REVIEW: At The Gates – The Nightmare Of Being

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It is safe to say that Gothenburg-based band AT THE GATES are one of the pioneers of Swedish melodic death metal. I have been following the band for quite a while and since their reunion back in 2014, they have been working very hard to reclaim their place at the top. Considering 2018’s To Drink From The Night Itself,” the foundations of their sound have been solidified once more and new work has been highly anticipated. They have released their latest studio effort, “The Nightmare of Being,” on July 2nd, 2021, via Century Media Records.

In opener “Spectre of Extinction,” fragile guitars gently morph into an epic eruption of sound. It is a perfect build-up and when the track is truly unleashed, it’s classic AT THE GATES at their best. Guest guitar soloist Andy LaRocque (KING DIAMOND) gets to shine here as well. “The Paradox” continues along these lines, but adds some interesting layers, such as choir backings. There is a sense of dread that creeps throughout the record, enveloping every track. This subtle darkness is ever-present and the epitome of this feeling is found in the title track, “The Nightmare of Being.” A sinister voice is accompanied by a melancholic guitar, alternated by harsh, explosive riffs. I find myself literally shivering.

Up to this point, this is AT THE GATES to the core. Tomas Lindberg‘s recognisable vocals are as deliciously vicious as ever and the characteristic melodic guitar lines are compelling. Then “Garden of Cyrus” starts and I am left wondering if I am listening to the same band. I never expected to hear saxophone on an AT THE GATES record, yet here we are. From here on out, prog elements keep popping up and the band incorporates them very confidently, as if they have never done anything else. This takes guts, but they manage to get away with it, because they are, first and foremost, incredibly skilled and seasoned musicians.

“The Fall into Time” just might be the most epic song the band has ever written. Clocking in at 7 minutes, they have plenty of room to experiment. “Experiment” is definitely the key word, but early-hour fans do get their money’s worth with full-on collision tracks like “Cult of Salvation” and “The Abstract Enthroned.” Then again, the orchestral arrangements in “Touched By the White Hands of Death” are most reminiscent of 2018’s “To Drink From The Night Itself,” which had the band at the crossroads they now seem to have passed, venturing further into the unknown. Indeed, AT THE GATES completely trash their comfort zone with this album.

The song structures are massive, yet every detail seems to be polished, which is partly why this peculiar blend of death and prog metal seems to work somehow. I have to admit that the band slightly loses me in “Cosmic Pessimism,” but this might be one of those tracks that needs a few listens before it starts to grow on you. Nevertheless, “Eternal Winter of Reason” makes up for it as a beautiful, melodic, yet violent closing track to a remarkable record.

The hopelessness that “The Nightmare of Being” conveys makes it a heavy listen. The mood it sets is one of utter despair, so don’t expect any light in the darkness. Still, I am thrilled that AT THE GATES still chooses to innovate after 30 years of solid success. They could have easily ridden the wave of their recognizable, well-loved sound for years to come, but instead they are on the brink of a new dawn.

Written by Jana De Boeck

Tracklist

1. Spectre of Extinction 
2. The Paradox 
3. The Nightmare of Being 
4. Garden of Cyrus 
5. Touched by the White Hands of Death 
6. The Fall into Time 
7. Cult of Salvation 
8. The Abstract Enthroned 
9. Cosmic Pessimism 
10. Eternal Winter of Reason

Line-up

Adrian Erlandsson – Drums 
Jonas Björler – Bass 
Tomas Lindberg – Vocals 
Jonas Stålhammar – Guitar 
Martin Larsson – Guitar

Label

Century Media Records

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