At the Gates
The Nightmare of Being


3.5
great

Review

by Fernando Alves STAFF
June 30th, 2021 | 88 replies


Release Date: 07/02/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Pessimistically adventurous, yet predictably familiar, The Nightmare of Being explores new territory without ever straying too far from the band's DNA.

Pioneers of Gothenburg's melodic death metal scene along with In Flames and Dark Tranquility, At the Gates left an indelible mark on mid-nineties melodeath sound, especially through their fourth full-length release, Slaughter of the Soul, which would not only become a trademark of the genre, but also an influence for the newborn metalcore acts. While some may claim SotS to be the band's most one-dimensional work, its artistic relevance and historical impact are undeniable, making it a one-of-a-kind product of its time. This kind of legacy has a double-edged effect: if on the one hand it immortalizes the collective, on the other it becomes a heavy burden by which all their work is measured. Since their long-awaited studio comeback in 2014, At the Gates have constantly dealt with this comparison with the past, or more specifically, with their 1995’s output. The dilemma between present and yesteryear can to some extent be observed in At War with Reality and To Drink from the Night Itself, which despite their differences remain anchored in the formula developed twenty years ago. This bond, while natural, is something the band intends to shake up in their newest release: The Nightmare of Being.

Inspired by philosophical pessimism, The Nightmare of Being orbits existential questions from a dark Lovecraftian perspective. A rather interesting concept, I would say, not only for its intellectual component but also for its negative narrative that fits like a glove to an album that meant to be somber since its inception. The Nightmare of Being is a creature born out of two main ideas, one being abstract and the other of an artistic nature, both aiming for a more progressive outcome. Songs such as 'Garden of Cyrus' or 'Cosmic Pessimism' are the ultimate embodiment of this audacious concept, venturing into uncharted territory. While the former delves into 70s progressive rock, the latter features an unexpected The Cure-ish gothic layer. The cinematic orchestration in 'Touched by the White Hands of Death' also incorporates this bolder approach while adding greater ambiance and grandeur to the music. The band's intent to spread its wings is palpable; there is a sense of purpose behind each song as if they blossom from a root firmly planted in a predefined concept. The narrated segments present in the first two previously mentioned songs and 'Cult of Salvation' are another strand that lends more credibility and intellectual depth to the album, thus further shuddering At the Gates' established canons.

Now, the question that matters is whether At the Gates' boldness, despite its welcomed creative audacity, is enough to catapult them into a higher artistic dimension. It is up to each of us to assess the outcome since the answer will always depend on the variables we include in our equation. As far as I am concerned, I believe the band has enriched its portfolio without necessarily bringing anything new to the genre. In this sense, The Nightmare of Being guarantees more three-dimensionality within the band's creative boundaries, which in other words means that a step forward isn't necessarily synonymous with artistic relevance. It's like replacing your old black t-shirt with a colored one, but of the same model and material. If that makes any sense.

Despite all the above, hardcore fans can rest assured as The Nightmare of Being still delivers some bangers like 'Spectre of Extinction', 'The Paradox' or 'The Abstract Enthroned' that ensure a bridge with the band's more straightforward side. The former even includes an interesting solo by the one and only Andy LaRocque, who is also the man in charge of recording the guitars and bass. Therefore, there's a willingness not to let this new venture stray out of orbit, keeping an open channel with the band's foundations. This balance reaches its peak in the closing track, 'Eternal Winter of Reason', which somehow merges the best of both worlds, thus mirroring the album's most inspired moment.

Pessimistically adventurous, yet predictably familiar, The Nightmare of Being explores new territory without ever straying too far from the band's DNA. In doing so, At the Gates ensures a creative paradox that lends a sense of identity and continuity to this bold new venture, while adding greater three-dimensionality to their songwriting formula. It's a step forward, I would say; an aesthetic breakthrough that unveils not only new grounds but also a willingness to evolve. And even though The Nightmare of Being doesn't gather all the necessary ingredients to establish itself as a masterpiece of the genre, it is most certainly a worthy and surprisingly contrasting addition to the band's discography.



Recent reviews by this author
Noctambulist The Barren FormHelloween Helloween
Flotsam and Jetsam Blood in the WaterGrave Miasma Abyss of Wrathful Deities
Gojira FortitudeAltarage Succumb
user ratings (98)
3.4
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
TheNotrap
Staff Reviewer
June 30th 2021


16349 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

The band's most ambitious album to date. It will be available on all streaming platforms this Friday.

Digging: Noctambulist - The Barren Form

TheSpirit
June 30th 2021


28132 Comments


Great review Notrap! I'm looking forward to hearing this despite not being the biggest ATG fan.

Not really a quip or complaint but just something I wanted to touch on in regards to your 3rd paragraph. I feel like fans' expectations for boundary breaking/sonic-progression in new releases -whether relative to a genre as a whole or just a particular band's sound in general- has kind of poisoned music criticism. It feels wasted (to me) to mention the fact that while the band has deepened their sound, they haven't pushed melodeath further. I'm definitely guilty of adding lines like that to my reviews before and while I understand that you're not criticizing them for the lack of innovation necessarily, I feel like band's intent is sometimes overlooked. I don't think ATG are trying to reinvent the wheel anymore.

Like I said, excellent review, this isn't a knock against you or anything and sorry for getting long-winded!

Digging: Saidan - Jigoku: Spiraling Chasms Of The Blackest Hell

DungeonBoy
June 30th 2021


8330 Comments


"I don't think ATG are trying to reinvent the wheel anymore"

oh man, if they are they are dropping the ball real hard

Digging: Musk Ox - Inheritance

AffableMartyr
June 30th 2021


538 Comments


Slaughter of the Soul will always be one of my all time favorite death metal albums so pretty excited for this even if it's just a decent album

Evok
Contributing Reviewer
June 30th 2021


8470 Comments


What a shite album cover.

Digging: Cannonball Adderley - Them Dirty Blues

DaveT0738
June 30th 2021


2834 Comments


Gonna check this with very low expectations

BigPleb
June 30th 2021


63121 Comments


So, is this like Slaughter of the Soul part IV?

TheNotrap
Staff Reviewer
June 30th 2021


16349 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Not really, mate ;)



Thanks for reading it, Spirit.

I get your point and I do believe we often fall into commonplaces when we focus on the band's delivery vs. its relevance to the genre. I wrote that paragraph given the album's progressive nature, mirroring my opinion of its true artistic relevance. Nevertheless, I did mention "It is up to each of us to assess the outcome since the answer will always depend on the variables we include in our equation."

bloc
June 30th 2021


66205 Comments


Just realized that other than To Drink from the Nig, all their album arts suck

Digging: Hiatus Kaiyote - Mood Valiant

TheSpirit
June 30th 2021


28132 Comments


to drink from the what????

DaveT0738
June 30th 2021


2834 Comments


Lolz

bloc
June 30th 2021


66205 Comments


That album title used to be shortened on the front page to that when someone commented, but I just checked and it's been fixed unfortunately. Unless it depends on the number of characters in the person's username...

heck
June 30th 2021


6085 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"Just realized that other than To Drink from the Night, all their album arts suck"



With Fear I Kiss the Burning Darkness has their best artwork, on top of being their best album overall.

Digging: The Dave Brubeck Quartet - Time Out

bloc
June 30th 2021


66205 Comments


It'd be nice if the blue stuff took up the entire album cover instead of looking like an inspiration poster about teamwork from the 2000s with the black border and plain text

GhostShelter
July 1st 2021


47 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

can’t wait. Preordered the LP which I just got a shipping notification on.

Scoot
July 1st 2021


20609 Comments


Kendrick Lamar - To Drink from the Nig

Nocte
Staff Reviewer
July 1st 2021


14528 Comments


The singles sounded promising if somewhat too consistent. Seems like ATG doing what ATG does.

Great review Notrap

LaughingSkull
July 1st 2021


738 Comments


Only really liked 1 of the 3 pre-released songs off this one. And only just barely liked it.

Combine this with me not really digging their last 2 -- their so-called "return", and I believe I'll be skipping this altogether.

TheNotrap
Staff Reviewer
July 1st 2021


16349 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Thanks, Nocte.

Of the three singles, 'The Fall into Time' is the one that unveils the album's most progressive side.

BigPleb
July 1st 2021


63121 Comments


Tom sounds pretty shot on here, I guess age will do that to you though.

This is pretty solid otherwise though, fun yet completely forgettable offering.

Great review btw!



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2019 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy