LIVE: Gatecreeper / Ratlord @ The Black Heart, London

By Glen Bushell

Death metal very rarely goes through stale periods, but there was a time when it felt like new, interesting bands rarely appeared. Yet in 2016, Gatecreeper, along with excellent death releases from Venom Prison and Blood Incantation, unveiled their ferocious new album, ‘Sonoran Depravation’. It is nine volatile bursts of bludgeoning death metal with an added touch of heavy hardcore, creating one of the most hellacious albums of last year.

On this rainy Monday night in Camden, Gatecreeper are the reason that 150 hungry metal fans have crammed into local sweatbox, The Black Heart, eager to catch the Arizona band’s first ever London show. The darkened confines of this venue are perfect for tonight’s proceedings, and the temperature reaches such a high point during Gatecreeper’s set that you would be forgiven if you thought they had brought the Sonoran Desert with them, but we will get to that later.

Before that, German death metal band Ratlord offer a lesson in brutality whether you want them to or not. With a sound that harks back to early Death, Morbid Angel, and Dying Fetus, Ratlord are as devastating as they are tight. Their technical prowess knows no bounds as they tear through tracks from their latest self-titled EP, with a hail of blast beats and guttural screams that are absolutely blistering. Their set is less than half an hour long, but they leave a lasting impression on tonight’s audience.

As Gatecreeper take to the stage, Chase H. Mason informs the room that he is sick, but is still going to “play some songs and kick some ass.” He wastes no time in proving that point as the band launch into ‘Craving Flesh’ with a flurry of chest crushing double kick beats meet a duel onslaught of thunderous, low-end guitars. It bleeds into the abrasive fury of ‘Sterilized’, before Mason tackles his past demons on the brutally honest ‘Desperation’.

What makes Gatecreeper stand out is that they forgo any ‘deathcore’ clichĂ©s, bringing the hardcore groove of early Merauder and Biohazard, and the ignorant breakdowns of Hatebreed and Shattered Realm to their classic death metal sound. The opening riff of ‘Flamethrower’ is redolent of heavy New York hardcore, before Mason’s vicious vocal delivery takes over and drives it into death metal dirge.

They tear through virtually every track on ‘Sonoran Depravation’, and no one would have complained if they had played the album in its entirety. They do drop in a furious version of ‘Force Fed’ from their original demo, before wrapping things up with ‘Stronghold’. Gatecreeper’s set seems to be over before they have even had a chance to get going, but it was a short, sharp, and devastating London show for one of the best new death metal bands around, leaving The Black Heart a mess of blood, sweat, broken glass, and by all accounts, vomit.