Iron Reagan and Gatecreeper are not the first two bands that come to mind when considering the subject of fantasy split EPs. We’ve had The Depression Sessions with Thy Art Is Murder, The Accacia Strain and Fit For An Autopsy. We’ve had Nails and Full Of Hell and we’ve had Napalm Death and Converge but Iron Reagan and Gatecreeper? It just seems really unlikely. Nevertheless it’s here and to cut to the chase, it might just be better than any of the splits listed above.
Iron Reagan have proven their knack for busting out songs like their lives depended on it time and again, and with all their previous records just shy of 20 songs, it was no surprise to see new material from the Virginian quintet so soon after last years Crossover Ministry. The throttling three song intro of “Warning”, “Paper Shredder” and “Take The Fall” is as good an introduction as anyone could’ve hoped for on such an EP as this. And, by this point, Reagan have got their production absolutely nailed to a tee. This classic reverb-tinged focus they’ve applied to their sluggish-yet-thrashy sound is the best way to listen to the band.
Classic hardcore and all the virtues that embody it, lace Reagan’s DNA at this point (Ricky’s spot on with DRI and Nuclear Assault) and as such, the tracks naturally posses a political edge. Every song is conveying a message of municipal corruption and/or medieval rectification (“Burn For This”), though the level of fun Tony Foresta brings to everything he touches is astounding. Maybe I’ve just listened to too much Municipal Waste (his day job) to treat Reagan as a separate entity.
The call of “Death to accountability” in “Warning”, the chant of “We’re shredding” in “Paper Shredder” and the vociferously yelled “Take The Fall” all lend themselves perfectly to drunken reciprocation in dingy toilet venues everywhere they go.
Really, there are no tracks on here that couldn’t have appeared on Crossover Ministry. Everything from Iron Reagan on this split is as good as, or better than the majority of their 2017 album. Admittedly there’s no hands-down classics like “Fuck The Neighbours” or “Dead With My Friends”, but a large portion of these songs sit in the best company of the album.
As it turns out, the two groups are not necessarily kindred spirits. They have more in common than I had thought but as soon as Gatecreeper’s intro “Daybreaker” steamrolls in, the good-time punk of the last 5 tracks is crushed in an instant with devastating effect. With “Daybreaker” and indeed, the rest of their contribution to the split, Gatecreeper are overuling any emotion that isn’t bleak, apocalyptic dread.
“Dead Inside” can be boiled down to three key elements. A liberal barrage of double-base drums, illegible, vomited vocals and overdriven-to-fuck guitar work. “War Has Begun” on the other hand slows it right down to this gnarly, grinding crawl and John Tardy (Obituary) infused vocals. This closing track is undoubtedly the highlight of the EP and has me in an all-out headfirst dive into their back-catalogue.
There’s much more that’s right with this split than there is that’s at fault, but the glaring issue is the lack of Gatecreeper’s deeply menacing death metal. There needs to be more Gatecreeper in this. Nevertheless, the overwhelming charm of this release, I feel, comes from the untamed feel of the tracks. It’s truly a warts-and-all listen and with the changing tide of heavy music, moving from the pristine production that bothered so many breakout releases, to this rough, dirge-y listen, it absolutely rules. It feels great to listen to something that feels fresh and real rather than something on its 30th take. I feel cooler just being in the presence of this EP and it boasts a serious game with the best-of-the-year lists… providing Gatecreeper don’t come out with another record that is.
Ricky’s second opinion
After I interviewed Chase from Gatecreeper at their Glasgow show last year, he informed me that there was a new EP split with Iron Reagan which I knew I had to get my hands on. Iron Reagan, I must admit, are a band that I have not paid a lot of attention to but on this EP, they have gained a new fan. With the thrash of the old days before death metal showed its ugly head, Iron Reagan gets my nostalgic hat on of the Nuclear Assault and DRI and makes me smash everything in my living room. Opener “Warning” is a classic example of that and what amazes me is that this band is a side project and are having fun with all the genres that they grew up with. For example, the Napalm Death influenced grindcore elements of “Paper Shredder” highlight that this band is fun and must be seen live.
Gatecreeper have a hard act to follow with this but I honestly feel that Gatecreeper are the next big thing and have the world at their feet. Opening their triumvirate of songs with instrumental “Daybreak” was a brave choice but sets the tone with that HM2 Entombed/Dismember sound, they can do no wrong. “Dead Inside” the opening section is incredible with the riffs supported by incessant double bass which is the sound I love. Then the indecipherable vocals from Chase come in and got this old neck in a windmill and screaming at the screen. The riffs from Eric and Jack are mesmerising and backed by Sean and Matt on bass and drums respectively, this is a huge step up from Sonoran Depravation. Final track “War has Begun” shows their worship of all things Bolt Thrower and while more melodic than the previous track, it’s equally as hard hitting.
To conclude, both these bands should consider touring together as it would provide the audience with diversity which means that the audience will always be paying attention. More importantly, they will be banging their heads and raising their horns in appreciation of the class of both bands on show here. A split EP worth buying, definitely!