Review Summary: Meh the meh.
If one were to write an epitaph for melodic death metal, it would probably read something along the lines of: “Born in 1991. Died in 2006. Passed a decade after lapsing into a vegetative state,”
or maybe, ”Raised in Sweden. Peaked in Britain. Co-opted by American teenagers.”
Regardless of how you look at it, like most short lived movements, it had its brief moment in the sun where the underground dissects popular culture, and through the tried and true method of stagnation and parity it died a prolonged death at the hands of those who loved it the most. Luckily for those who gave up long before In Flames started writing Korn songs or even before Dark Tranquillity discovered keyboards, the current culture of nostalgia based reunion tours brought back the two most important bands that ever dabbled within the melodic death metal framework, At the Gates and Carcass. The latter's Surgical Steel
redefined metal-head expectations for the comeback album. Not only did it so perfectly capture all the reasons so many fell in love with the band in the first place, in some cases it did those things better than when first heard 20 years ago.
Now it is At the Gates turn to throw their collective hats into the over-hyped comeback album ring. At War With Reality
is the first record from the Swedes in 19 years and, unlike their English counterparts, it fails from the get go. Beginning with a similar sounding, but not nearly as interesting, narrated introduction as their 1995 classic Slaughter of the Soul
, the ideas presented on At War With Reality
are long since dead skeletons that have decayed and withered with age. With the exception of the surprisingly uptempo “The Book of Sand (The Abomination)”, At War With Reality is a tedious trudge through a soundscape of dated ideas and lagging tempos. 20 years ago, melodic death metal had yet to be diluted by its upstart second generation of bands and the American metalcore movement, and the thought of Maiden-esque guitars with death metal shrieks and double bass was new and exciting. Even then, it had pretty much run its course, the only thing that made Slaughter of the Soul
stick out, and continue to do so, is that ferocious pace at which it was performed. At War With Reality
lacks this. The speed at which the songs are played sounds not only like they are stuck in the mud, but that the weight tethered to them is also dragging them backwards. The final result is an anemic, lackluster 52 minutes from a band that obviously was correct in calling it quits the first time. At least they still play “The Swarm” live, so there's that.