Of all the Swedish bands to make their way across the Atlantic in the early to mid 90's, At The Gates is arguably the finest of the lot. It was around the time of this album that At The Gates began to form their distinctive sound that would later dominate 1995's "Slaughter of the Soul". Aside from this new sound, the band also began employing more classical numbers, using acoustic guitars, violins, and cellos. The majority of these brisk new stylings were kept as instrumentals, more than likely due to the fact that Tomas Lindeberg (Vocals) would have a hard time screaming over them and being taking seriously. At The Gates had just gained rythym guitarist Martin Larsson, and would utilize his talents effectively all throughout the album. Still one album away from a classic, At The Gates deliver here what many (though still the minority) feel to be their best effort.
The Swarm- Starts off with a haunting classical instrumental, employing violins and cellos, but quickly fades into the kind of tear your face of metal that I so deeply admire these guys for. Great riffs, superb drumming, and competent vocals. 5/5
Terminal Spirit Disease- My personal favorite, this track starts and ends as a death metal masterpiece. The brilliance of Anders Bjorler's lead guitar work is evident here in his neo-classical solo that he throws down over the verse rhythm. Another lovely and delicate track. 5/5
And the World Returned- A beautiful yet foreboding instrumental number that kicks into gear after a brief sound collage of what reminds me of a subway station. Numerous guitar overdubs give this piece great melody and dynamics, which is only furthered by the addition of a cello. 5/5
Forever Blind- Another death metal romp, Forever Blind is rather inconsistent compared with the first two tracks, but it is nevertheless a competent and enjoyable song. Once again the guitar harmonies are great, but it's the drumming that stands out here. 3.5/5
Fevered Circle- My least favorite track on the album, this tune is a bit more slow than the other tracks, and the vocals aren't up to their usual standards. It seems difficult for this track to gain any momentum due to it's sluggish rythym. In fact, it almost sounds as if they were making a valiant (but futile) attempt at a Black Sabbath song.
The Beautiful Wound- A great track with (once again) great guitars and fantastic drumming. The lyrics are good as well. They seriously sound pissed at this point. This is arguably the most melodic and heavy song on the entire album. 4.5/5
All Life Ends (live)- Apparently due to a lack of original material, At The Gates decided to throw some live performances on here as well. This track is from their first LP, "Gardens of Grief", and has a completely different sound from the rest of the album, which to some might kill the groove. However, the bnad performs it well, and the song itself is well-written and interesting, which makes for a good listen. 4/5
The Burning Darkness (live) - A standout track from "With Fear I Kiss The Burning Darkness", This song begins with Tomas Lindeberg pumping up the audience, which I find quite humorous. It's a somewhat sub-par performance of an overall fantastic, albeit short song. Naturally, as on any At The Gates recording, the guitar is what stands out the most.
Kingdom Gone (live)- From "The Red in The Sky is Ours", this is an overall boring track. This song was written before the band began employing much melody into their music, and consequently alot of their first effort tends to sound like just another death metal band. While the drumming and arrangements are excellent, it is very difficult to sit through this song, once again made even more challenging by the fact that it's a poor live performance. 2.5/5
Windows (live)- An excellent track from "TRITSIO", They deliver an amazing performance here. The song begins with a dual guitar harmony on this recording and proceeds to go into a somewhat typical death metal groove, but makes up for it with great playing, and splendid choruses. 5/5
"The Red in The Sky is Ours/Seasons to Come (live)- Even with a superb group, there is bound to be one absolutely horrid track. "The Red In The Sky Is Ours" covers that title for At The Gates as well as The Haunted. The fact that it is also a live track in which Tomas sounds sick (as in the flu) does nothing to improve upon this. 2/5
"The Burning Darkness(live)- A completely irrevelant track, as they already put a live version of this song on here. However, they play it much better this time, but there's really no reason to put it on twice. 3/5
As I was preparing to give this album a 4/5, I realized that even despite all it's shortcomings, I still find it in rotation alot more than any other At The Gates album. While pondering this point, another one was thrust forth from the depths of my sub-conscious. This album has a distinctly more forlorn and doomed-like feel to it, a trait absent form their 1995 masterpiece 'Slaughter Of The Soul'. Throwing caution to the wind, I followed my instinct and decided to give the album a....