One of the most exciting aspects of influential death metal acts like AT THE GATES and CARCASS awaking from hiatus-induced slumber, has been seeing each band return with newly recorded material that made it seem like the last twenty years of pretenders to the throne never happened. Given the myriad of clones and second-, third-, and fourth-generation dupes that pillaged every page from the melodic-death playbook, watering down the overall sound, there was curiosity as to whether each band would sound vital upon recording new material. Much like its peer CARCASS did with its 2013 comeback, "Surgical Steel", so too did AT THE GATES land on its feet with the band's 2014 return, "At War With Reality". The record was a natural progression from its 1995 landmark "Slaughter of the Soul", with new songs blending in seamlessly in subsequent live shows alongside well-worn favorites.
The four years since "At War With Reality" have seen a chip in the band's armor, as longtime guitarist Anders Björler departed during the songwriting process for the band's new record, "To Drink from the Night Itself". Björler's simple reasoning was that "the passion is gone."
Luckily for fans, the passion still very much remains for the rest of the band on the group's latest record, and that passion is evident in the final product. With longtime friend of the band Jonas Stålhammar stepping in on guitar, AT THE GATES forges forward as one would have imagined the path moving forward to have been, whether there was a lineup change or not. Vocalist Tomas Lindberg's barks are as furious as ever, Adrian Erlandsson's drumming reliably pummels throughout the duration, and Stålhammer fits in effortlessly alongside guitarist Martin Larsson and bassist Jonas Björler. This is a record that had AT THE GATES stayed together and become a career band, similar to AMORPHIS and DARK TRANQUILLITY, it would likely still be the record the group would have released in 2018.
That's not to say "To Drink From The Night Itself" is a pure redux of broken-in sounds. After the haunting acoustic intro track, "Der Widerstand", AT THE GATES spends the next forty-three minutes alternating between straight-up moshers and slower-paced, moodier tracks. The record's track sequencing is expertly paced, with the mid-tempo tracks scattered throughout the album in-between the tracks that are more indicative of what we view as the traditional AT THE GATES sound. Songs such as the title track, "In Nameless Sleep", and "In Death They Shall Burn" all sound like they could have been B-sides to "Slaughter of the Soul". Other tracks such as "Daggers of Black Haze" are mid-tempo stompers with a more primal sense of brutality.
In the live setting, we anticipate that "The Colours of the Beast" will lead to the most violent pit of the evening. This back-half track is a crunchy dirge, a plodding display of raw force that seems to be the one nod to the New Wave of American Heavy Metal acts that were inspired by the band's original run.
AT THE GATES's previous record was a slam-dunk; a band reclaiming its throne. "To Drink From The Night Itself" showcases a group maintaining its throne, while taking a few calculated risks throughout.