At The Gates
The Nightmare of Being


Now that I have that totally necessary exclamation out of the way, let’s talk about At The Gates’ new album, The Nightmare of Being. A title I totally feel right now, guys… but this isn’t about me, although I’ll probably inadvertently do my damnedest to make it. On full length #7, and the third since their comeback, following the generally well-received At War with Reality and To Drink from the Night Itself, you think you know exactly what to expect, but you probably don’t.

The first track, “Spectre of Extinction,” starts out quietly, to where you can’t hear anything for the first 30 seconds or so unless you turn it up really loud. I advise you don’t do this. Be patient. When it does kick in, though, it does with Tomas Lindberg’s distinctive roar. I’ll be honest here. The first time I heard the album and this track, it sounded a lot like he was losing his bellow. However, perhaps I’ve gotten used to it, or I’m just flat out wrong because I don’t feel that way anymore. I do, however, feel that this is a strong melodeath opener, with of course, typical gallop pacing and strong lead work.

Tracks 3, 4, and 5 make up the centerpiece of the album. The title track, “The Nightmare of Being,” starts out with some distorted, nearly clean picking and whispered vocals from Mr. Lindberg, which appear throughout the verses. The song itself segues into “Garden of Cyprus,” which brings the atmosphere, and at points sounds like something off a post black metal album. There’s a sweet, sexy saxophone, which takes over a little less than two minutes in, ready to bathe you in a warm bathtub full of their jazz. The vocals are sparse and are mostly whispered until the latter portion of the track, which itself transitions smoothly into the next one, “Touched by the White Hands of Death,” which at first sounds like the intro to a Disney villain. That lasts about a minute until we get some melodeath, which at this point, one could be forgiven for forgetting this is At The Gates. When listening, I almost feel like the intro to this track, once overtaken, is the band saying; “Okay, back to what we do best. No more experimenting,” but they couldn’t be lying to us, could they?

Yes, they could. In fact, they are. The next track, “Fall Into Time,” is over 6 minutes, and begins with orchestration. So, stick that in your comfort zone. The rest of the track is a scorcher, though. In this track, I can hear the bass more audibly than the rest of the album. The riffing, along with the vocals, really hit hard here. Yes, the orchestration comes back about ¾ of the way into the track, but quickly gives way to the bass, drums, and a jazzy bit of lead guitar work. This is one of the best, most complete tracks on display.

Since this is getting lengthy, I’ll try to wrap this up with some commentary on the last track, “Eternal Winter of Reason.” It fits well within the confines of what one usually considers melodic death metal. It’s under 4 minutes, has some excellent guitar leads, and a good hook. It’s a great way to wrap up the album.

While I haven’t seen any reviews totally panning the album, I don’t think it’s getting its due. This deep into a career, it’s bold to take as many risks as they have. The production is strong, the songwriting is adventurous, and the musicianship is predictably top notch. Is it perfect? Of course not, but it’s pretty damned good. I also have the feeling that The Nightmare of Being is going to be a grower, which will end up on several prominent year-end lists. Hell, maybe even some here at the indisputable best metal review site on the interwebz. As for mine? Right now, I’m not sure, but I’m certainly not ruling it out. It goes without saying, but if you’re looking for Slaughter of the Soul Pt. II, look elsewhere. There’s plenty of other melodic death metal bands doing that, and At The Gates clearly have no interest in repeating themselves, which is good for them and us.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by J Mays
July 12th, 2021


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