Gatecreeper are a relatively new band, forming in 2013, with their base being shared between Tucson and Phoenix, Arizona. The band brought out their debut self-titled E.P in 2014, all before they even had a full band, let alone played a gig.
As part of their first European tour, Gatecreeper graced the fair city of Leeds with their refreshing yet satisfyingly familiar brand of Death Metal. I’ve been a fan of their debut album, ‘Sonoran Depravation’ since its release in October 2016. The band were due to appear at this year’s Damnation Festival in November, also in Leeds, only to pull out to my dismay. Later I learned this was due to an opportunity they should never have turned down; a support slot on Cannibal Corpse’s North American tour. So, fair play to them for at least keeping me happy by still getting over here to perform.
Upon arrival, my google map was not helping. Here I was, in an industrial quarter of the city with old woollen warehouses behind me and an abattoir adjacent. I looked down to the map and I was ON the Temple of Boom. Turns out Google was correct after all. Amazing how asking someone else can help.
There were four bands on that night with Ratlord, from Germany as the main support. The first two bands were unfortunately, in my opinion, let down by the sound. Sheer volume being an issue for the first band, Red Eye Revival. A local, 4-piece Thrash band. Party Thrash, I’ll call it. Their punkish gang chants were a catchy idea but the system seemed to be struggling. This was to a point where I just had to leave, go and smoke a bit more and pray that it would be sorted by the time Gatecreeper came on.
Following on from the openers were Cryptic Shift, another local band from Leeds. Their style was closer to Death metal, but that of a more technical style and well executed, too. Evoking mid period Death with their winding leads and lines, with bass work reminiscent of Atheist. They seemed interesting to me but again, the sound was a problem. No clarity in the mix through the mud and unfortunately, for a technical death metal band it was a shame. I’d look out for them again though.
Joining Gatecreeper for the majority of this European Tour were Ratlord. A 5-piece band with a classic Death Metal line up of two guitars, bass, drums and vocals. Splitting lead guitar duties between them, the two guitarists brought pummelling, crunchy riffs like a hammer blow to the head. Classic death metal influences were noticeable throughout, combined with a more brooding, slower paced Bolt Thrower type approach. It was a great example of ‘legend worship’. Music moves in cycles, where influences of the past are refined, altered and combined to create more modern styles. Ratlord delivered and were a more than adequate warm up. Worth checking out.
Onto the main event. Gatecreeper.
The two guitarists and bassist stood on stage with their backs to the crowd, drummer poised. The odd flash of feedback from an amp or a rifle shot of a snare drum hit as they prepared. The singer, Chase Mason weaved his way through the audience from the back of the room onto the stage.
Smoke was billowing up from the floor with beams of light penetrating the fog. Complementing the fog on stage was an odd, hauntingly atmospheric soundscape. My notes from then night stated ‘Throb and Smoke’. The pulsating thick bass driven synth sounds shot out over the crowd as they anticipated the opening track.
After a quick announcement from Chase and a triumphant yell of glee from the excited audience, the band began their attack with their classic buzzsaw guitar tones. “Craving Flesh” kicked things off, a sound that brings early (good) Entombed and Dismember to mind primarily. Their music is largely mid-paced with often fairly short and snappy songs that are delivered with the same immediacy as Hardcore. These harder, more punk related influences are apparent throughout but the band on the whole are definitely metal through and through. They performed most of their debut album. Between the songs, the oscillating horror movie style atmospherics returned but felt different each time. On one occasion, it sounded like the room was dripping. All in all, though, creepy. Maybe intentional?
I hope so!
Song after song was yet another groove laden master stroke of death metal from a band that isn’t afraid to recognise the effectiveness of simplicity in their song structures. With tracks like “Rotting as one” and “Flamethrower”, you realise more than ever when seeing them live, just how danceable the band are. As the band delivered each new track with power and dynamism, Chase, the vocalist, grunted and growled with conviction. His eyes wide and menacing. I locked into his sights a few times during the set but had to look away. He means it. He feels it. This is real. When off mic, he stares down the crowd, windmills his hair to the groove or simply pumps his fists in time with the thudding phrases from the band, drawing in and engaging the audience throughout.
The band closed the set with “Stronghold”. The track shifts through the gears so well. From a driving, up beat ‘car chase’ contrasted with a crawling and oppressive down tempo section. The track finishing with a sublime, doom-laden slow march to the death. Before I knew it, it was all over.