Friday 4 May 2018

REVIEW: Iron Reagan & Gatecreeper, "Split"

By: Mark Ambrose

Album Type: EP
Date Released: 02/03/2018
Label: Relapse Records

“Split” CD//DD//LP track listing

1. Iron Reagan,Warning”
2. Iron Reagan,Paper Shredder”
3. Iron Reagan,Take the Fall”
4. Iron Reagan, “Proudly Unaccountable”
5. Iron Reagan,Burn for This”
6. Gatecreeper,Daybreak” (Intro)
7. Gatecreeper,Dead Inside”
8. Gatecreeper,War Has Begun”

The Review:

Splits are regularly some of my favorite releases – so much so that in my yearly rundown I tried to highlight some of the real standouts in a growing field of collaborative metal albums.  With grind splits, you can end up with several bands spitting out double digit tracks and not break the twenty minute mark, or, in the case of Fister & CHRCH, you can have two sludge powerhouses spewing out 15-20 minute odes to suffering.  Maybe my favorites are those cross-subgenre cage matches, like the latest split between punky crossover thrashers Iron Reagan and decrepit death conjurers Gatecreeper.  Aside from rock solid production and rugged intensity, these two metal standouts have little in common.  But like a particularly memorable basement show, the disparity actually makes this brief hunk of aggression amount to more than its scant eighteen minutes would suggest.
Iron Reagan need no real introduction at this point – the members have been responsible for some of the best death, crossover, thrash and hardcore of the last few years.  The five cuts they contribute are like a little tour through classic hardcore punk and 80s thrash – opener “Warning” has a bright, SoCal hardcore tone that, at first listen, almost sounds like a massive Hammond organ.  Paper Shredder ups the LAxHC antics, with a tapped out intro lead, Anthrax indebted gang vocals, and palm muted builds to full on mosh breaks.  “Take the Fall” swaps coasts as the most classically Bay Area thrash metal cut on the record – the chugging rhythm work is the real standout, while the lead flourishes are pure Hammett worship.  “Proudly Unaccountable” is the briefest outing on the record (at a pummeling 45 seconds), but the strange rhythm changeups had me thinking of midperiod Black Flag with blast beats.  “Burn for This” may be my favorite cut on the record, a brutal little number that practically sounds like skatepunk.  I could certainly imagine it blasting behind a Bones Brigade tape.  The whammy bar work walks a thin line between Slayer divebombs and East Bay Ray surfer leads.  As a closer, it’s a rad sendoff that speaks volumes to how Iron Reagan is far more than a nostalgia act – these guys whip up a punky metal cocktail with their own signature on every riff, every breakdown, and every shouted lyric.
Gatecreeper somehow slipped under my radar until this split and, boy, am I ready to delve into their surprisingly large catalogue (especially for a band only formed in 2013!).  Vomiting out filthy, nihilistic death, the Arizona five-piece inserts the right amount of punk rhythm into their crushing metal riffs.  Drummer Matt Arrebollo slides just enough punk fury into his galloping double-kick attacks to keep things from ever getting repetitive.   Intro track “Daybreak” is a neat instrumental pummeling, but one-two punch of the abysmally downbeat “Dead Inside” and the apocalyptic “War Has Begun” made me crave a lot more of what Gatecreeper has to offer.  Wagner and Garrett’s occasional harmonic flourishes really had me hooked into their old school death metal, while the rhythm is gut churning in all the right ways.  If I had any complaints about the release, it’s that Gatecreeper didn’t have five tracks of death to counter the five bursts of enervating crossover thrash from Iron Reagan.  Like the best splits, this left me craving more… I suppose for now another spin of this excellent record will have to suffice.

“Split” is available here

Band info: Iron Reagan|| Gatecreeper