With Fear I Kiss the Burning Darkness
marks At the Gates beginnings of evolution into the melodic death metal they were known for at the peak of their career. This is a much underrated and overlooked album.
About the second song deep into this album, there is no doubt the songwriting is much better than Gardens of Grief
and The Red in the Sky Is Ours
. The songs now follow a more structured layout, and awesome guitar riffs rarely rear their heads only for a fleeting moment only to never being heard again, as seemed to be a problem during the bandís earlier years. At the Gates has from this point on, matured, and knew what they wanted to play. While the musicianship always was a cut above, it matures as well, in a sense. All sense of sloppiness was discarded. While some bands put out their best material in rawer form, At the Gates managed to mature without losing their creativity and never faltered. While the vocals arenít Lindbergís best, they are certainly better than on earlier recordings. His yell has become more of an anquished scream that conveys his torturous thoughts, though not as clearly as the Slaughter of the Soul
era vocal chords that sear the air between your eardrums and speakers.
The bass is only really noticeable on a few songs, and even then itís only a few notes or two, but it does its job while not getting in the way of the guitar. Better it be a little inaudible than mere clutter.
The guitars, as with any At the Gates album, are the highlight. Concept of rhythm guitar and lead guitar are abandoned in favor of two tracks that at times are playing completely different styles but are almost always in harmony. Instead of solely basing the instrumentation on open noted palm mutes, ATG keep every second of the song interesting and engaging with melody, dissonance, and even hints of tortured brutality screaming forth from the instruments with brilliance. The rhythms might be technical, but they are far from disorderly. Rather than shunning solos, ATG merely only use them when they feel it is necessary, preferring to keep every second of the song worth looking forward two rather than just one minute sandwiched between boring, repetitive patterns. If the guitars were people, they would finish each otherís sentences.
The drums are near perfect. Not one song is just straight double bass the whole way through, but each is still punishing in its own unique way. Simple patterns give way to odd-time blastbeats for the briefest moments before abruptly, yet smoothly, giving way to something else. Everything often changes, but everything still flows. Erlandsson doesn't use his toms much, but because of how his kit was recorded, there's no love lost. The cymbals are also a little drowned out. Long story short: everything fits.
Beyond Good and Evil
is song numero uno, but actually isnít an impressive opener in the least. Thereís nothing memorable, the ďsolosĒ especially disappointing. Sporadic and unfocused, they sound like a tangle of noise reminiscent of Slayerís Hell Awaits
album, only without awesome rhythm parts. It isnít that Beyond Good and Evil is horrible, itís that compared to the other songs, it isn't worth near as much.
Raped By the Light of Christ
isnít one of the best tracks on here, but still great. The soft intro transitions effortlessly into the first riff with double bass-fueled drum lines beefing up the guitars. Itís main fault is the abrupt ending. The Break of Autumn
begins with guitar that sounds a little reminiscent of ATGís earlier material, only better. A hint of a blastbeat is abandoned to a simple kick-snare kick-snare routine, once again replaced by something else. The drums never keep a consistent beat, but somehow it all comes together and doesnít detract from the music at all. Relief sweeps in after what seemed to be an abrupt ending as an acoustic guitar strolls into the speakers. Simply delightful! [/ rich man accent] Recommended for ADD listeners.
switches between the tremolo-picking styles along with the slower-paced musicianship experimented with on Terminal Spirit Disease. Not much else to say besides it is almost flawless from start to finish. Primal Breath
clocks in around seven and a half minutes, making it the longest track by about three. Length isnít a problem, however. Much like the two before it, this composition doesnít feel drawn out at all. You can tell the guys werenít just sitting around saying ďThis song needs to be more epic, letís see how much more material we can fit in hereĒ, they just went with the flow and wrote classic stuff. This song could actually be longer and it would still flow perfect.
contains a moving and near-perfect solo about a minute near the end, and the rest of the song is excellent. A bit short, but excellent. Stardrowned
is another example of a real ďtransitionalĒ song, with aspects of the bandís future and past melding in one work. One of the few songs with an audible bass line.
Blood of the Sunsets
kicks into gear with a dissonant and very raw-sounding lick much like those that occupied Gardens of Grief, their first EP. Aside from that first riff, which sounds very out of place, the rest are heavy, and for the most part melodic even in their dissonance. The mood is very dark, a little unnerving, especially the end. This is what those agonized death metal vocals were made for.
The Burning Darkness
has great lyrics (almost every word is decipherable! In a death metal song!), but is another that suffers from lack of length. Ever-Opening Flower
follows and about a minute in delivers one of At the Gatesís short and to the point miniature guitar solos. A thorough classic, and for good reason with guitars that silence any doubters that tuning down to B is for nu-metal bands only.
Through the Red
is a good song. Not great, but definitely above average. Here are heard spastic off-time riffs and a bonus track at the end. The bonus track isnít worth much. An appropriate closer.
Unfortunately, while pioneering many good aspects of the evolved At the Gates that really defined melodic death metal and provided cannon fodder for countless metalcore and other melo-death bands to add to their arsenal at the turn of the century, it also introduced the bandís major shortcoming seen in later years: Short fudgemonkeying songs. Besides that, and some riffs that seemed a little out of place, this album is thoroughly great, though the production is not. Not that the sound quality is horrible or cluttered, this isnít a Darkthrone disk requiring advanced audio salvaging technology in order to differentiate between the drums and guitars, itís just that itís a little too quiet, and you have to turn up the stereo to hear it. That aside, amazing work is contained herein.
Primal Breath (5/5)
The Burning Darkness (4/5)
Ever-Opening Flower (4.5/5)