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At The Gates: At War With Reality

Swedish legends make a spectacular return

It’s understandable that there was a fair amount of apprehension as well as fervent excitement following the announcement of At The Gates’ first new material in nearly 20 years.

Though they’ve toured sporadically to rabid acclaim since their reunion in 2007, fans seemed more than happy to see the Gothenburg visionaries roll out a mix of their early death metal numbers and most of their 1995 masterpiece, Slaughter Of The Soul, without fear of their legacy being tarnished. After all, for every Surgical Steel there are a dozen mediocre reunions, while the band’s peers from the Swedish melodic death metal movement no longer herald the same euphoric appeal, having gradually moved away from the iconic sound that influenced an entire generations of aspiring bands – even The Haunted, who rose from the band’s ashes to take on a more thrash-inspired direction, haven’t always been the model of consistency.

However, any fears that At The Gates might have lost their touch are dispelled as soon as the Latin narrative of El Altar Del Dios Desconocido ends and the towering twin riffs of Anders Bjoler and Martin Larsson summon in Death And The Labyrinth, quickening the heartbeat and evaporating any doubts in one joyous swoop. The title track takes on just where Slaughter Of The Soul left off, gradually layering melodic guitars atop Adrian Erlandsson’s identifiable percussive clatter, before the mid-paced chug of The Circular Ruins delivers some of the most exquisite leads of the band’s career to date. While undoubtedly having some of the most familiar and catchy riffs of all their peers, At The Gates were always a far darker proposition, with the music conjuring a perfect atmosphere for Thomas Lindberg’s fierce lyrical odes to mythical realms and equally distressing real-life issues. The sinister Heroes And Tombs continues in this vein with its eerie harmonies and hypnotic refrain, while the multi-headed Order From Chaos is belligerent and unsettling in equal bite. The Book Of Sand (The Abomination) shows the band’s ability to write an effortlessly commanding tune while also being unafraid to explore different directions, stripping everything away to a sombre passage before indulging another mesmerising twin lead and Thomas’s flawless vocal attack. With just one listen it’s clear that each member is on the form of their life, wisely delaying the writing process until the feverish zeal was abundant enough to craft such a staggeringly formidable collection. Upon Pillars Of Dust’s clinical delivery gives way to the mournful cascade of The Night Eternal, concluding what is nothing short of an undisputed triumph.

Fitting an entire career’s worth of ideas and ambition into 45 minutes of sonic precision results in each track equalling or even surpassing the much-lauded classics that have come before, with every listen revealing new depths and standout moments. Ultimately At War With Reality isn’t only a validation of At The Gates’ place in the pantheon of metal greats, but an utterly outstanding album in its own right.

Via Century Media

TOMAS LINDBERG

VOCALS

The album references South American writers. How did they inspire you?

“Most of the authors who’ve come into the lyrical concept of the album stem from the literature genre of ‘Magic Realism’, where there are multiple stories interacting with each other on different levels; it’s rich with inter-textual references, metaphors and underlying themes. The lyrics are my attempts at writing in that style.”

Can we expect more ATG albums in the future?

“We’ve learned that bold statements haven’t worked so well for us in the past. During the writing process me and Anders said stuff like, ‘We’ll save that part for the next one…’ but you never know. We want to enjoy where we are right now, but I can tell you this: At The Gates are back! We are an active band again, and active bands play live and record albums!”