At the Gates – To Drink From the Night Itself Review

Band: At the Gates
Album: To Drink From the Night Itself
Label: Century Media
Genre: At the Gates
Country: Sweden
Release Date: 18 May, 2018

What do you do with a band that almost single-handedly defined a genre? Sure, there were other bands that brought Melodic Death to the fore, even other Swedish bands, but At the Gates has the Reign in Blood of the genre with Slaughter of the Soul. That’s the record everyone points to and says, “That one, right there, that’s the one.” It’s a tremendous burden. Imagine putting out such a monumental release and then having to follow it. No wonder they broke up. Hell, it took them almost 20 years to release another record. Now they have a new one, To Drink From the Night Itself, and they’ve opened themselves up to a whole new barrage of criticism. Does the new album bring the goods, or does it fall short?

I would say it succeeds by drawing on the strengths of what makes At the Gates so goddamned good, and peppering it with some new touches, while also bringing back some pre-Slaughter sounds from their earlier efforts. Let’s be honest here: they are never going to create another Slaughter of the Soul, and no one should expect it of them. That record hit at just the right moment and was so deliriously fantastic that it would be almost impossible to match it. Given that it was 23 years ago, you have to factor in age and changing times and tastes. But At the Gates clearly don’t give a flying fuck about what you or I or anyone else wants from them. They do what they want to do and they make that perfectly clear with this new release.

You’re gonna get some typical At the Gates, with tracks like “A Stare Bound in Stone,” “In Death They Shall Burn,” and the title track (which eerily mimics and mirrors “Blinded by Fear” from Slaughter). They deliver what made them so great in the first place by delving into what their sound is and capturing and refining those elements. This new album is replete with such moments. But it also features some throwbacks to older elements, mostly in the production department.

The album opens with a short, almost classical instrumental, the kind you used to get at the front-end of a lot of 80’s Thrash albums. We get tossed right into the hellstorm that is the title track, pure, vintage At the Gates, and thrown right into the next one, “A Stare Bound in Stone” and then “Palace of Lepers,” all songs that flaunt the power and majesty of the band. They’re almost effortless in their delivery, the group becoming much like Motorhead or Slayer: you know what you’re getting, man, so drink it up.

“Daggers of Black Haze” comes next, and it offers a bit of a departure. There’s a throwback to the classical, and although the song rocks, it’s a little more mid-paced, dark and gloomy. Then comes the terrific acoustic breakdown (again, sounding like something an 80’s Thrash band would do) about 2:30 into the song followed by a slick and yet nasty solo. Back to the headbanging grind after this, Lindberg’s vocals howling with emotion and power. This is fast becoming my favorite track on the record.

From there, the album goes on to repeat these moments, with more Death, more Melody, and more Thrash, with a couple of mid-paced tracks (“The Colours of the Beast” and “Seas of Starvation”) thrown in for good measure. These last two at first feel like they drag the album down somewhat, slowing the momentum, but upon repeated listens, they reveal some heavy magic of their own. This all culminates with a vintage Gates’ pounder, “In Death They Shall Burn,” followed by a bleeding out track, “The Mirror Black,” which brings the album full circle, ending with some orchestral atmospherics.

So what’s the verdict? If you like At the Gates, you’ll most probably like this album. If you’ve never heard them before (what’s wrong with you?), you’ll probably like this album, too. It won’t change the world, and it won’t make you throw all your other records away, but it’s pretty damned solid. At the Gates are settling into Legend status, doing what they do best, peppering it with some new stuff, adjusting it with some older stuff, and generally kicking ass. Another great record by an amazing band.

Rating: 8/10

1. Der Widerstand
2. To Drink From the Night Itself
3. A Stare Bound in Stone
4. Palace of Lepers
5. Daggers of Black Haze
6. The Chasm
7. In Nameless Sleep
8. The Colours of the Beast
9. A Labyrinth of Tombs
10. Seas of Starvation
11. In Death They Shall Burn
12. The Mirror Black

Total Playing Time: 44:48

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