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At The Gates | ‘At War With Reality’

It seems like we can’t go more than a couple of months without talking about some kind of reunion album.

You likely know the score at this stage. ‘At War With Reality’ is At The Gates’ first album since the then swansong of 1995’s ‘Slaughter of the Soul’.

It goes without saying that ‘Slaughter of the Soul’ is an epochal album in the grand scheme of things. An album that had a profound effect on the sound of Swedish melodic death metal and, ultimately, the wave of US metalcore that followed in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s.

‘Slaughter of the Soul’ is a fine example of going out on an absolute high. So when At The Gates reformed in 2007 for a string of live shows, the excitement to hear some classic tunes again was understandable but it’s also met with consternation over a new album, which was finally confirmed earlier in the year. Can a band that hasn’t written music together in nearly 20 years deliver once again?

Admittedly the track record of reunion metal albums has actually been pretty solid over the last year or two (Carcass, Godflesh, Gorguts) but you could argue that these bands are anomalies, bands that have always been a cut above their peers, including in their initial runs. For every great record like that, you may get a Pestilence 2.0 or something.

Sadly, ‘At War With Reality’ doesn’t fall into the right category in this equation. They’ve played it pretty safe here.

In all honesty, ‘At War With Reality’ should have come storming into the fray, putting every band that’s aped ‘Slaughter of the Soul’ for years in their place but unfortunately At The Gates end up sounding just like those bands.

Granted, all the hallmarks of a good melodic death metal album are here but the execution doesn’t carrying the intense bite it needs. Vocally Tomas Lindberg is on fine form but he’s barking out over generally forgettable riffs that sound like the Brothers Björler’s recycling from The Haunted’s abandoned basket.

This isn’t to say that the album is offensively bad, in fact in can be enjoyable at times. One could point to ‘Heroes and Tombs’ halfway through for a prime example of ‘At War With Reality’ delivering the goods but once the album comes to an end there’s nothing to immediately draw you back in for a repeat listen.

Plenty of times songs will bleed into each other too and in that regard, the album can fly by but not in a good way. A song like ‘The Book of Sand (The Abomination)’ is hard to differentiate from its next track ‘The Head of the Hydra’ and this is a common theme on ‘At War With Reality’.

Perhaps these tunes will have much viciousness in a live setting but on record, it’s all rather pedestrian and unfortunately, won’t be setting the world on fire any time soon.

2.1/5 – Jonathan Keane ::: 30/10/14

  1. It’s grand I guess, but I think the comment about the surplus Haunted riffs screams out here.

    Nicely written review.

  2. I read somewhere the brothers said they would never make a new album after reforming, but the fans were screaming out for a new album
    they maybe should have stuck to their guns if they didn’t feel it originally. like we are all dying for a new bolt thrower but they won’t bring one out cause they don’t feel they have anything new to offer
    from what I’ve heard of this it is safe like you’ve said. will be ok in a live setting no doubt but was it really needed

  3. I gotta say I find it a bit of a grower, on my third listen now and if anything it’s not a retread of Slaughter of the Soul so it doesn’t feel as thrashy and mental but instead bringing back a lot of their sound from the debut, The Red in the Sky is Ours which has a much more mid-paced feel about it. I’d recommend a few spins and keeping that in mind before you dismiss it entirely.

  4. Excellent review and I agree about Thomas Vocals and the fact it flys by and noy alot stands out .Given it plenty of spins but its very average if Im honest .

  5. pentagrimes Says:

    I’ll have to disagree with Aiden here – I hear very little of “The Red..” in here at all and I’ve been listening to that record for 20 years now. They seem to be reaching for the mid ground they achieved on “Terminal Spirit Disease” if anything, but as everyone keeps saying, there’s just absolutely not fire or intensity in the music on this record, and that’s really what drove ATG. They sound bored. I’ve listened to this three or four times all the way through, and I can’t remember a single riff. I’m actually not sure I can be arsed seeing them now in January as I suspect most of their set will be this and “Slaughter”.

    It could have been worse, but yeah, a band like this cannot afford to come back with an average album.

  6. paul keohane Says:

    Ive the same fear now about the set list in january,chances are a few classics will be chopped from the set to fit in new tracks.

  7. resonant paddy Says:

    It has that unmistakable ATG sound which is great but to be honest it sounds like the million scuzz bands out there that all sound the same. Lost interest after a minute

  8. Well, I agree with John. I gave it a few spins, from the artbook version. The DVD mix sounds incredibly good.

  9. paulmcloughlin5 Says:

    a strong come back cd and a right good trasher,nothing new but it still sounds fresh.will i still listen to this in 1 year now maybe,only time will tell.but this is a good cd.looking forward to the dublin gig now. 7 out of 10

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