When “At War With Reality” was announced back in 2014, it was made clear that whilst the band may have been simply touring off of their reputation alone and had changed their minds on the whole ‘not hitting the studio’ stance, At The Gates meant business. When it was announced that there would be a follow-up album, it made one thing clear – 2018 is going to be a BIG year in terms of releases.
Now, we all know who At The Gates are, we know how influential they are and there is no disputing how fantastic they are live and how ‘Slaughter Of The Soul’ is one of the finest metal albums to be released, but what we always seem to forget is just how rich the band’s back catalogue is and that they can play more than just the ‘expected’. “To Drink From The Night Itself” seeks to remind everyone of this. Yes, there will be the usual ‘ATG’ riff-monsters, but there will be much more to experience. So grab a glass and partake.
Obligatory, cinematic feel (and pointless) instrumental which will no doubt be the ‘Live Intro’ music track “Der Widerstand” gets the ball rolling and whilst it does bring an atmosphere and a build-up/transition-into purpose, it is a time/space filler which as mentioned in the lines above, will only serve one purpose practically. Thankfully, as the ‘dramatics’ finish, the title track explodes and gets things on the go. Things go exactly as you expect – the blistering pace, cutting guitar riffs, relentless rhythm section pounding and venomously roared vocals show that this is the ATG we are all familiar with and things are going ahead as expected. From here,” A stare bound in stone” continues the traditional riff- driven madness we all know ATG are capable of, the pacing, rhythmic execution and aggression are all on point with their delivery. Even when there is a slowdown section to allow some atmospheric lead melodic sequences, it keeps the raw edge and power firmly on display.
“Palace Of Lepers” is a monstrous track. Its presence is overwhelming in both atmosphere and tone. The guitars are precise, nailing the riffs and providing a solid foundation for the vocal rawness. The breaks and shifts in the track compound the heaviness and allow for big impact moments to consolidate just what is on offer. This track also brings in the “MDM” block; a series of tracks which form the majority of the release and will no doubt divide opinion. Whilst many will wish for a ‘more slaughter’ themed approach, it instead shifts to the darker, dynamic and atmospheric traditional Gothenburg-style melodic death metal. Raw, melodic orientated, technical, flair-laden and penetrating, the rest of the album blazes ahead like it is 1994!
Layers of arpeggios, buzzing leads, pedal-tore riffing and throat-wrecking vocals over a relentless rhythmic foundation make the run of tracks which include powerhouses like “In Nameless Sleep “, “A Labyrinth Of Tombs” and “In Death They Shall Burn”, all of which boast some of the best musical sequences ATG have composed in their ground-breaking career. Dynamic, immersive, captivating and of course, relentless, the onslaught of atmospherically charged MDM sweeps in and reminds everyone that there is more to ATG than ‘Slaughter Of The Soul’; it reminds us that it is Ok to appreciate the often ignored gem that is ‘Terminal Spirit Disease’.
That is not to say that this release is without faults. The closing track, “The Mirror Black” is rather anticlimactic, “The Colours Of The Beast” boasts fierceness, but is unremarkable and there are times where the atmospheric and melodic focus just drags on. These complaints aside, this is a formidable musical beast and it will be delightful to experience some of it this summer in a live setting!
( 8/10 Fraggle)