I might be the last person to on the At The Gates bandwagon. The band has a fantastic reputation behind them, and many other groups have made fantastic careers of borrowing from At The Gates’ riffs. Unfortunately, even more bands have had better careers by misusing these riffs (looking at you, metalcore). For that reason, I’ve always been hesitant to check the band out, but given that they finally put out a new record, it seemed like a good time to start listening to them. After two minutes of listening to this album, it became clear that I made a mistake to wait so long.
After a short intro, “Death and the Labyrinth” kicks off with one of the most potent riffs imaginable. Surprisingly, it’s more in the colder black metal vein (ie: Dissection). This is a recurring theme on the album. While not all of the riffs are necessarily black metal, many of them make excellent use of dissonance in order to create a feeling of despair. This adds an element of depth beyond bludgeoning brutality. Of course, At The Gates provides that as well. Some of these riffs are incredibly heavy, and the band occasionally pays great homage to the old-school Swedish death metal scene that they were bred in. The fact that the band is able to seamlessly switch between several different styles of riffs makes the album flow incredibly well. It also prevents the songs from blending into each other. Additionally, because all of the songs (other than the last one) are so short, nothing overstays its welcome. Each song simply provides a crushing, gut-wrenching experience, and then the band moves onto the next track.
As with many metal albums, the highlights on this record prove to be the songs with the most memorable and enjoyable riffs. The aforementioned “Death and the Labyrinth” is the best example, but the title track, “The Head of the Hydra”, and “The Night Eternal” rank up there as well. Beyond the great riffs, At The Gates also makes plentiful use of guitar solos, and while they are not necessarily as virtuosic as some of their peers’ guitar shredding, they fit the songs perfectly. They add to the feeling of hopeless despair that some of these riffs create, and ultimately create something very intense. On “At War With Reality” it immediately becomes clear that At The Gates are not only the primary influence for this entire style of melodic death metal, but also among the best bands to ever play it. If this record is any indication of the quality of their older material, it’s about time I get on investigating that as well!
Be sure to check out and like At The Gates on Facebook!
"Death and the Labyrinth"
"At War With Reality"
"The Head of the Hydra"
4.2/5 or 84%.
Written by Scott