This is something a lot of us have been waiting a long time for. Back in 2008, the legendary Scandinavian death metal pioneers reformed for a series of festival dates and at that time, they announced that they weren’t going to write any new material. Six years on, something must have changed because everyone who loves this band has got their wish – a new album from At The Gates! We don’t need to introduce them, everyone knows who they are, so let’s just brace ourselves and be at war with reality.
“El Altar Del Dios Desconocido” (Translated to The Altar of the Unknown God) opens the album. It is a minute long all Spanish monologue and because I don’t have the words to it, I can’t translate it, but the eerie swirling noises behind it help set the ominous scene this creates. As soon as it ends, “Death and the Labyrinth” kicks in. The trademark buzzsaw like guitars, pounding drums and thunderous bass brings the album to life before the first of many great riffs leads us to the verse. The power in the vocals is typical of ATG and everything just clicks perfectly. It’s like the band haven’t missed a beat in the 18 year gap between this and Slaughter of the Soul. “At War With Reality” follows this up and this is a track we should all be familiar with as it’s been kicking round for a few weeks now. The riff is very reminiscent of ‘Slaughter of the Soul’ and you’d be forgiven for expecting the iconic “GO!” shout after a few seconds. It’s tight, it’s precise and its ferocity will have you headbanging or windmilling along. The lead section is great – full of melody and the bass line under it is pretty decent too. In all, it’s a great track and a good reflection for the rest of the album.
“The Circular Ruins” opens up with a very crushing groove driven riff. Not as quick as the previous track, it still retains its bite with the simple approach – chugging riffs and powerful vocals. The lead melodies in the chorus and the solo are straight to the point, complimenting the crushing rhythm work they lie over and the vocals are just what you’d expect. “Heroes and Tombs” opens up with a clean section underneath some slow distorted leads. Keeping with the slower pace, this song comes in with another big heavy groove. Lindberg does some ominous sounding speaking parts before breaking into his trademark roar as the song continues to roll on with the heavy groove feel. It’s similar to the previous track, but has a heavier edge and feel to it. “The Conspiracy of the Blind” ups the tempo once more with that trademark style of riffing the band are known for and you can’t help but get caught up in it. With its precise chugging verses, intricate harmonies and occasional clean section, it’s an all round solid track. The middle section adds some serious beef to the track and the ending is wrapped up with a twisting lead section. “Order from Chaos” opens up with an eerie sounding sample before the drums and a clean guitar bring the track in, building up the suspense which is shattered by the vocals. It’s a slower paced track which has that chugging rhythm underneath the clean arpeggios and slightly lower in the mix lead lines. It’s not as intense as the previous tracks but it’s a good change of scenery and style, mixing it up a little, and it pays off.
“The Book Of Sand (The Abomination)” Brings us back to the usual ATG sound. The HM-2 driven guitar assault with relentless drumming brings out another classic sounding intro but the main riff is where it is at. The ferocity just hits you straight on and you know when this gets played live, all hell will break loose. It’s got the twin guitar lead moment just after the halfway mark before a clean break into a slower paced outro which just grooves its way through to the finish. “The Head of the Hydra” fades in with some guitar work before another big riff moment. Like the last track, it hits hard, but this one has more pace and the edge to it. The lead work is simple and effective, fitting well with the flow of the track and the rhythm is just as consistent as ever. “City of Mirrors” is a short instrumental which acts more like an intro to the next track. It starts off clean with some nice melody before it gets some distortion to it before it fades out, right into the drum roll signalling the start of “Eater of Gods”. This one has the similar edge and ferocity of the two tracks before it. The tight rhythm, powerful vocals and intricate guitar lines rip through the song, along with a more flashy and frantic sounding lead section. It breaks clean round the halfway mark before it gets into a groove section which then lasts till the end of the track, accompanied by the cutting leads ATG are known for.
“Upon Pillars of Dust” mixes the frantic and groove. Its relentless rhythm and riffs make a brilliant combination which results in a powerful track which will have you headbanging along to the groove once more. Live, this could be a highlight in the set and its chorus section has that epic feel to it. Closing the album is “The Night Eternal”. It starts off clean once more before kicking in. Filled with groove, it powers through, slower than some of the tracks, but just as intense with its rapid-fire lead lines and steady, pounding rhythm. It slows down during the break in the middle before a great lead section opens up which transitions into a harmony solo for a moment before the lead section riff returns and the song fades out, ending with a clean melody which wraps the album up.
“At War With Reality” is one of the most anticipated releases of this year and for good reason. The only downside is that sometimes, it seems like some of the tracks blend together, but that’s only a minor complaint really. At The Gates are back… Get this!