At The Gates – The Nightmare Of Being: Album Review

At the Gates unleash their new album, The Nightmare Of Being. It stakes out new musical ground for the Swedish metal legends.

Release date: 2 July 2021

Label: Century Media Records

Format: 2CD Mediabook / CD / Vinyl / 2LP+3CD Artbook / Digital

Without the band, At the Gates, and their melodic take on death metal, we might not have seen the emergence of bands like Killswitch Engage, Shadows Fall or Bullet For My Valentine. The band have thus already laid down an important musical legacy in the world of metal. 

The band, formed in 1990 in Gothenburg, is still evolving and embracing musical risk-taking. For example, the new album in the two CD media book version includes their 2019 live set at the Roadburn Festival, where they played versions of King Crimson’s Red and Philip Glass’s Koyaanisqatsi. The new album, thematically driven by philosophical questions about what it is to be human, is musically very adventurous. 

Opening track Spectre Of Extinction, begins with a wistful acoustic guitar, before launching into a majestic metal riff, morphing into a melodic death metal assault on the ears, with crunching distorted guitars, blast beats, and bags of melody, in both the riffs and guitar solos. Tomas Lindberg Redant’s vocals growl the listener into submission, while Andy La Rocque, a member of King Diamond, and overseeing the recording of the guitars and bass on the album, plays an explosive guitar solo.

The Paradox takes the band into heavier territory, with some massive pummelling riffs. The song thunders at breakneck speed, with some elegiac guitar leads, and anthemic guitar soloing, that with the attendant dual guitar sound, reminds the listener at points of classic Thin Lizzy.  

Garden Of Cyrus is simply massive instrumentally, with some very atmospheric saxophone driving a section of the song, alongside scything guitars and rhythms. 

The Fall Into Time, the lengthiest and one of the most musically adventurous tracks, is bookended at the beginning and closing sections with an electric guitar motif very resonant of the Fripp, Bruford, Wetton, Cross era King Crimson, accompanied by towering choral voices. There is a simply stunning middle section, led initially by some superb jazz-styled bass and rolling drumming by Jonas Björler and Adrian Erlandsson. With some beautifully flowing and acutely melodic crossing guitar solos, from Martin Larsson and Jonas Stålhammar subsequently joining the mix. This is a remarkable fusion of metal, prog and jazz, that is testament to a band that is embracing new musical approaches. The best metal track this reviewer has heard this year.

Cosmic Pessimism, has a distinct blues feel, with a shuffle rhythm and spoken word vocals, until the guitars ratchet up a gear, and Tomas’s vocals return to a death metal growl. There seems to be no musical style that the band can’t take on, and carry off convincingly. Eternal Winter of Reason, has a very epic wall of sound feel, with lots of guitar-led dynamic changes of pace. It’s a frenetic album closer, with Tomas’s vocals at their most passionate.

This is a courageous and completely successful genre shifting metal album; a landmark in the history of the band. It is unquestionably evidence of a band still developing, and evolving their music, in the most exciting way. It is quite simply, very highly recommended, to both metal and non-metal listeners.

Check out Spectre Of Extinction from At The Gates below.

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