CD Review: ‘At War With Reality’ by At The Gates

In 1995, Swedish death metal band At The Gates released Slaughter of the Soul. Today the album is lauded as pioneering the melodic death metal sound alongside Carcass’s Heartwork. The band broke up in 1996 as the Bjorler Brothers formed the thrash metal outfit, The Haunted. At The Gates then reformed in 2007, and since then have toured and played at several high profile metal festivals. The group was initially reluctant to release a new record, but finally decided to and here we are with At War With Reality.

The record picks up where the band left off with Slaughter. “Death and the Labyrinth” is no frills, straight ahead death metal. The classical melody the group is known are present here, but subtler than on earlier releases. Musical complexity takes a backseat to jugular ripping riffs and speed. The title track stands out for its melancholy riffs and dynamic structure. The exigency of the leads and chord progressions evoke a gloomy feel on this track. The eerie “Heroes and Tombs” opens with a haunting clean riff and then crashes in to a stream of slow riffs. There is a hardcore feel to this song without sacrificing the gothic tone overall. Things speed up again on the brilliant “Conspiracy of the Blind.” The thrashing assault and baroque instrumentation instantly makes one think “Oh yeah, this is At the Gates!” Drummer Adrian Erlandsson signs on this track with hard pounding drumming. The group gets its Morbid Angel on with “The Book of Sand (The Abomination)” as guitarists Anders Bjorler and Martin Larsson throwing out some unorthodox riffs that would make Trey Azagthoth smile.

Vocalist Tomas Lindberg trademark screeches are in full effect here, with an unnerving soft spoken verse at the end. The grandiose “Head of the Hydra” features some epic galloping riffs glittered with some twisted guitar fills.

At The Gates does not disappoint with this record. The songwriting is tight and the musicianship second to none. It is the At The Gates metalheads have come to love, complete with classical influences and Slayer worship. At War With Reality shows how the band was ahead of its time 20 years ago. There are so many death metal and metalcore bands that have emulated this group’s sound, but of course there is nothing like the real thing. At The Gates shows us how it is done on this record.

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