I'm Joshua Bulleid, and I'm here to make it clear: Gatecreeper baby! That's why I brought you here.

a month ago

Top Picks

Gatecreeper – Dark Superstition (crossover death metal/melodeath)

And the award for the best album with the worst cover art of 2024 goes to... Seriously though, what is going on here? There's a giant spider crawling out of a grave, and the grave's on fire, and some of the fire is blue, and there's a lightning storm, and a nebulous green skull floating in the air, and also the whole thing is shattering somehow, but also only half of it. It's like they took a "less if more" approach to Job For A Cowboy's Moon Healer (2024) an somehow came up trumps. None of that matters though, because everything else about Dark Superstition absolutely crushes.

Its singles suggested this would be a bit a leveling-up for Gatecreeper, but I don't think anyone (myself included) was quite ready for just how huge a leap Dark Superstition would be for Arizona's finest purveyors of crusty, crossover, Swedish-tinged death metal. This is the kind of album that makes all those before it completely redundant. I'll hang onto An Unexpected Reality (2021), because technically it's an EP and it has its own (extremely cool) thing going on, but there isn't a single song on Sonoran Deprevation (2016) or Deserted (2019), that isn't utterly eclipsed by everything Dark Superstition has on offer. If "Caught in the Treads" isn't the best song of 2024, then it certainly has the best riff. Softer (or at least slower) songs like "The Black Curtain" and "Flesh Habit" bring some much-needed variety and melodic memorability to Gatecreeper's palette, while nastier numbers like "Masterpiece of Chaos", "Mistaken for Dead" and "Oblivion" still prove they can go as hard as anyone when they want to.

What sets these songs apart from, and above, Gatecreeper's previous offerings though, is their structure and interior dynamics. A big problem with Gatcreeper's previous material, for all its gusto, is that the songs all just kind of start, launching into the main riff almost immediately and then suddenly finishing, without much of a journey taken in between. On Dark Superstition, even the grittiest, most full-throttle tracks (see the aforementioned "Oblivion", which would fit comfortably alongside crustier Converge offerings, like "Tresspasses", "Cutter" or "Cannibals") takes you through a two-stepping hardcore fast-break and a doomier mid-section before it's through. The added dynamics are a beyond-welcome addition at the level of individual tracks and the album as a whole, making for a more varied and memorable experience overall.

The other notably added element that distinguishes Darker Superstition is its serious injection of melodeath. Gatecreeper have long been heralded as the definitive "Dismember-core" band. Yet, while previous releases have seen them dabbling in doom, and "Black Curtain" suggested more melodically melancholy acts like Paradise Lost might become more major touchstones, what we got in Darker Superstition is an album taht immediately hits you over the head with how much earl In Flames and Dark Tranquility the band have been listening to. Opener "Dead Star" is as accurate and outstanding a resurrection of foundational Swedish melodeath as you could possibly wish for, with a Music for the Recently Deceased-era I Killed the Prom Queen-style solo added in for good measure, and "Superstitious Vision" is built around a phrase ripped straight from Tales from the Thousand Lakes-era Amorphis. There are aspects of this accentuated melodeath approach running through the rest of the album, tying it all together, but it can also be quite disorienting on first listen.

...Which brings us to the one (potentially fatal) flaw in Darker Superstition's contents: its sequencing! This album isn't just sub-optimally sequences, it's almost entirely backwards. As is, "Dead Star" is a jarring and unearned confrontation, but placed toward the end of the record it's become a clear highlight that makes perfect sense following all the melodeath seeds laid beforehand, and with the added bonus of not forcing the listener to wait so long to get to "Caught in the Treads". Similarly, underbaked doom outing "Tears Fall From the Sky" makes for a limp closer, in its original seemingly underdeveloped, overly repetitious and anticlimactic state, but as a (possibly still truncated) opener it picks up perfectly where "Emptiness" (from An Unexpected Reality) left off, slowly and ominously building tension before a more excitable and impactful track like "A Chilling Aura" can kick in and release all of that anxious energy. It might seem silly to proclaim an album a masterpiece when it requires being pulled apart and reassembled to get the most out of it, but in its original form Dark Superstition was merely an outstanding, if somewhat muddled, death metal record; having re-sequenced it, its become an undeniable album of the year contender.

Suggested (re)sequencing:
Tears Fall from the Sky
A Chilling Aura
Caught in the Treads
The Black Curtain
Mistaken for Dead
Flesh Habit
Superstitious Vision
Dead Star
Masterpiece of Chaos

Shokran – Duat (progressive tech-metal/deathcore)

Look, I've had a long day, and I just wrote a short novel about the new Gatecreeper album, so I'm gonna keep these short and sweet...

Shokran are back, and maybe better than ever? They're more of a deathcore band now, apparantly, but they also sound a lot like Monuments, Periphery and After the Burial, so that's fun. I dig it, and I thought you might as well.

The Last Of Lucy – Godform (brutal/proggish tech death)

This one, meanwhile, also sounds kinda like deathcore, but also a lot more like Origin, with some Archspire and Cynic-y parts thrown in here and there for variety. Which is to say it sounds more or less exactly like its cover art. Great stuff.

Release Roundup

Alpha Omega – kAOs (black metal)

Altar Of Gore – Litanies Of The Unceasing Agonies (shitty death metal)

Ancient Settlers – Oblivion’s Legacy (melodeath)

Anti-Queens – Disenchanted (pop punk, alt rock)

Aspernamentum – Primal Judgement Manifesto (black metal)

Babylon A.D. – Rome Wasn’t Built In A Day (hard rock)

Bat - Under The Crooked Claw (crusty speed metal, black thrash)

Billie Eilish – Hit Me Hard and Soft (disinterested/ing pop)

Black Water Sunset – When Man And Machine Collide: A Tribute To Control Denied (I guess)

Boleskine House – Miserabilist Blues (post-black metal)

Botanist – Paleobotany (another one?)

Cage The Elephant – Neon Pill (indie rock, Lars-core?)

Civil Elegies – No Life (noise rock)

Celestial Season – Mysterium III (post doom)

Childish Gambino – Atavista (hip-pop, RnB)

Cognitive – Aborrence (occasionally proggy death metal/core)

Combichrist – CMBCRST (industrial)

Dawnbreaker – Banisher of Unlight (noisy symphonic black metal)

Demon – Invincible (church dudes rock)

Draag – Actually, The Quiet Is Nice (progressive shoegaze)

Duft – Altar Of Instant Gratification (death thrash, metalcore)

Eigenstate Zero – The Malthusian (proggy prog death, awful AI videos)

Elvellon – Ascending In Synergy (symphonic folk metal)

Electromancer – Enforcer (indusrtial metal, synthwave)

Eminent Shadow – Dawn of the Dark Age – Inferno Diaboli (death metal)

Esclavitud – Stronger than a God (heavy metal)

Evoked – Immoral Arts (death metal)

Extinguished – One Less Enemy (hardcore)

Extortionist – Devoid Of Love & Light (deathcore)

Forever Falling – The Determinism Of Essence In Matter (gothish doom)

Ghost Keeper – The Dread Legion (groove/death thrash)

Göden – Vale Of The Fallen (industrial/post/doom metal)

Gradience – Ironsight (blackened nu metal)

Hell:On – Shaman (folky metal, melodeath)

Hemotoxin – When Time Becomes Loss (tech thrash, prog death)

Henry Kane – Circle Of Pain (blackened death metal)

High Noon Kahuna – This Place Is Haunted (alt/noise rock)

Inner Landscape – 3H33 (proggy post-metal)

Insanity Alert – Moshemian Trashody (y tho?)

Intervals – Memory Palace (prog shred)

Irked – Irked (punk)

Jasta – …And Jasta For All (crossover thrash, metalcore)

Jeff Kollman – 2023 A.D. (instrumental prog metal)

Kerry King – From Hell I Rise (Shitty Slayer)

Kulk – It Gets Worse (sludgey noise rock]

Littered with Arrows – No Doves Fly Above (sludgecore)

Loyal To The Grave – Rectitude (hardcore)

Lucidity – Escherian (progressive metal)

Madame Frankenstein – The Eyes of the Mountain Are Mine (Stoner Rock/Doom)

Marea – The Silence Of Rust (black metal)

Marty Friedman – Drama (sappy butt-rock, shred?)

Nadsvest – Slovo Meseca I Krvi (black metal)

Necht – The Prophecy Of Karnifor (blackened death metal)

Nobody – Despair Is Where My Thoughts Swim (weirdly upbeat DSBM)

Nocturnus AD – Unicursal (old-school prog death)

Olim – Because (post-black metal)

Omsorg – Echoes (post-hardcore)

One Step Closer – All You Embrace (post-hardcore, emo)

Orion Child – Aesthesis (power metal, melodeath)

Pain – I Am (industrial melodeath)

Pallbearer – Mind Burns Alive (post-rock/prog, tedium)

Passage – Crystal (chill post rock)

Pathology – Unholy Descent (brutal death, slam)

Praise of Death – Philanthropist (blackened death metal)

PreHistoric Animals – Finding Love In Strange Places (modern prog rock/metal)

Purple Hell – Asthenia Soul (folky/symphonic melodeath)

Rats Will Feast – Hellhole (math/grindcore)

Rope Sect – Estrangement (folkish rock)

Rotten Tomb – The Relief of Death (blackened death metal)

Salt On Sunday – A Docket Of Votive Offerings (psychedelic/stoner drone)

Sekengard – Creation’s Veil (folk metal)

Serement – Abhorrent Invocations (blackened death metal)

Servus – Cyclical Existence (black metal)

Shellac – To All Trains (weird alt rock)

Sibir- Undergang (black metal/hardcore)

Slash - Orgy Of The Damned (old rock dudes play the blues)

Softcult – Heaven (post-rock, shoegaze)

Sons Of Cult – Desolation (heavy metal/rock)

Soulline – Reflections (altish melodeath)

Strychnos – Armageddon Patronage (blackened death metal)

Subfire – Blood Omen (heavy/power metal)

Suck Brick Kid – The End Is What I Want (pop punk)

Tzompantli – Beating The Drums Of Ancestral Force (death doom)

Ufomammut – Hidden (weird/psychedelic stoner-sludge)

Universe III – Universe III (melodic rock)

(Un)worthy – This Present Darkness (brutal deathcore)

Valhalla – Memories of Yggdrasil (power metal)

Virologist – Ameliorating Vicissitudes (brutal death metal, slam)

Vitskär Süden – Vessel (sad prog)

We’re All Wrong – Leerer (djent-core)

Zig Zags – Strange Masters (hard rock, stoner metal)

Zombeast – Heart Of Darkness (hard/goth rock)

Oh, and in case it wasn't already clear: Roxxxy Mothertucking Andrews for the (charitable) win!*

*Even if she hasn't really been bringing it on the runway so far. That was weird for me.

Joshua Bulleid

Published a month ago