Every At The Gates album ranked from worst to best

At The Gates in 2022
(Image credit: Ester Segarra)

History (and a 12-year hiatus) may have sidelined At The Gates as a cult band, but the modern metal landscape would be vastly different without them. The Gothenburg mavens’ collision of death metal force, thrash precision and NWOBHM guitar leads was a prime influence on an array of millennial aggressors, from Killswitch Engage to Trivium. Yet none have rivalled their idols’ dexterity and energy.

Over 30 years, At The Gates have traversed from extreme metal to melodeath and even dashes of prog, and it’s still impossible to predict quite what each new release will sound like. To celebrate their legacy and ongoing excellence, Hammer’s ranked the band’s seven albums from worst to best:

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7. The Red In The Sky Is Ours (1992)

On At The Gates’ first two albums, ex-guitarist Alf Svensson was a key songwriter, and the band have since opined that his ideas were too complicated for their own good. This is especially obvious on debut The Red In The Sky Is Ours, which was a riff salad dressed with violin solos, proggy breaks and weird guitar symphonies. Although many individual moments could have shone by themselves, it’s hard to appreciate them when they’re so shoehorned together.

6. With Fear I Kiss The Burning Darkness (1993)

On their second album, At The Gates’ potential for melodeath mastery crawled into view. Early standout Raped By The Light Of Christ directly attacked with a chainsaw-like guitar tone for three minutes, and the harmonic riffing of The Burning Darkness glimpsed the later infectiousness of benchmark Slaughter Of The Soul. Although there were songs like the lengthier Primal Breath that still meandered along, With Fear I Kiss The Burning Darkness represented a much-needed sharpening of the Swedes’ songwriting.

5. To Drink From The Night Itself (2018)

At The Gates’ discography is all greatness from this point on. To Drink From The Night Itself didn’t iterate much that 2014 reunion album At War With Reality hadn’t already proven, but it continued the band’s comeback with a stack of death metal bangers. The title track violently threw back to anthems like Blinded By Fear with its brisk pace and shoutable hook, before A Stare Bound In Stone added some blackened, groovy reinforcement.

4. At War With Reality (2014)

Released 19 years after Slaughter Of The Soul, At War With Reality was one of the most long-awaited metal albums of all time. Despite the weight of that deck stacked against it, however, it was still a more-than-satisfying comeback. While Death And The Labyrinth maintained the all-adrenaline onslaught of Slaughter…, other standouts pushed into new pastures. The Night Eternal and its conclusion of dovetailing guitar leads clearly signposted that At The Gates still had statements to make.

3. The Nightmare Of Being (2021)

The Nightmare Of Being was At The Gates’ first post-reunion album to fully escape the shadow of Slaughter…. The band bravely ventured back into the experimental arena of The Red In The Sky Is Ours, yet did so with 30 years of experience, making the deviations make more sense. The Fall Into Time’s orchestral overtones, Cult Of Salvation’s keys and Cosmic Pessimism’s krautrock all seemed streamlined, united under the banners of bombast and excitement.

2. Terminal Spirit Disease (1994)

Guitarist Alf Svensson shed rank in 1993, letting the Björler brothers (guitarist Anders and bassist Jonas) take At The Gates’ songwriting reins. The twins plotted to lead the band down a more “classic metal” route, with NWOBHM-like guitars and a thrash-inspired gallop. Terminal Spirit Disease was released to introduce the “new” At The Gates, and upfront yet accessible ragers like The Swarm and the title track made it an incredibly promising second attempt at a first impression.

1. Slaughter Of The Soul (1995)

After Terminal Spirit Disease, At The Gates embarked on a UK tour so disastrous that they spent much of it stranded in a Norwich car park. They returned home pissed off and penniless, but immediately re-entered the studio with producer Fredrik Nordström. The band’s rage mixed with the anthemic approach they were already pursuing to make Slaughter Of The Soul a passionate, incensed and palatable masterpiece.

From the second Blinded By Fear crashed through its industrial introduction with a tirade of high-flying guitars, Slaughter… felt like the album metal history had been building up to. It had the intricacy of Morbid Angel, horrific black metal screams, speed metal’s chugging exhilaration and the six-string athleticism of Iron Maiden. With singer Tomas Lindberg yelling one-line refrains that could easily fit on bumper stickers, these 35 minutes also boasted the potential to broaden extreme metal’s audiences.

As a result, Slaughter… inspired a host of wannabes, many of which grouped together to become the New Wave Of American Heavy Metal. Names among those ranks – including Killswitch Engage, Shadows Fall and Unearth – achieved amazing things in their own right. However, no band since At The Gates has been able to recreate the intensity and irresistibility of this stone-cold classic.

Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.