I remember the day well, Saturday 2nd August 2008, when Swedish melodic death metal legends At The Gates took to main stage at Wacken Open Air to howls of delirium from the masses who had gathered to see these titans return after a ten year hiatus, following their break up at death metal’s probable nadir in 1996. We wondered in hope that this would mark the start of something more, and thankfully it did. The band reunited again for several sell-out shows over the following years and ultimately reformed to release the acclaimed At War With Reality in 2014.
To Drink From The Night Itself is their long-awaited follow up to At War… and represents the band’s first release without original guitarist Anders Bjorler who has been replaced by longtime friend of the band and Lurking Fear axeman Jonas Stalhammer. We already had our appetites whetted with three very promising album tracks pre-released over the last month or so; “Daggers of Black Haze”, “A Stare Bound in Stone” and the title track itself but what would the rest of the album bring…
As the needle lifts from the vinyl (metaphorically speaking alas) first impressions are that To Drink From The Night Itself very much takes off from where At War left off with tracks such as “Daggers of Black Haze”, “In Nameless Sleep”, and “Palace of Lepers” picking up the cudgel from At War… anthems such as “Death and the Labyrinth” and “The Night Eternal”. However, as we journey through all twelve tracks there are more than a few touches reminiscent of the bands earlier, more avant-garde and experimental output (in particular With Fear I Kiss The Burning Darkness and Terminal Spirit Disease), breaking up the more structured formula of Slaughter of the Soul. For me, this is very much a good thing.
The classical/baroque intro “Der Widerstand” and beautifully crafted acoustic closer “The Mirror Black” highlight this with the former building suspense very much like something from Terminal Spirit Disease. Equally, the excellent buzzing riffage of Bjorler and Larsson, aided by new recruit Stalhammer, is as always core to everything but seems to be given more room to move on this record, creating some really memorable choruses. Tracks like “A Labyrinth of Tombs” and title track “To Drink From The Night Itself” show this in spades, the closing riff on the latter is an absolute gem, taking the listener back to those early barnstorming releases. “The Colours Of The Beast” is another standout number with a lumbering giant of a riff which is heavy and catchy in equal measure and is sure to strain the neck sinews of any self-respecting fan.
Technically, the guys are as good as ever driven by Bjorler’s, Larsson’s and the impressive debutant Stalhammer’s, synchronous attack, anchored as always by the faultless rhythms of Adrian Erlandson on drums. Tomas Lindberg’s peerless vocals are at their rasping best, even throwing in some grunts borrowed from his grindcore locker, launching the riff onslaught on several key tracks.
The album was recorded in the UK and the bands native Sweden with the guitar and bass parts recorded by Russ Russell at Parlour Studios in the UK and strings and vocals laid down back home in Sweden. Tomas and Jonas Bjorler were again aided by Russell for the final mix and the result is polished yet punchy, and leaves plenty of room for the guitar parts to flow and breathe.
At The Gates have long been the kings of melody and To Drink From The Night Itself shows the band clearly enjoying their craft, sure of their considerable abilities. Added to this winning formula is more of the raw experimental essence of their earlier releases. The result is a barnstorming album which can hold its head high against a seriously impressive back catalogue. At The Gates are back and hopefully here to stay for a good while longer.
Thinking of that summer day in 2008 also brought to mind At The Gates’ stage mates that day, the mighty Carcass, and what this year might bring from these titans. 2018 is shaping up rather well folks!
To Drink From The Night Itself is out on May 18th 2018 through Century Media