This is without a doubt the biggest review I have undertaken in my few years of writing for Planetmosh. From a personal perspective, as with many other fans of this legendary Swedish band, the news of a new release has kept us all holding our breath. After albums which have been written into the bible of Death Metal and still inspire musicians and fans, even after the band’s breakup in 1996, what will the predecessor of Slaughter of the Soul sound like?
I have spent the last few weeks listening to this album which will finally be released on the 27th of of October in Europe by Century Media.
What will 9 years of other projects and reunion gigs bring to this new production? Let’s find out…At the Gates-At War with Reality.
Track one is titled El Altar Del Dios Desconocido which is a reference for the Greek “Unknown God”. A male voice chants in what sounds like Spanish until the voice is gradually drowned out and warped.
Death And The Labyrinth is track two which starts quite abruptly. Tomas’ familiar vocals pierce through the At the Gates signature sound. This could easily be a track from Slaughter of the Soul, it is safe and familiar.
At War With Reality seems even more familiar than the last track, mainly because we all listened to it several times on the teaser video. Although it also sounds very Slaughter-of-the-Soul-like it has a bit more oomph to it than the previous track. The pace and the main riff that comes in at the start of the track gets the adrenaline pumping and when the drums properly kick in at 0.24 that signature head banging groove that we love ATG for comes into play. That sense of chaos, hatred and despair is communicated beautifully yet again through Tomas’ vocals.
Track four is The Circular Ruins which again starts with a driving pace with stacks of groove and chunky riffs. The lead guitar solo at 1.15 is stunning and the tone is impeccable. This track progresses seamlessly and gives plenty of interest, variation and rawness. The riff and groove created at 1.38, brilliant. This track has something reminiscent of Terminal Spirit Disease for me. The drums slow and ends on a forlorn note and leaving me wondering what is coming next.
Heroes And Tombs is track five. A single lead guitar plays out a slow and melancholy riff and is then joined by a second which layers over the top, a fantastic buildup. A clean, chanting vocal joins in, then becomes unclean with an increased drum beat and the track drives forward. The section at 2.26 onwards works really well, the first riff reappears and takes us through a slower section before being joined by faster paced drums.
The Conspiracy of the Blind reminds me of Suicide Nation, the riffs and the structure is very similar. The chunky guitar riffs at 1.41 add something a bit different. The track seems to have taken on a different personality now and is something quite fresh and energetic.
Track seven, Order from Chaos starts with an emotive yet eerie guitar sound. A second guitar joins in and then a third with a solid drum beat, building the track gradually with plenty of suspense. Beautiful. When the pained vocals rip through you really feel a sense of disturbance and chaos. The track once again slows to clean vocals and then picks up the aggression giving a sense of narrative. The guitar harmonies from 2.48 are stunning, weaving in and out of each other before fading out.
The Book of Sand (The Abomination) is next. The track builds in volume once the initial riff and drum beat is introduced and a maniac pace proceeds. Thought I heard the lyric “We run like rats along the walls”. Great imagery. Another driven and groovy section at 1.42, this is what ATG do so well, everything you crave in one track, aggression, groove and emotion. Mental sounding solo fades out to another slow phase, whispering lyrics and layered guitars, one of which has an incredible tone. The same riff carried on and develops as the track picks up pace again, unreal.
The Head Of The Hydra slowly fades in with a series of tremolo chords which change key a few times, giving a sense of elation, wonderful. The riff chunk and vocal patterns 2.35, brilliant, as is the tremolo section straight after with those beautiful key changes again. I could listen to those all day.
Track ten is City Of Mirrors. A lone guitar plays a mournful tune and is the joined by a second to create a harmony. Aw wow…back. An unclean guitar comes in threatening to overtake and then a stunning lead guitar soars over it all, mirroring the riff on the lower guitar and then the guitars change and overlap and develop and move to other riffs and slow down again to let the original guitars break back through…and the track ends. Holy shit that was something else.
Eater Of Gods is next, I like the track title. Again another groovy, driven phase executed so well at 0.48 which also reappears later on. The structuring of the tracks is impeccable. A slower part at 2.04 allows the track to be built up again and refresh. 3 minutes in I am rewarded again with more groove!
Upon Pillars Of Dust…ooooooooffft! Let’s hear that again. YES. A brief question and answer session with the stereo balance and then the drums provide a stunning head banging groove. That’s what we like. That same riff and beat also comes in later on in the track and just gives that little bit of oomph, that bit you wait for. The guitar tone at 1.42 and the chunky ass riff at 1.49, gaaaaaar and then back to that first groovy riff again!
The last track of the album is The Night Eternal. An eerie lone lead guitar takes us in until the drums crash in. Love the little details that come through, such as the pinched harmonics at 0.44 and the disjoined chords in the background, giving it a slight black metal vibe. Love the main riff at 3.24. A solo seamlessly takes up the main riff and expands on it to take the listener to new elevations and join with another guitar to create an emotive harmony. The track eventually fades out on another lone guitar.
If I am honest I had no idea what to expect, nine years is a long time and like most fans of the band, we are still reeling from the idea that the band are writing new material. This is a band I never thought I would see live, even when I did for the first time at Wacken ’08 I would never have imagined I would be writing a review for their latest album six years later. While I didn’t want to compare At War With Reality too much with past releases and bang on about Slaughter of the Soul it is impossible not to hear some definite similarities as ATG have always had a unique sound. This album threw up many surprises; there were moments when I felt uninspired as a few tracks were quite similar to previous releases and I didn’t feel they offered anything that inspiring. However there were others which I had to go back and listen to several times in a row, stuffed with nuggets of genius. It has been a bit of a mixed bag for me but definitely one worth diving into. At the Gates are back and they are still fucking incredible.
- El Altar Del Dios Desconocido
- Death And The Labyrinth
- At War With Reality
- The Circular Ruins
- Heroes And Tombs
- The Conspiracy Of The Blind
- Order From Chaos
- The Book Of Sand (The Abomination)
- The Head Of The Hydra
- City Of Mirrors
- Eater Of Gods
- Upon Pillars Of Dust
- The Night Eternal
Tomas Lindberg – Vocals
Anders Björler – Guitars
Martin Larsson – Guitars
Jonas Björler – Bass
Adrian Erlandsson – Drums