At The Gates
At War With Reality
27 October 2014
by Pete Long
It is very hard to escape the influence of Slaughter of the Soul. At The Gates’ classic still stands as the consensus pinnacle of the melodeath genre, and remains a touchstone of much of modern metal. So it’s probably best to establish from the off that At War with Reality – arguably the most anticipated comeback album since Carcass’ Surgical Steel – is not a clone of its predecessor.
That does not have to be a reason for disappointment though. The sound of At War With Reality is darker and denser than its predecessors, so that even tracks like ‘The Conspiracy of the Blind’ that bear a close resemblance to Slaughter… sound distinct. That darkness lends itself well to the moodiness that runs through the album, such as with ‘City of Mirrors’, and also to the twisted tremolo harmonies reprised from prior to Terminal Spirit Disease. Those melodies form a huge part of the album, from the moment ‘Death and the Labyrinth’ kicks into life, to the album’s closing moments on ‘The Night Eternal’. All of this is delivered with a beautiful clarity (with credit going both to Studio Fredman and to the precision of all the musicians involved) and an urgent aggression driven by Tomas Lindberg’s vocals.
Most crucially, the quality of song writing remains as strong as ever – even picking out highlights from the 13 tracks on offer is a difficult task. ‘The Book of Sand (The Abomination)’ overbrims with taut aggression and could become a live favourite. ‘Of Heroes and Tombs’ brings a grandeur to the sense of melancholy that At the Gates play on so often here. Then there’s the more complex tracks, like the pensive yet raw-edged ‘Order from Chaos’, and ‘The Night Eternal’ with its powerful ‘Fade to Black’-esque outro that stays lodged in the brain.
Melodeath might been a stagnant genre of late, and At War with Reality might not change that, but it does prove that At The Gates can still produce classics. It is poised between catchiness and subtlety, between aggression and melancholy, catching the best of At The Gates’ youthful brilliance without feeling old. It might be the best album released this year; it might even be the best album At the Gates have ever released too.
Sounds Like: The classic Gothenburg sound updated for the modern age
Standout Tracks: The Book of Sand (the Abomination), Of Heroes and Tombs, The Night Eternal