Title: An Unexpected Reality
Label: Closed Casket Activities
Genre: Death Metal / Doom Metal
Released: 13 January 2021
an unexpected reality
"Seeking comfort in restless sleep
Leaving consciousness behind
Slipping from reality inside in my mind
No reason to open my eyes"
Sitting at only seventeen minutes and eight songs, the new Gatecreeper album is immediately eye-catching, mostly because of the extremely strange layout of its track listing. It’s reminiscent to Nails’ last album, “You Will Never Be One of Us”, in both style and structure, with the band exploring more of a grind-core sound than they ever have before, as well as assembling the record as it is; with a string of extremely short and violent tracks followed by a single, long song to conclude the album. And while this unconventional format may sound fairly gimmicky, Gatecreeper have somehow managed to create an album that doesn’t feel too skewed in either direction, all while making an absolutely excellent variety of music across the course of this extremely brief record.
Side A of ‘An Unexpected Reality’ literally only equates to about seven minutes of music, stretched over seven tracks, and it works extremely well in its ability to deliver such a wide variety of sounds in such a compressed period of time. While Side B manages to do something in a similar vein, through shifting dynamics and slowly developing compositions, Side A instead throws itself from one song to another, as it manically switches between various tempos and styles. It’s weirdly fun, leaving no time for any down-time or disinterest to creep in. And because of that, it’s also pretty difficult to criticise this without nit-picking. It’s just an extremely solid seven minutes of fast, aggressive death-metal. If it were one track, I’m sure it would be a little easier to pull apart and analyse. However, it isn’t as if the band have taken one track and chopped it up into seven little pieces as some sort of gimmick. These are each their own individual tracks that have unique and interesting sounds, and because of that, I don’t really have many issues with any of these. The only real problem they have is not being able to reach their full potential because of their length, however this also means that they never manage to outstay their welcome. And the constantly shifting nature of this first half means that there is just so much variety. It never rehashes any ideas, and is driven by a really amazing and frantic energy that lasts from the second Side A starts, until it finishes.
The album only slightly loses momentum at the end of the track ‘Amputation’, due to the record coming to its very first complete stop after five minutes of total onslaught. However, it doesn’t take long (around two seconds) for it to hurl itself back on track, delivering another weirdly catchy and frenzied experience with ‘Depraved Not Deprived’. And this leads into the final track of Side A, ‘Superspreader’, which concludes the first half of the album with a relentless and absolutely chaotic finish that could have well been the end of a really great death/grind-core EP from the band. However, they decided to take it a step further, instead ending with the monolithic ‘Emptiness’; taking up Side B in its entirety, as well as over half of the album’s runtime.
While the first half purely functions off of frenetic and pummelling energy, ‘Emptiness’ slows things down to deliver a diverse and sprawling eleven-minute doomy odyssey. It’s a real change of pace away from the grindy sounds of the first half, instead taking its time in establishing and repeating various riffs and motifs, creating a more holistic sound than the first half of the album. It starts off extremely slow and thick, delving more into doom-metal sounds, and slowly adds more visceral and intricate drum and guitar patterns as it develops. The track’s third and final section is arguably it’s best, starting off with some very quiet and restrained guitars before bursting into a cathartic conclusion that reprises some moments from the beginning of the track. It’s an incredible song; fully realised, and a beautiful conclusion to the record. In an album that has already managed to impress with its incredible sense of immediacy, to pull a complete left turn and have it end with an eleven-minute track, which doesn’t feel as though it weighs the rest of the record down, is extremely impressive. Although it directly contradicts the rest of the material on here, ‘Emptiness’ is by far the highlight of the album, and a real achievement for the band.
It’s hard to say much else about the album since it’s already quite short in length, but this is excellent and absolutely worth the seventeen minutes that it takes to listen to. The first half is absolutely unhinged and berserk, and the second half delivers an incredible, atmospheric journey that explores multiple facets of doom and death metal. There’s so much to love here, with the concluding behemoth of a track ‘Emptiness’ being the personal highlight for me. While I do wish some of the earlier tracks had a little more room to breath and develop, they’re still extremely impressive in their sense of urgency and intensity. If you’re a fan of death-metal and grind-core, Side A will appeal to you, and if you’re more into slow, doomy metal, then you’ll most likely love the second half of this. However, ‘An Unexpected Reality’ is consistently solid enough that it’ll most likely end up impressing the entire way through.
"I starve myself from you
I wither away
Can't you see I'm paper thin?"
Reviewed by Layton Bryce - 30/01/2021