Published Sep 26, 2019The Arizona desert-dwellers Gatecreeper, have emerged back onto the scene with new album Deserted, the monstrous follow-up to their much-acclaimed full-length debut, Sonoran Depravation, back in 2016. The band's sophomore effort, out October 4, has the considerable task of surpassing its predecessor, yet it seems that Deserted may be an even purer, more distilled Gatecreeper then we have yet heard.
"There was definitely a lot of pressure," admits band frontman, Chase Mason, over the phone in an Exclaim! interview. "The first record did very well, and I think that just in our own minds, we're very critical of everything we do, and we don't want to release anything unless we think it's the best we can possibly do. You don't want to have the sophomore slump."
But the pressure of past achievement, as well as the nature of time and experience, seems to have shaped the band into an even tighter songwriting unit, as Mason explains.
"Making the first record, it was a collection or culmination of songs that you may have written at the very beginning. So some of the songs in Sonoran Deprivation were some of the first we ever wrote. This being our second record, we were able to write a collection of songs that was specifically for a record. We started with a blank slate, and we were writing them with the intent of [making] an album. So the first song was meant as a first song. We were able to put together a full vision for the first time, rather than just writing songs as we go along."
The band's growth is evident on their new album, though their foundations have remained steadfast and rising.
"[Along] the evolution of our band, we've just taken the parts that have always been there and magnified them. Rather than being a death metal band with blast beat parts, which a lot of death metal bands do, we kind of tend to go on the other side and have doomier parts, which has always been there from the very beginning. But I think the doom parts are one of those ingredients that we've explored a bit more on this album," Chase explains. Even in the single "Boiled Over," the sluggish, doom-laden nature of Gatecreeper's approach to death metal is gloriously in your face, and runs even more intensely through the veins of Deserted.
Asked whether the heightened presence of doom in Gatecreeper's music is the product of Chase and Gatecreeper guitarist, Eric Wagner, playing in doom band Spirit Adrift, Chase says that while they "try and keep Gatecreeper and Spirit Drift separate entities," it might not be so black and white.
"For this record, me and Eric wrote it, and even though I do vocals live, I still write a lot of Gatecreeper stuff on the guitar. For Spirit Adrift, Nate, who plays guitar in Gatecreeper, writes all the music. So it's different parties in both bands, even though there's a little bit of overlap. But I will say that, for me playing in Spirit Adrift, just learning and playing the songs [that Nate wrote], has expanded my musical toolbox, you could say. So you could say that unconsciously, it has crept into my songwriting for Gatecreeper."
Being from Arizona, the band have taken up the desert landscape as a key muse that has fuelled their sound and given both full-lengths continuity to their visuals. The face of Deserted is a magnificently fresh piece of artwork, a central aspect to what makes death metal so iconic, in Chase's view.
"As far as this album cover, I believe that a full-length death metal album should have a cool painting on it. All my favourite and classic death metal albums have really cool artwork. So that's what I wanted: a real painting, not a digital painting or a photo, which we had on the first album. But I wanted to use a different artist; I was on the hunt for a while, and when I came across Brad Moore's art, I was like, 'This is the guy.'" says Mason. "I knew I wanted to call the album Deserted. I gave him some references and [I told him] 'I want a post-human desert landscape.' Whatever that meant to him."
The result: a mesmerising visual feast of almost alien bizarreness that defies any logic or reason. Reflecting the course of the music, the art for Deserted is decidedly different, while still born from the same pool of thematic influence as Sonoran Depravation's canvas-bound maelstrom by Adam Burke. Gatecreeper have taken ownership of their desert homeland and used that debilitating and harsh nature as fuel for their art, as they simultaneously dig deeper into that heated bedrock.
Deserted is out October 4 courtesy of Relapse Records.