Inside the Gatecreeper Cult

Deep in the desert, the sound of distortion rattles the windows. It’s not new to locals, but for those hearing it for the first time, it’s understandable that it causes concern. The “ughs!” and “blegh!” emitting space are accented by chainsaw guitars and bone-smacking drums. The intensity makes you feel like you’re sinking into a suffocating madness.

Comforting for some, chaotic for others, the sonic behemoth in the rehearsal space is Arizona-based new-wave death metal band Gatecreeper, who are gearing up for a national headlining tour with 200 Stab Wounds, Narrow Head and Fearing. Gatekeeper makes a stop in Denver on Saturday, May 7 at the Marquis Theater. Singer Chase “Hellahammer” Mason, the man behind the guttural growls, recently took some time to discuss what it’s like to be in one of the hardest-working acts on the scene.

It’s almost impossible to go to a metal show these days without seeing at least one person representing Gatecreeper. The band’s steady stream of merchandise, such as free “Honk if you’re horny for Gatecreeper” stickers or unique local concert posters, is as synonymous with its brand as it is with its sound at this point. It’s not by accident, said Mason.

“When it comes to metal, punk and hardcore, cool shirts and merchandise have always been part of the culture, whether official shirts or bootleg shirts,” he explains. “You can go to a metal festival, and there will be several vendors selling different counterfeit shirts or whatever. It’s just part of the culture, and something I’ve always been into. I bring that to the band, like, ‘What would I like to buy?'”

While he designs some of the shirts and posters himself, Mason enjoys working with artists from across the country, especially when the band is on tour. For example, the current tour includes custom show posters designed by local artists for each stop, and the band has already released two new shirt designs since being packed into the van.

“Because I’m interested in this kind of stuff, I’m always looking for new people to work with,” he says. “If you see us many times, we will have something new each time.”

True to the band’s DIY roots, the Gatecreeper posters appear to have been physically cut and glued together, then photocopied multiple times. in some cases they were. Such images can also be found on Gatecreeper shirts. The lo-fi quality and commitment to such an ethos since the band’s formation in 2014 has been aided by social media, where the band regularly promotes their upcoming stops and latest offerings, including the album 2021 not previously announced. An unexpected reality.

Mason explains that the band went “dark” on social media before releasing the album, which was a byproduct of the pandemic and the inability to tour. The unexpected release created a buzz in the metal world, and physical copies quickly became hard to find. It would seem that social media may have the same effect as tape commerce back then, but faster.

“It’s a very important tool, but you have to do what’s right and what’s right for your band,” Mason says of musicians using social media. “When we published An unexpected reality, it was a secret — we announced it the day before its release. For much of 2020, we’ve gone completely dark on our social media. … We didn’t have any tours to release or shows, so we just went in the dark until it was time to put that record out, so it kind of had a bigger pop for the surprise.

The album features the sonic spectrum of the band, formed by Eric “The Darkest Cowboy” Wagner and Israel Garza on guitars, Matt Arrebollo on drums and Alexander Brown on bass. While there’s a good portion of old-school death metal that would sound at home on a 1990s Swedish release, there’s also a track over eleven minutes that is as fatal as it gets. It’s a sound the band wanted to explore further, Mason explains, and could experiment with moving forward.

Fans haven’t been the only ones to notice Gatecreeper’s growing cult presence, as the band has toured with several titans of the genre before, including 2017’s Cannibal Corpse and Obituary earlier this year. Dating Corpsegrinder and the Tardy Brothers is still a little surreal, Mason says, but being able to perform with them serves both groups’ audiences. It’s also something Gatecreeper wants to pay for with their headlining tours. (Mason warns that 200 stabs are incredibly brutal and will soon explode.)

“These bands are able to stay relevant now because they pay attention to what’s going on right now. It benefits them because they bring in the younger guys and maybe introduce the older metalheads to what’s new,” adds- he. “I’m grateful that these bands are taking us on and that we can tour with bands that influence us and the greats of the genre – that we can meet them and play with them every night.

“I almost have to pinch myself sometimes. I almost have to stop myself from going into full punisher mode and asking them a bunch of questions because I’m a fan. Treating someone like that like my peers is very weird in a cool way, but we’re in this together.

Gatecreeper performs at the Marquis Theatre, 2009 Larimer Street, at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 7. Tickets are $18.

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