Since dropping their rabid debut album Sonoran Depravation in 2016, Gatecreeper have been hitting it hard, tirelessly spreading their Stockholm-style, hardcore-infused sound to metalheads across the world. The grassroots success of the LP took the young band from "next big thing" to Cannibal Corpse tourmates, and has the Arizona crew squarely poised for their own massive break.
And by the sound of Gatecreeper's crushing new album, Deserted, death-metal's new leaders are up to the task. The eleven-track effort expands on the promising foundation of Sonoran Depravation, with more impressive vocals, more interesting riffs and a completely new approach with respect to overall timbre and style. Blame it on the band's new self-professed "stadium death metal" aspirations, but the new look fits them well.
Ahead of Deserted's October 4th release via Relapse Records, we caught up with frontman Chase Mason about his new vocal style, looking to "sell-out" death metal albums for inspiration, and the enduring impact of Anti Cimex and Dismember on Gatecreeper.
EXPECTATIONS FOR THE NEW LP RUN HIGH. COMPARING YOUR PROCESS ON DESERTED VERSUS SONORAN DEPRAVATION, HOW DO YOU THINK THINGS HAVE CHANGED IN YOUR SONGWRITING APPROACH? WHAT WORKS FOR YOU VERSUS DOESN'T WORK?
Our songwriting process is basically the same as it's always been. We have just gotten better at it. The last record was a culmination of songs that we had written for our first 2 or 3 years as a band and for this one we were able to write a batch of songs specifically for a new LP. We looked at what may have been missing or lacking on the last record and actively tried to improve or add those things into the songs on Deserted. We use technology to our advantage and create demos for the songs as we write so whoever is writing the song can present their ideas as a fully realized piece of music rather than just a riff or a part.
GATECREEPER HAVE ALWAYS BEEN THE TYPE OF BAND TO PLAY ON BOTH METAL AND HARDCORE GIGS. DO YOU SEE THE BAND IN THE SAME WAY NOW? YOUR UPCOMING TOURS SEEM MORE METAL-LEANING THAN PREVIOUS.
We have always been a metal band from the very start. Our type of heavy mid-tempo death metal seems to be embraced by both the metal and hardcore communities and that's not something we would ever shy away from. In the end, we are a metal band and we will always be "metal-focused" no matter what kind of crossover we see or who we play with.
WHAT WERE YOUR PERSONAL GOALS GOING INTO THE MAKING OF DESERTED? HOW DID YOU PLAN TO AVOID THE SOPHOMORE SLUMP?
Our goal going into this record was to create an even better record than our last one. We wanted to add some new flavors in but keep the general formula that has been working so well for us. We focused on writing memorable songs with big riffs and catchy hooks. I think we avoided the sophomore slump by simply elaborating and improving on our pre-existing songwriting elements. The doom parts are even doomier, the melodic parts are even more melodic, the catchy parts are more catchy ... By focusing and expanding upon the key parts of our sound, we created a bigger and better version of our band without having to change much.
VOCALS ON THE NEW LP SEEM TO RING CLEARER AND TAKE MORE CHANCES, MUSICALLY SPEAKING, FALLING IN BETWEEN GUTTURAL GRUNTS AND JOHN TARDY–STYLE SCREAMS. WHAT WHAT DO YOU THINK HAS CHANGED FROM RECORD TO RECORD? HOW DO YOU TAKE CARE OF YOUR VOICE?
Personally, I really wanted to improve my vocal delivery on this record. I took more time tracking than ever before and really focused on making the vocals much more dynamic. I didn't want the vocals to be monotonous or boring. I try to write parts or patterns that don't just follow the simple rhythm of the song. I like the vocal lines to have a little bit of bounce to them. Touring for the past 3 years since the last record came out certainly helped me improve my technique and approach. As far as taking care of my voice, I don't do much! I always blow my voice out a few days in whether i'm recording or touring. That's just how it is, I guess.
THOUGH THE SAME PERSONNEL WAS KEPT ON BOARD FOR THE NEW LP, THE SOUND IS WHOLLY DIFFERENT. WHAT WERE SOME TOUCHSTONES YOU GAVE BRAN, BALLOU AND BOATRIGHT AS FAR AS WHAT YOU WANTED FOR THE NEW EFFORT?
Just the same as the songwriting, we wanted to continue what we have already been doing, but make it better. We took more time than ever before tracking just to make sure we got everything as strong and tight as possible. We kept using the term "stadium death metal" while recording because we wanted it to sound huge. Some of the big production, "sell-out" death-metal records like [Morbid Angel's] Domination, [Obituary's] World Demise, and [Carcass'] Heartwork were a reference point for the era of classic death metal we were going for.
WHILE YOUR DEATH METAL INFLUENCES RUN THE GAMUT FROM SWEDISH TO FINNISH TO EVEN OLD PRIMITIVE FLORIDIAN, WHAT ARE SOME PUNK BANDS THAT YOU'VE TAKEN INSPIRATION FROM AND HOW HAVE THOSE INFLUENCES REARED THEIR HEAD ON THE RECORD?
I listen to a lot of the Swedish punk bands like Anti Cimex and Totalitär and the Japanese bands like Framtid and Disclose, but I'm not sure how much of that influences what I write for Gatecreeper. Any of the faster parts I wrote for this record were more influenced by Celtic Frost or something like that.
AFTER SONORAN DEPRAVATION, GATECREPPER HIT THE ROAD HEAVILY FOR DATES IN THE U.S. DO YOU THINK YOU'LL ATTACK WITH THAT SAME SORT OF FURY? ARE THERE OTHER AREAS IN THE WORLD THAT YOU HAVEN'T BUT WOULD LIKE TO CONQUER?
Our goal is to attack the entire world with this record. We already have a few U.S. tours lined up and working on the rest for 2020. We are looking forward to going back to Europe and hopefully hitting Japan, Australia, and South America for the first time.
WHILE INSPIRATION COMES FROM MANY DIFFERENT PLACES, THERE IS USUALLY A SINGLE THING THAT ARTISTS GO BACK TO TIME AND AGAIN AS THEIR SOURCE, WHETHER DIRECTLY RELATED TO THE THEIR ART OR NOT. WHAT IS THAT FOR YOU AND HOW HAS IT HELPED GUIDE YOU THROUGH DESERTED?
Dismember, Massive Killing Capacity. Our band started with me and [drummer] Matt [Arrebollo] talking about Massive Killing Capacity. It's one of my favorite records and a constant influence on Gatecreeper. Whenever I get stuck or need inspiration for a song, I look to that album. What Would Dismember Do?