At The Gates – At War With Reality

Rating: 5/5
Distributor/Label: Century Media
Released: October 28th 2014


At The GatesBand Line-Up:

Thomas Lindberg – Vocals
Anders Bjorler – Guitar
Martin Larsson – Guitar
Jonas Bjorler – Bass
Adrian Erlandsson – Drums

Tracklisting:

1. El Altar De Dios Desconocido
2. Death And The Labyrinth
3. At War With Reality
4. The Circular Ruins
5. Heroes And Tombs
6. The Conspiracy Of The Blind
7. Order From Chaos
8. The Book Of Sand (The Abomination)
9. The Head Of The Hydra
10. City Of Mirrors
11. Eater Of Gods
12. Upon Pillars Of Dust
13. The Night Eternal

Review:

Well, here’s the most obvious contender for 2014’s most highly anticipated album. The last time At The Gates got together in a recording studio, they created the seminal ‘Slaughter Of The Soul,’ an undisputed classic of death metal that inspired an entire generation of bands and is widely regarded as the high watermark of their career. And that was nineteen years ago. To put that into perspective, the last time this band released new material, Princess Diana was still alive, nobody knew what South Park was and there were only three Star Wars movies (five if you count the two Ewok films).

But despite entire genres rising and falling in that time, people kept going back to ‘Slaughter Of The Soul’ and its status has only continued to rise. If their highly regarded reunion shows are any indication, more people are in love with the Swedish five piece now than back in their heyday and ‘At War With Reality’ carries entire lifetimes of expectations on its shoulders. It’s a massive relief then to say for the most part, it meets them. It isn’t the instant-game-changer its predecessor was, but it can sit happily alongside its famous big brother and not look out of place.

Part of this is because despite the passage of years, ‘At War With Reality’ could have been recorded in 1997. Once past the Spanish spoken word intro, it begins in earnest with ‘Death And The Labyrinth,’ which picks up right where ‘Slaughter Of The Soul’ left off. It slams into a furious, speaker-breaking guitar riff that is equal parts bruising and grand while Thomas Lindberg snarls like a chained Komodo dragon. Quite frankly, it sounds like the song that legions of other bands have been trying to write since the mid-90s and it’s fucking great. The immense title track then ups the ante and by the time ‘The Circular Ruins’ kicks off, ‘At War With Reality’ feels like it’s reached terminal velocity and can never slow down.

Indeed, aside from the melancholic instrumental ‘City Of Mirrors,’ the rest of the album is an invigoratingly merciless onslaught of thrashed up melodeath. The real strength though lies in the fact that they’ve clearly put a lot of time and effort into executing each track perfectly, so they all have their own distinct characteristics. ‘Heroes And Tombs’ is a gloomy mid-paced number, ‘The Conspiracy Of The Blind’ is an addictive anthem of malevolence and ‘The Book Of Sand (The Abomination)’ is four minutes of changing tempos and Lindberg vomiting his voice box up.

But it must be said, while ‘At War With Reality’ is terrific, it doesn’t quite reach the dizzying highs of its predecessor. That was always going to be a tough one to beat though and when the worst thing you can say about an album is “it’s not quite as good as a genre-defining, all conquering masterpiece,” you know you’ve got a repeat player on your hands. It’s always a risk when a band reunites and tries to bring back the glory days, but At The Gates have done it. Thank God all those years of swearing they’d never record again turned out to be false, this is a great album and we can’t recommend it enough.

Review by Tim Bolitho-Jones
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