AT THE GATES
Three and a half years on from their absolutely phenomenal "comeback" album, 'At War With Reality', At The Gates have delivered another brand new studio album in the form of 'To Drink from the Night Itself'. So, what of these legendary Gothenburg melodic death metal pioneers in 2018? Well, this bunch have well and truly still got it. I'll say this right away - it's another corker.
As aficionados of the band will already be well aware, one of the two Björler brothers has now parted company with his metal brethren. Guitarist Anders is sadly no longer part of At The Gates, as of March last year. But I guess the reunion lasted way beyond his own expectations as, when I asked him about At The Gates in May 2010, following their initial reactivation in 2008, he told me, "That’s finished. The DVD was the final thing." So, in one sense, it's no surprise that he was the first to leave... following another seven unexpected years of the band for him. For the remaining personnel, however - vocalist Tomas Lindberg; guitarist Martin Larsson; bassist Jonas Björler; drummer Adrian Erlandsson; and newcomer on guitar, Jonas Stålhammar - they've continued as strong as they ever were.
Of the new boy, Stålhammar has been part of the Swedish death metal scene for nigh on three decades and also plays in The Lurking Fear with Lindberg and Erlandsson, so there's very much of a "keep it in the family" vibe about his recruitment. And according to press blurb, he was the only guitarist they tried out for the vacancy, and offered him the spot after just one rehearsal. But, apparently, he came into the fold when most of the album had already been written. And with Jonas Björler and Linberg at the compositional helm, the music was obviously in safe hands, such was the songwriting predominance of Björler on the band's seminal work.
Following a beautiful acoustic guitar and strings intro piece, 'Der Widerstand', metal first blasts forth courtesy of the album's title track. And it's a song that will transport certain listeners right back to 1995. This is so utterly steeped in a 'Slaughter of the Soul' musical aesthetic, it brought such a massive smile to my face upon initial listen. Bliss! But, what follows is certainly not 'SotS' regurgitated nostalgia. There are elements of that, for sure, but compositions see At The Gates progress further still with their solid foundations. And there's certainly more progression than regression here... an album that sounds refreshingly At The Gates, but also one that's a relevantly formidable beast in 2018. It's musical perfection, performance-wise, and Lindberg proves yet again why he's one of the best growlers in the business, with so much personality and tonality in his delivery. There are few that come close to the emotionally charged nature of his three dimensional death vocals.
Produced by Russ Russell, alongside Björler (Jonas) and Lindberg, elements were captured across three different studios - vocals in Gothenburg; guitars, bass and drums in the Kettering; and strings in Örebro. Russell then mixed and mastered everything to utter perfection. It has an amazingly vibrant, raw yet polished, organic sound. There's no overzealous Pro Tools trickery at work here. This is one of those records that sounds alive with all kinds of sonic grit, vigour and healthy metal spirit. Fantastic songs, incredible performances, a great, well-balanced sound... what's not to like?
At The Gates firmly secured their place in the annals of metal history 20+ years ago, with the release of one of the genre's greatest ever records, 'Slaughter of the Soul'. So, in one sense, they have nothing to prove. It's all gravy, as they say. BUT, to hear the band turn out such finely crafted, hard-hitting albums in both this one and their last, is sheer bliss. They sound as enthusiastic and as hungry for it as they ever did. Whether or not they feel they have anything to prove in 2018 is a redundant consideration. It's simply At The Gates doing what they do best. What they do very fucking best.
TO DRINK FROM THE NIGHT ITSELF
Review by Mark Holmes
18th May 2018
1) Der Widerstand
2) To Drink From the Night Itself
3) A Stare Bound in Stone
4) Palace of Lepers
5) Daggers of Black Haze
6) The Chasm, 7) In Nameless Sleep
8) The Colours of the Beast
9) A Labyrinth of Tombs
10) Seas of Starvation
11) In Death They Shall Burn
12) The Mirror Black
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...to hear the band turn out such finely crafted, hard-hitting albums in both this one and their last, is sheer bliss. They sound as enthusiastic and as hungry for it as they ever did."