Gatecreeper have nimbly gravitated from one style to another over their last few releases but on Dark Superstition, I think they have found a place to call home.

Release date: May 17, 2024 | Nuclear Blast | Facebook | Instagram | Stream/Buy

Sometimes, a band or an artist wiggles their way into your heart in ways that are difficult to express. Such is the case for Gatecreeper and myself. While this band has grown in popularity over the last decade, I was pretty isolated from their grassroots movement and just happened to see them at a show as an opener for Pallbearer and Inter Arma. Naturally that show now holds a very special place in my heart as it kicked off my love affair with Gatecreeper and solidified the other two acts as personal favorites. I picked up a copy of their only LP at the time Sonoran Depravation from vocalist Chase Mason at the merch table and had a friendly exchange and from that moment on, I’ve snagged a copy of everything they’ve released. On the surface, Gatecreeper weren’t doing anything super revolutionary: HM-2 riffs over an Entombed-loving sense of aggression. But after seeing them in a basement venue better suited for hardcore than metal, it was a special experience that endeared me to them in ways that just spinning their records wouldn’t.

As the years have passed, Gatecreeper have released more material and while it has always been solid, I wasn’t connecting with it as much. Deserted was nice but felt like a bit of a Sonoran Depravation 1.5 without much growth. An Unexpected Reality, however, was a fresh foray into mostly shorter songs that reached back to their hardcore roots and closed with a harrowing 11-minute death doom banger. Now, after almost 4 years of silence from the band after they signed to Nuclear Blast, Dark Superstition is here. I was terrified that the move to this larger label would dull their edges to make them commercially viable, we’ve certainly all seen this happen. Thankfully that simply seems to have had zero effect on the band’s ethos or approach while affording them the time and resources to make the album that they wanted to make.

While the title of the record is a little bland, the striking cover art feels right at home with Gatecreeper and like their last release, seems to be moving their identity further away from the dry and barren climate of their Arizona roots and move closer to something more spectral and nightmarish. Despite this, the opening riff to the album feels extremely welcoming. “Dead Star” is immediately familiar feeling due to Mason’s signature vocals and that buzzsaw guitar tone but the melodic riffs and lilting solo feels like it was pulled from some long-forgotten Dismember demo, and I think that is exactly what Gatecreeper were gunning for on this entire album. Those opening notes signal immediately that they have moved into a new direction with their songwriting and that persists throughout the record.

I am not one to contend that one thing is better than another thing, conceptually. I’m all about taking the ‘different strokes for different folks’ attitude toward as many things as possible. To that end, I think the approach toward the songwriting on Dark Superstition is geared toward creating tracks that are memorable, rather than creating a mood or vibe for an album and letting each song contribute to that one idea. It’s my opinion that a lot of modern death metal tends run together sonically, and while that’s totally fine in most cases, there is something different about being able to connect with a song simply because it’s so damn catchy that you can’t get it out of your head. I would say, conservatively, that this is the case for about 75% of Dark Superstition. “The Black Curtain”, “Masterpiece Of Chaos”, and “Superstitious Vision” are all immediately memorable tracks that parlay the classic Gatecreeper sound into something different by giving the listener more handholds without sacrificing a single goddamn thing.

Along with these catchy tracks there are moments throughout this album that made me smile in amazement. Chase Mason’s vocals have leveled up in many areas, such as on “A Chilling Aura” where there’s more high screams that open a whole new level of possibilities for their music. “Mistaken for Dead” embraces the mood which they employed on An Unexpected Reality but redefined into a full death metal track that has more grooves than the vinyl that this album will be mashed into. “Caught In The Treads” is full-on Massive Killing Capacity worship but it’s so well written and so crushing that I couldn’t help but bang my head while smiling ear to ear every time I listened.

I have made this bold claim in private conversation and I still stand by it in this review: this is Gatecreeper’s classic. From the incredible production, new ideas, great riffs and grooves, and incredible performances from the band, this is by far their best effort yet. In the end, however, what makes Dark Superstition a great album is the song selection. Each track is distinct and memorable on their own and not once could you confuse one song for another and yet they all feel like they’re woven into the same tapestry of death metal. It feels great to once again fall in love with this band.

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