At The Gates
At War With Reality

If you asked me prior to their releases which of the metal juggernaut albums of recent years had the greatest potential for failure, I would have probably went with the new At The Gates record. Despite many delays, we knew Gorguts would deliver a unique, organic experience, and while Carcass had a spotty past of finger-wagging at the immaturity of the metal genre as a whole, they as a band always reinvented themselves with each record and most likely wouldn’t have delivered a passionless record after 19 years.

At The Gates however can’t bank on the current nadir of the extreme death metal genre to crown their newest album as a masterpiece by comparison’s sake. The melodic death metal genre seems to have died a quiet death in recent years, and the subgenre (and its many shortcomings) that At The Gates indirectly created is impossible to attribute to their previous swansong and unanimously acclaimed masterpiece. The Bjorlers have taken some irreparable missteps in The Haunted, and how much could Lindberg possibly have left in has pipes after now over 22 years of pain? What can the band do under their genre’s umbrella and have it not seem cliché by today’s standards, and if they were to progress outside of it, what is the safest approach? All ears will be hearing the record hoping to prey on its shortcomings rather than praise its successes.

It doesn’t seem the band gives a shit about anything I just said. Where Carcass claimed that Surgical Steel would comprise all aspects of their career and still delivered what was to my ears Swansong-with-blast beats, At The Gates have given us a record that pulls the best elements from With Fear I Kiss the Burning Darkness, Terminal Spirit Disease, and Slaughter of the Soul and somehow it doesn’t sound dated. Now, not all of it is free of aging-metalhead-fatigue: the groove riff toward the end of first-real track “Death and the Labyrinth” is slightly questionable and would fit more comfortably on a latter-day Haunted record, and “The Circular Ruins” has a largely forgettable first half. In each of these instances however the song is still salvaged by absolute gold: the latter song has some of the most emotive riffs they’ve ever done towards its end and the very first riff on the record is a ravenous harmony that screams out of the gate with an unexpected urgency given the band’s tenure and hiatus.

Despite the (very few) uninteresting riffs here and there, the palette of tones delivered here gives the album a multifaceted presence that normally shouldn’t exist on a “comeback” album. Most of the songs are around 3 to 4 minutes in length so you won’t be hearing the sprawling progressive arrangements of WFIKTBD although its more sinister tones are there, and the guitar harmonies are some of the best they’ve penned- culling from the emotional aspects of Terminal Spirit Disease yet displaying the maturity of a band with decades under its belt.

Not all of the album’s success is rooted in a progression on your nostalgia towards their previous records, however. If you want an album full of polka-beats like Slaughter of the Soul was you won’t find it here. Although there are plenty of thrash beats it seems as though the band is more focused on creating moods this time through unique key changes and maintaining each song‘s individual identity. Those familiar with Daylight Dies’ last couple of records and the newest Dark Tranquillity will hear what I’m talking about.   I wouldn’t call what you’ll hear on At War with Reality new per se, but it definitely sounds like a band that is still hungry and is enjoying progressing as songwriters. It’s definitely not something that jumps miles out from under their umbrella, but it has the immediacy and attention to detail that makes it an essential chapter for a band who clearly has more to say and didn’t ultimately intend for their previously resounding statement to serve as their epitaph.

And don’t worry. Lindberg still sounds fucking awesome.

 

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jerry Hauppa
November 10th, 2014

Comments

  1. Commented by: gabaghoul

    great write-up and for putting it in context, love the mention of “22 years of pain”. welcome to the team!

    personally I am enjoying the everliving fuck out of this album. after more than 15 years of having their sound ganked by metalcore bands it’s great that ATG could turn out a melodeath album that sounds pure and not dated.


  2. Commented by: Dan

    Finding a good melodic death metal record today is like looking for Bigfoot. Last sighting was in 2011 with Obsequiae’s “Suspended in the Brume of Eos.” Absolutely outstanding.

    http://bindrunerecordings.bandcamp.com/album/suspended-in-the-brume-of-eos


  3. Commented by: Paul

    Very well written review! Loved the 22 years ref. Outstanding album, culls the best feelings from previous albums while still sounding fresh and relevant. They are playing here in Tokyo next Feb, can’t wait!


  4. Commented by: Luke_22

    This is a really good album. Initially I was pretty underwhelmed but it turned into a real grower with lots of subtle hooks. Good rreview


  5. Commented by: Juan Manuel Pinto

    I agree 100% that Obsequiae’s “Suspended in the Brume of Eos” is a great album. However I wouldn´t call it melodic death metal. In fact I wouldn´t know what to call it other than “metal” and “excellent”.


  6. Commented by: vugelnox

    This album is growing on me, I really like it.

    Obsequiae’s album is pure genius. One of the best of the last few years. A short snippet I heard from their upcoming second album sounds even more impressive.


  7. Commented by: Jason

    Soon as I get paid I’m buying this. From the songs I’ve heard, this is pretty much one of the few “comeback” albums that really is a comeback. I don’t feel like they’ve lost a step, I just have to readjust my ears for this type of sound again.

    Truth be told I haven’t been much for the more melodic death/thrash style in quite awhile. But, that’s all coming back to me now thanks ATG new tunes.

    Great review!


  8. Commented by: Blackwater Park

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