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At the Gates – The Nightmare of Being

at the gates – the nightmare of being


10 Tracks spread of 39 minutes, an album that doesn’t overstay its welcome but crams a lot into that running time. Is Nightmare of being a band returning to old haunts or a band stretching their collective legs and moving forward.

If the first 2 tracks are anything to go then you would be forgiven in thinking that the band was making small movements but sticking firmly to what they are known for. Heavy guitars with Melodic flourishes, drums, bass all are present but here is my first real criticism, the vocals lack that bark that Tomas is known for. The delivery and clarity is still recognisable as him but in terms of the vocals on the album either age hasn’t been to kind to his vocal chords or the vocals have been tamed down to fit within the albums confines.

These initial tracks are nothing unexpected and retain that traditional At The Gates sound but with extras. Small synth stabs, occasional more modern style of guitar riffs with the ending of “The Paradox” being a prime example of this.

As the album moves on the bass becomes more prominent not only in the mix but as the lead instrument. Take the title track the bass is very much the main focus at the start of the track with the guitars really sitting back and filling in some of the space.

Now to where the At The Gates we know from the last few releases departs, “Garden of Cyrus” for me is where the band bring their biggest change of sound not in terms of their core sound but their departure into prog territory and the dreaded Saxophone. I’m not a fan of Saxophone in metal, its an overused instrument often used when bands want to show they are experiments, or just band wagon jumping.

Its clear that At The Gates have pushed themselves far beyond their Death Metals roots but their use of the Sax is tasteful instead of dissonant and is introduced at the tail end of a guitar solo where it weaves a melodic dance before moving seemingly into a backing instrument allowing the vocals to take centre stage. This wont change my mind on the use of Sax in metal but it won’t make me skip this track either.

Another part of this album that comes up time and time again is the spoken word parts its nothing new for the band and is used in a large amount of the songs but more about that later.

“Garden of a Cyrus” is At The Gates going prog there is no other way of putting it from the drum patterns to the bass sections which see Jonas almost being set free from supporting the drums to move and create other melodies and points of interest.

At its core its still At The Gates but as there are enough elements there of what make the band what they are.

The instrumental build up of “Touched by the White Hands of Death” is one of my favourite parts of the album, whilst it builds up it doesn’t do it by a volume raise or bringing all the instruments in its more subtle and when the song does crash in it is with a classic riff and then moves forward into a business as normal track but then ends with more orchestration so the intro section doesn’t feel like it was added on as a token addition more of a part of the whole song.

I mentioned previously about the Spoken Word parts and whilst they can be used to great effect there is a danger they can be overused. My initial fear was much like the orchestration that the band had run out of ideas and were using them as song writing crutches. The penultimate track “Cosmic Pessimism” uses the spoken word delivery throughout and reminds me of The Haunted song Forensick that continuous stream of Lyrics where the lyrics are the focal point. Are they over used maybe, do the songs suffer for having them? No they do no they are just part of the dynamic shift within the songs.

This album wasn’t as immediate as their comeback album but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad album.

At the Gates has always been a band that has evolved and whist that evolution may have slowed since their comeback album its now gained pace a good dose of forward momentum. If your after a pure Melo Death album then pick another album, if you want an album where the song writing has developed and new ideas added then you could do worse than give this album your attention.

Attention is the word here, sit back and give the album a real listen without thinking of the past and who they were. Maybe the clue is in the name of the first track Spectre of Extinction, was that the bands greatest fear that by not changing they would become a band trading on nostalgia and past deeds.

Overall this album is the sound of a band experimenting and taking chances but not at the expense of what made them, well worth a listen and a solid album with a few future classics. (Rich)

Century Media

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