Over the last several years, the US crossover thrash band Iron Reagan (composed of current and former members of other prominent groups such as Municipal Waste, Darkest Hour and Cannabis Corpse), and Gatecreeper – an American death metal band – have both become two of the most relevant groups in terms of contemporary musical heaviness. In March 2018 the pair release their 8-song split, with five songs composed by Iron Reagan and a further three put together by Gatecreeper.
The split, engineered by dual-producer, Converge guitar wizard and all-around music legend Kurt Ballou, definitely bears a good resemblance of the audible adrenaline produced by both of these bands in terms of what they have produced so far. Iron Reagan come flying out of the gate with the opening track “Warning” – a 2 and a quarter minute long blast of reliable thrash that will surely please fans of this band as well as Municipal Waste. “Paper Shredder” comes next, again adding to the list of songs produced by these musicians with amusing titles. It’s almost impossible to be disappointed by Iron Reagan’s musical output, because while what they do is all essentially based on the same formula, they do that one thing so well that the quality of their music is always guaranteed to be of a high standard.
“Take the Fall” adds a considerable amount more in terms of its musical structure, with gang-shouted vocals punctured throughout as well as a blisteringly-fast guitar solo reminiscent of the bands that Iron Reagan is influenced by. A big nod also has to go out to Ballou, who has masterfully been able to make all of the instruments sound as prominent as possible without it being a case of one aspect of the band being given special treatment. The 44-second long “Proudly Unaccountable” flies by, coming and going before you know it, before Iron Reagan’s closer on this split “Burn for This” tries its hand at layering the instrumentation and being a bit more thought out, if that kind of thing can even be said of a band as relentless as Iron Reagan.
At this point, the torch gets handed over to Gatecreeper for their three-song portion of this joint split. Obviously, the musical style is going to change substantially at this point as the emphasis switches from hardcore-tinged crossover thrash to straightforward death metal, albeit in a more contemporary fashion. As you can already expect, the level of ferocity and musical morbidity is ramped up significantly from the very beginning, with Gatecreeper’s introductory composition “Daybreak” setting the mood in a suitably dramatic fashion across its running length of just under 2 minutes. The solely instrumental song leads appropriately into the split’s penultimate track, entitled “Dead Inside” – which features one of the most menacing riffs you’ll hear all year before the percussion really kicks in – imagine Slayer and Deicide both mixed into one. Gatecreeper’s material on this split – both what has been described so far in addition to closing track “War Has Begun” – is definitely the highlight of what this joint split between Gatecreeper and Iron Reagan has to offer.
With all due respect to Iron Reagan when it comes to this split, Gatecreeper’s slabs of punishingly violent extreme metal remain the standout moments across the release. Reagan’s brand of crossover thrash is undeniably fun, but when you have a band like Gatecreeper coming through as one of the current definitive bands in extreme music, it is simply impossible to say anything except what is absolutely deserved in this specific situation. This split, however, is highly recommended for fans of both bands as well as grindcore, thrash metal, death metal, hardcore punk, and disgustingly heavy music in general.