Published Oct 24, 2014At the Gates' Slaughter of the Soul closed with "The Flames of the End," and so it was for the next 19 years: the career end of one of metal's brightest young bands had seemingly gone up in a blaze. However, the impressive thing about the return of the progenitors of Swedish melo-death isn't the time elapsed since their last album; rather, it's how much it sounds like none has. At War With Reality sounds like it could have been written in 1996, before the pressure of doing so led to their untimely demise.
This followup to Slaughter of the Soul is hardly a carbon copy. That original swansong distilled their sound to a deadly thrashing, negating the more progressive melancholy of their earlier material, which they've now reincorporated. The ominous darkness enabled by this falls between the fear that something terrible is about to happen and the gut feeling that something tragic already has. The songs often successfully fade out to a soundtrack of sorrow, as in the oscillating weeping riff at the end of "The Circular Ruins," the rise and fall of the closing of "The Head of the Hydra" and the dreary dusk brought to mind by "The Night Eternal." The desperation behind Tomas Lindberg's legendary vocals give emphasis to the sweeping melodies, accentuating their emotional weight.
There are more than enough crunchy melodic death metal riffs to headbang to on At War With Reality, but with At The Gates, it's always been what they aren't that sets them apart, rather than what they are. In 1995 they weren't the standard gruff death metal band, and in 2014 they aren't one of the countless bands that have ripped them off. That's precisely what makes them At The Gates.
Read our recent interview with At the Gates here. (Century Media)