You would be a fool to believe that At The Gates aren’t one of the most influential acts within the global melodic death metal scene. The group successfully cemented their importance to such a scene in 1995 with the masterpiece that was Slaughter Of The Soul, a record that popularized the rising Gothenburg sound and spawned countless imitations that attempted to recreate and mirror such an iconic and landmark release. Despite it’s colossal success, the group disbanded the following year only to spectacularly arise from the ashes in 2014 with the follow up release At War With Reality, a record that silenced cynics who were disbelieving that the group could release a record that could suitably serve as a suitable successor to it’s predecessor. Now on the cusp of releasing their sixth full length, To Drink From The Night Itself, whilst the group have truly retained their status as reigning monarchs of melodic death metal, it’s at the expense of some their identity.
Beginning with the instrumental orchestral structures of ‘Der Widerstand’, a grandiose statement in it’s own right, it becomes immediately clear that the group show no signs of shying away from such towering and omnipotent mission statements such as the ones that were expressed within the records from their youth. As this statement crescendos and climaxes, we’re greeted with the thrashing and convulsing title track, a blackened and vivid expression that screams that this band can not be silenced, they will not bow out due to the passage of time and nor will they succumb to the banal cliched tropes occasionally found extreme metal. It’s a looming, inarguable statement that At The Gates are here, they will not be hushed and an expression that the rest of the record plays loyal to.
To expand, To Drink From The Night Itself is a record that perfectly embodies the intensity, musical prowess and duress the extreme metal genre is known. Not once dues this record fall into any pitfalls that are synonymous with exhausted tropes and gimmicks that some acts utilize to fraudulently amplify a sense of extremity. This a record that radiates authenticity, remaining loyal to the pivotal sound and movement they pioneered whilst revelling in an engulfing atmosphere that is one of malevolence and darkened intent. This however, comes at an expense. Whilst the record is a seething one that perfectly radiates the viciousness and darkened melody the band has become esteemed for, it lacks the anathematic, memorable and jaw dropping choruses and moments that made Slaughter and At War so memorable and compelling.
Of course, this isn’t automatically a negative aspect in itself. If you came for such soaring moments of ecstasy and contrast you’re probably better off indulging in other genres. But a lack of such poignant titbits makes some of the material and tracks bleed and smear into one another if a listener isn’t investing their full attention. It’s a record that requires multiple listens to be fully appreciated, but some listeners not emotionally connected with this genre may drop this record after one listen. However, good things come to those who persevere. There’s some utter awe-inspiring tracks on this record that can be hailed as perfect examples of melodic death metal. The brooding riffage and melody of ‘The Colours Of The Beast’ is just phenomenal, the infernal ‘Daggers Of Black Haze’ just captures the imagination and the final track, ‘The Mirror Black’ just radiates a sense of perturbation.
In all, whilst the album perfectly encapsulates the nefarious and unhallowed nature of the genre in a terrific form with riffs and melody aplenty, it feels like some signature hallmarks of At The Gates’s are absent. Despite this, To Drink From The Night Itself is well worth a listen due to the skill, ability and consuming atmosphere it diverges.