Album review: Gatecreeper – Dark Superstition

Sonoran Desert death metallers Gatecreeper embrace their arid homeland’s long shadows and shimmering nights on titanic third album Dark Superstition…

Album review: Gatecreeper – Dark Superstition
Sam Law

Beneath the sunbeaten earth, scorpions and Sonoran depravation that Gatecreeper have made their stock in trade over the past decade, there are dark shadows stirring.

It’s no surprise that the Arizonan death metallers’ third album marks a staggering step up. On 2019’s Deserted, they were already being heralded as bannermen for the new wave of American death metal: acolytes as disparate as Cannibal Corpse, Post Malone and Glassjaw/Head Automatica mainman Daryl Palumbo trumpeting their greatness. 2021’s excellent, surprise-dropped An Unexpected Reality EP – seven minute-long grind tracks, and one sprawling slab of doom – felt like the sound of musicians flushing the creative pipes for the arrival of something more definitive. What came next was always going to be An Event.

What is surprising, however, is how deep into gloom Dark Superstition dives, and the subtlety with which its cocktail of abyssal heaviness and velvety melody works its way under the skin.

Dead Star opens with a pendulous blend of old In Flames melodic death, early Paradise Lost’s gothy grandeur and Dismember-style Stockholm snarl. Oblivion revs the tempo: 191 seconds of chaos that could’ve come before. But then The Black Curtain spins us into more overtly vampiric territory with vocals that feel like Type O Negative gargling broken glass and a razorblade riff weirdly reminiscent of HIM’s Poison Girl. It’s surely no coincidence, either, with the superb Superstitious Vision doffing its cap to the Finnish Love Metallers’ 2005 classic Wings Of A Butterfly, too, before slamming off in a storm of more familiar, neck-wrecking riffs.

If such unexpected reference-points sound like knocks, they’re absolutely not. There’s a genius in how Gatecreeper have recalibrated their sound in a way that feels more playful, more atmospheric, more accessible without ever coming across as watered-down.

With Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou overseeing production, a song like Caught In The Treads manages to pack in the epic concussiveness of Mastodon’s first three albums with room for a little Metallica’s stadium-metal swagger, while another like Flesh Habit can channel Sisters Of Mercy by way of Entombed. A few years ago, the doomy sprawl of granstanding closer Tears Fall From The Sky would have felt like a game-changing departure. Bookending here, the game’s already changed. It makes perfect sense.

If, as some might speculate, the shattered sky and giant arachnid crawling from a desert grave on its awesomely OTT album art indicate a desire to break new ground and smash through extreme music’s glass ceiling, then Dark Superstition should be a resounding success. More than that, though, it’s confirmation that Gatecreeper have enough black magic to become one of this generation’s truly remarkable heavy bands. Into the night they charge.

Verdict: 4/5

For fans of: Frozen Soul, Type O Negative, In Flames

Dark Superstition is out now via Nuclear Blast

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