Review Summary: Delving into a moody and diverse set of songs that shares more in common with their earliest releases than the one everybody seems to remember.
I wonder what would have happened if Slayer had taken nearly two decades after Reign in Blood
to release South of Heaven
. South of Heaven
enjoys a huge amount of praise, but would it be as universally accepted if Reign In Blood
had been allowed to build twenty years of nostalgia and hype? If the criticism surrounding At The Gates’ At War With Reality
is any indication, the answer is fairly obvious. While I’m not trying to directly compare At War With Reality
to South Of Heaven
, both releases were definitely deliberate attempts at doing something more than the simple no-frills/all-attitude style of their predecessors – and one was praised while the other has faced some critique. While not all blame can be placed here, a lot of it probably has to do with timing.
While Slayer quickly released another album before Reign in Blood
built an insurmountable reputation, At The Gates had to let Slaughter of the Soul
attain an almost untouchable mystique. This left At War With Reality
in the unenviable position of basically having no chance of living up to the hype. So, while it might have been a bit lacking in certain areas, it was still a very solid and enjoyable release that never had a chance. Hopefully fans are over the nostalgia trip, because To Drink From the Night Itself
is better than its predecessor in every way, and may even have to be mentioned alongside the band’s classic material (begrudgingly, I’m sure).
If I had to reference back to earlier albums, To Drink From the Night Itself
is a fairly even blend of With Fear I Kiss the Burning Darkness
and Terminal Spirit Disease
combined with the modern style of At War With Reality
. With Fear
’s influence is felt within the melodies, tempos, and overall structures of most the songs. Every facet is much more developed, nuanced, and diverse than on anything they’ve done since that 1993 release. Even tracks that begin in a more streamlined fashion such as “A Stare Bound In Stone” or “Palace of Lepers” inevitably end up evolving into something more; whether it’s “A Stare Bound in Stone” transitioning to a moody and melodic second half or “Palace of Lepers” bouncing between standard melodeath, melodic interludes, and something more akin to classic Voivod.
The songs that are more interesting, though, are the ones that delve down a more sullen and diverse direction. Tracks such as “Daggers of Black Haze” – which opens with some light classical influences before moving through a series of fully developed melodic sections – are the true highlight of To Drink From the Night Itself
. These songs generally (but not always) sacrifice a bit of bite in favor of fully-featured melodic death metal that is heavy on the moody atmospheres, and quick to seamlessly transition from one melody to the next. To Drink From the Night Itself
also has the distinction of containing not only one of my favorite At The Gates songs, but also one of my favorites of this entire year. “Seas of Starvation” is At The Gates’ moody, melodic, mid-paced death metal formula realized to its full potential. I don’t want to go into a track-by-track style description of the album, but if there is only one song from the album that you bother with, it should be “Seas of Starvation”.
At The Gates suffered from some undue criticism when they released At War With Reality
because it was directly compared with an album that had grown into an uncontrollable monster built on equal parts hype, nostalgia, and actual quality. To Drink From the Night Itself
shouldn’t have that problem because people can now temper their fantasies of unending Slaughter of the Soul
rehashes with realistic expectations of a band that always had more to offer than that one release. To Drink From the Night Itself
returns to the peak of At The Gates’ creative side by delving into a more moody, nuanced and diverse set of songs that shares more in common with their first few releases than the one everybody seems to remember. In the process, they very well may have released the best album in their history.