Well, the dog days of summer are upon us. Except they’re not. It’s 5 am and 68 degrees outside1 and I’m freezing my ass off. Come on, sun. Get the fuck up and shower me in your relentless rays of sunshine. Cook the desert sand once more and soften the asphalt so it’ll nestle my broken body when I fall dead from heatstroke. Anything to keep me from shivering under my pelt blankie2 as I settle down to Gatecreeper‘s new record, Deserted. My only hope is that this new release will warm my blood like the band’s 2016 debut did before. With an album as searing as anything the Arizonan desert can muster up, Sonoran Depravation is a collection of blisters, oozing puss from the not-so-deserty Sweden. Yet, the deeper I get into Deserted, the more discomfort I feel. Instead of warming me, my skin is even colder now. Gatecreeper has discovered something cold and dark in the Sonoran desert. And they’re gonna use it to chill the sand and leave you alone and naked on its moonlit waves.
Darkness is the first thing I feel from the quintet’s newest opus. And you can feel it the moment the opening title-track begins. Unlike the relentless attack of Sonoran Depravation‘s “Craving Flesh,” “Deserted” is a slow mover that, while still borrowing heavily from the band’s Swedish brethren, takes on the sinister side of Grave and Entombed. Even the vocals magnify this sewery redirection with shriekier accents to the bludgeoning barks.
While this slower, more deliberate approach is sprinkled throughout the album, it dominates the opener, “Boiled Over,” and closer “Absence of Light.” Like “Deserted,” “Boiled Over” is a slow-moving chugfest. It combines melodic leads with desperate vox to produce something even darker and more sinister than the opener. The closer, like the back-half of “From the Ashes,” goes one further and knocks at Sweden’s melodeath door. While the lead-over-chug approach toward the end of “From the Ashes” reminds me of Amon Amarth, the melodic and moody “Absence of Light” gives me Dark Tranquillity vibes. A few surprises that the band would have never attempted on Sonoran Depravation.
But Deserted ain’t without its share of chug-happy pummelings. The quartet of simple, straightforward pieces would have to be “Ruthless,” “Barbaric Pleasures,” “In Chains,” and “Punctured Wounds.” The simplest—and more forgettable—of the bunch would be “Barbaric Pleasures,” while the “Ruthless”-“Punctured Wounds” duo does everything you’d expect from Swedeath pieces. These two are nasty, they’re heavy-as-fuck, and they prove this style still works. “In Chains,” though, mixes it up and smashes out driving chugs akin to Bolt Thrower. It’s a badass piece that gets the ole noggin’ moving like Sonoran Depravation‘s “Patriarchal Grip” and “Lost Forever.” Yet, the most-pleasing track of the album is the mid-disc monster, “Everlasting.” Like “Patriarchal Grip,” this one pulls out all the stops. It’s a growing blob that finally climaxes via a mid-song lick that is a thing of headbanging beauty. It’s a little more predictable than the untouchable “Patriarchal Grip,” but it suits Deserted‘s character well.
While darker and moodier than its predecessor, Deserted is still a respectable slice of Swedeath. But, Deserted may surpass Sonoran Depravation with its Swedeath variety. While many pieces stick to the fast-and-hard approach, others dabble in the sinisterness of Asphyx, the graveliness of Grave, and even the melodicness of Swedish melodeath. So, in general, one could say Deserted has more to offer than the debut. Not to mention, the dynamics and production of Deserted is much better than Sonoran Depravation. This new record is rich in texture and sound, combining all the elements of the band’s key influences. Who knew the Arizona heat (or lack thereof) could produce such quality Swedish death?