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At The Gates – The Nightmare Of Being Award winner

At The Gates
The Nightmare Of Being
by Justin "Witty City" Wittenmeier at 28 June 2021, 6:35 AM

AT THE GATES is a melodic death metal from Sweden whom you may have heard of.  Along with IN FLAMES and DARK TRANQUILLITY, they helped pioneer melodic death metal and the Gothenburg sound of which it is famous for.  They have released seven full lengths album, with three of those having been released since their return in 2007.   The latest of these is “The Nightmare Of Being” and it is a definite step up from the previous album “To Drink From The Night Itself.”

I find this to be the best of their modern output—and it is without a doubt their most adventurous and diverse album to date.   I’m not saying the band has changed; on the contrary, this album is still the AT THE GATES we all know and love but with just…more.  Jazz and progressive elements pop in and out of the album to expand their sound and keep it fresh. The production still feels a bit off to me for some reason but it indeed sounds better than “To Drink From The Night Itself,” an album that grew on me but didn’t have the immediate impact this one sure does.

For Jonas Stålhammar, this is his second album with the band and he seems much more confident and focused this time around—-as does the band as a whole.  “The Nightmare Of Being,” is an album that is sees the band really focusing yet expanding their sound. “Spectre of Extinction,” opens the album up with pretty clean guitar—sounds like the classic days of the Gothenburg sound when bands put in a lot of acoustic or clean moments into the music.  The melody is very organic and continues on when the metal is cranked up around the the 32 second mark.  The song grows darker, and faster, as it builds up to Tomas’ famous death screams.  At this moment, even this early into the album, I can tell the band has renewed energy.  Every member is firing on all cylinders and it translates to a very enjoyable listening experience.

The title track is a highlight for the album, as will it should be.  Clean and melodic music lays in the background over Tomas’ spoken word.  He begins barking out his vocals in between stanzas that recall back to the hazy melodic opening but this time he keeps screaming…it sounds so good this way.  The song itself is mid paced with a grimy main riff. The two halves of the song are split by a guitar solo and more spoken word passages.

Garden Of Cyrus,” signifies some of the ideas the band had for the album and their desire to push their sound forward.  The song builds up nicely for well over a minute with music that somewhat reminds me of post-metal, with the way it strides the line between light and dark moods.  A jazzy guitar solo comes next, followed by the saxophone.  It seems every band is using a sax these days with varying degrees of success but it feels right at home with AT THE GATES.  The song continues to build with the saxophone leading the charge alongside Tomas’ spoken word whispers that grow in intensity, resulting in his trade mark vocals as the song reaches climax.

The Fall Into Time,” is one of the best songs the band as ever wrote and it is expertly placed on the album at just over the halfway mark.  This song reinvigorates and album that was already continuing to build momentum, pushing it over the edge into new found glory.  The beginning moments are classical and orchestral—-I find it to be a fine contrast against Tomas’ vocals.  The band returns to another jazz/prog section towards the end of the song; Jonas’ bass and Adrian’s drums are the highlight here and they seem to be as at ease playing this style as they do anything else.

Cosmic Pessimism,” is another outside the box song that begins with a jaunty and catchy bass/drum combo that doesn’t sound anything like the band has ever done before but by god they make it work.  Around the 1:20 mark, Tomas’ vocals start to get a little rough but he holds back, savoring the moment for later use.  That moment comes at the 2:18 mark where the music is still quite a bit different for the band but Tomas’ makes it familiar and warm.

The final track “Eternal Winter Of Reason,” is an atmospheric banger.  The opening riffs are fucking great and had my bald head banging like it was 1985.  The song settles on this groove and Tomas rips through it. The lead guitar changes the song and gives it a smooth flavor in parts but still rooted in the melodic tendencies of the genre they helped create. AT THE GATES have impressed with their desire to not only keep going after all these years but also doing so in a way that honors their classic sound while pushing towards the future.  If they can take the ideas they have on “The Nightmare Of Being,” and further explore them while still keeping their roots intact, their next album will probably be a masterpiece.  This one is damn good though and their best in years.

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 9
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Spectre of Extinction
2. The Paradox
3. The Nightmare of Being
4. Garden of Cyrus
5. Touched by the White Hands of Death
6. The Fall into Time
7. Cult of Salvation
8. The Abstract Enthroned
9. Cosmic Pessimism
10. Eternal Winter of Reason
Lineup:
Jonas Björler -Bass
Adrian Erlandsson - Drums
Tomas Lindberg - Vocals
Martin Larsson - Guitars
Jonas Stålhammar - Guitars
Record Label: Century Media Records
     


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