At The Gates | ‘To Drink From The Night Itself’
I do think I’m getting harder to shock.
Broadly, you know the lay of the land with bands by this point.
All the same, this one has really caught me off guard. Almost every track impressed me right from the first listen.
And after the hashed out blandishment of ‘At War With Reality’ that really did stop me in my tracks.
There is familiarity, of course. The beats are exactly as you know them from the big book of At The Gates Greatest Hits.
Now is hardly the time for them to be throwing that winning formula out.
And that familiarity is surprisingly potent, though I’d be normally loathe to admit it. The first time the title track on this crashed out I was almost transported back to buying Slaughter Of The Soul all those years ago. I couldn’t believe how powerful that memory was, on foot of just hearing four opening bars.
It was the warmth of the production; it just sounds like it could have been off the same album.
But thankfully what makes this album fantastic is not a nostalgia trip. Far from it. It’s because they’ve put real thought and songwriting depth into the tracks.
There’s a boomy bigness about the whole thing. ‘A Stare Bound In Stone’, second up, plumbs some considerable layered depths in its sound, particularly toward the end – a close listen is like peeling back the layers of an onion, where various guitar parts and tonalities sit one on top of the other.
There are moments at that back section that even sound like Emperor’s ‘IX Equilibrium’, if you can believe that. Is this some new musical facet that Jonas Stalhammar has brought, replacing one of the Bjorler twins on guitar? It seems the most likely explanation.
You could say that Tomas Lindberg is oddly far back in the mix – its the one major difference between this and their prior albums, where his always stirring pained gargle was right in your face.
Meanwhile – more strangeness – ‘Daggers Of Black Haze’ has an almost ‘Blackwater Park’ or more likely ‘Still Life’-era Opeth ominous melody about it. Listen to that clean guitar and bounding bassline?
Again, these are not comparisons you would have credited even a year or two ago.
In fact its the slow songs that make this album – not the fast ones. The pace is well varied throughout though, and the blend keeps you interested.
‘The Chasm’ has a nice reference to d-beat feel, channeling some of Tomas’ great work with Disfear, while retaining a heavy menace, while ‘In Nameless Sleep’ hammers home.
I didn’t really like ‘At War With Reality’. It was dull. This album shames it with a long overdue creative rejuvination where even Adrian Erlandsson’s drumming has gotten more diverse and satisfying than his long list of contributions to many bands over the years.
So for that reason, this is Album Of The Month. At The Gates have absolutely pulled it out of the bag, surprising with an album of arresting heaviness and creative satisfaction.
They’re old pros.
4.3 / 5 – Earl Grey ::: 10/05/18