Review: At the Gates — To Drink from the Night Itself
At the Gates is back with To Drink from the Night Itself, a record written with a very interesting concept and neat melodies, of course. Join us in the listening while reading our review!
After a long hiatus period, the Swedish legends At the Gates returned with a divisive yet still successful record in the form of At War with Reality. For many metal followers, the shadow casted by the now famous Slaughter of the Soul, was so potent that led astray the radical experiments of The Red in the Sky is Ours.
In theory, that is the beauty and the curse of their discography. Being a pivotal force on the melodeath subgenre, many of those conflicted listeners tend to forget that, in general, the wicked presence of this band is big enough to reach both the old and the new styles of this bucolic branch of death metal.
Moving forward to 2018, May marks a new chapter of a band that has survived many vicisitudes and destinies. And they decided to celebrate the hardships and the art’s values with another recording: a little 40 minutes piece named To Drink from the Night Itself.
Unlike the previous release, At the Gates sees reality way different now. The exit of one of their core members, guitarist Anders Björler, saw the welcoming of Jonas Stålhammar, known for his work with a myriad of bands, including names like God Macabre, Crippled Black Phoenix, The Crown(Read the Toilet ov Hell interview about their last record here!) and The Lurking Fear.
This change of gears made this record steers to a position where the band had to confront the wild songwriting of their past glories with the compact style of the new era. In this sense, bassist Jonas Björler centralized now the scriptures after the departure of his brother and this probably meant to signify the little touches of old-school exaltation expressed in the tracklisting of this album.
What happens inside the music of To Drink from the Night Itself, then? What we can expect of it under the inside their ranks?
With a string of melancholic atmosphere, the record begins to gather its corpus under a piece titled “Der Widerstand” (translated to The Resistance), which name may provide some clues about the album’s direction and lyrical concept. The intro, built with a beautiful acoustic motif and supported by a orchestra and chorus crescendo, lay the ground to the title track, which was the first single revealed months ago.
“To Drink from the Night Itself” is pure At the Gates classicism. The hookey riffing is heavily punctuated by the great Adrian Erlandsson pummeling behind the kit, developing a thundering groove in the backbone of the band. In all, is a truly catchy tune, consonant with their traditional punchy numbers.
The same vibe spawns in the next two tracks, “A Stare Bound in Stone” and “Palace of Lepers”. The first one is another rhythmic monolith in which bass and drums are accentuated enough to dictates the way of their now traditionally sharp styled riffing shapes. The second one reminds a little of “The Circular Ruins”, from their last album, in which rhythm nuances changes from time to time to engulf the listener quite a bit in a more moved ride.
Then we get into “Daggers of Black Haze”, a great cut that revives the truly old-school sound of At the Gates, when the progressive music influences permeated the paranoiac instrumentation all the way. While the result is still somewhat tamed compared to their old standards, fans will be thrilled to hear the stringed section and the heart moving mysterious riffing.
The first half finishes with “The Chasm”, which is surrounded once again by that desperate atmosphere of the previous track, however the Swedish death metal and even crust punk roots are also present in this one, to pack the composition with a different edge. This includes, for sure, a punk-ish soloing right in the middle, which is in my opinion a truly delight!
“In Nameless Sleep” begins the second half of To Drink from the Night Itself, and this is when the record may show its few flaws for the more complex music seekers. While still a compelling listen to those fanatics of the Terminal Spirit Disease, Slaughter of the Soul and At War with Reality sound, the song follows the standard structure of said albums, with some punk or Swedish OSDM embellishments here and there in the middle breaks. The same can be said about the stomping “The Colours of the Beast”, the anthemic “A Labyrinth of Tombs”, the vicious “Seas of Starvation” and the headbangable “In Death They Shall Burn”.
Do not get me wrong, each of the tracks in this side are written with different little techniques all the way that season greatly the listening and I really enjoyed it for what they became. You get some gang shouts, some solos or some nicely done rhythms. But, I cannot help myself understand why those craving for a more weird songwriting, like they did in the first half, may feel themselves disappointed by these streamlined structures.
The running time is over in the lines of “The Mirror Black”, another song that hopelessly reminds me of the “The Night Eternal”, the spectacular ending track of late album. Like the aforementioned song, this closer is a slower exercise of earth-shaking melancholia. The trick in this one, nevertheless, is the orchestra outro, reeking of darkness and expression, which I initially thought was going to conduce the piece to another progressive ensemble but, does, indeed finishes the whole record.
This concludes the 2018 At the Gates experience in To Drink From the Night Itself, another incredible piece made with passion and evocative respect to their legacy. I was partially esceptic with the Anders Björler loss, but his brother Jonas filled very nice the songwriting role and, while I miss his characteristic soloing, the band is still very much alive this year!
May you like or not this record it is relative to your taste, but my duty as a reviewer makes me summarize through the smudged lenses of objectivity what you will enjoy and what you will not, considering you seek it because you are familiar with the band’s catalog. So, let me summarize it:
You may like:
- The tenebrous riffing and the gripping soloing: Jonas Stallhamar paired very well with Martin Larsson on the strings, delivering nice melodic moments and supporting the rhythmic changes.
- Adrian Erlandsson’s performance: This album will probably cement the legendary status of the Swedish drummer, it is a really cool performance.
- The lyrical content: According to vocalist Tomas Lindberg, To Drink from the Night Itself is based around the concept of art brought by writer Peter Weiss in the book The Aesthetic of Resistance. To me, At the Gates never disappoints in this department.
You may not like:
- The production values: The mix is shocked in the bass and it can fatigate some listeners. Bass and drums are really difficult to hear with the all crammed equalization.
- The second half: Devoid of any atmospheric ideas the first half could bring to the table, the last segment is typical At the Gates savagery. Those wanting for more The Red in the Sky is Ours/With Fear I Kiss the Burning Darkness must return home early in this party.
Now is your turn! I am really wanting to read your opinions. I will be giving this album a 4 of 5 flaming toilets and listen to it while I wait for your comments!