from Nate Garrett and Eric Wagner. The two are clearly trading off rhythms and melodies. It’s a very subtle difference but it seems like it’s there. There’s often a twin guitar effect that gives a great depth to the crunching guitars. When they hit together, it’s an extra kick in your headphones that is so satisfying to hear.
“War Has Begun” actually begins with the best example of that. Not only is the twin effect present, the pair are actually playing different melodies, like a tenor and bass singing metal riffs. Then the war beat double bass rolls come in with the low end while Chase Mason roars out his tale of tanks on the battlefield and plowing down the enemy. It’s all so incredibly fitting and is an absolute delight.
Again, the only problem with this record is it’s too short. These are some strong bands for metal right now, Iron Reagan with its organized chaos and Gatecreeper kickin’ it old school. With Iron Reagan, you can enjoy these little extras from last year’s release. For Gatecreeper, it whets your appetite for the next release. Keep it slamming, dudes. We’re all ready for more.