Exclaim!'s Best of 2014: Top 10 Metal & Hardcore Albums

8. At The Gates
At War With Reality
(Century Media)

For Swedish death metal troupe At The Gates, the fear was that they simply couldn't come close to achieving what they did on their swansong, Slaughter of the Soul, the pinnacle of melodic death metal. Then they did.

The kings of Gothenburg death metal complemented their masterpiece with another, expanding their sound by converging all their influences and thereby extending their legacy. Instead of writing Still Slaughtering the Soul, as they no doubt could have, they allowed their progression of sounds — both pre-disbanding and some of those explored by members in the band's aftermath — to coagulate.

While the less drastic jump from their last to their latest may cause the illusion that At War with Reality is repetition on the band's part, it's really more of a refining, and in the process, a revitalization of melodic death metal, a genre that has been so influential that, over time, its influence has paradoxically nearly disappeared under the weight of imitators imitating imitators. With At War with Reality, the kings are back. (Bradley Zorgdrager)