"To Drink From the Night Itself"

By El Chief

Let get this out of the way right now. The newest album from Sweden's melodic death pioneers At the Gates is not "Slaughter of the Soul." To dine again on that classic feast would not satiate you as much as you'd think. But it's also not like their comeback effort "At War with Reality." Instead, "To Drink From the Night Itself" dispenses with the lethargy that held the latter effort back, clears the cobwebs off the bounce from the former, and strikes out on its own to promise a bright future for a band that often struggles with the concept of tomorrow.

Interviews leading up to this Friday's release reveal just how close we came to not having a new At the Gates album to either criticize or celebrate. Singer Tomas Lindberg suggests the band was closing to throwing in the towel again after guitarist Anders Bjorler left. But instead of putting fans on pins and needles for another dozen or so years, Lindberg rolled up his sleeves, grabbed his favorite writing instrument and got to work on the next record with bassist Jonas Bjorler.
The result is more hit than miss, which is more than can be said about "At War with Reality," that LP wears thin after "The Circular Ruins."

While "To Drink From the Night Itself" doesn't have the cohesiveness of "Slaughter of the Soul," it crackles with an anger that didn't seem possible after the ATWR sessions. Helping matters is that Lindberg has crafted the lyrics around the theme of resistance to fascism. The focus allows drummer Adrian Erlandsson to pound the skins as punctuation to Lindberg's ire.

The departure of the brother Bjorler also forced At the Gates to tighten their approach. Replacement six-stringer Jonas Stalhammar didn't join the fold until writing for TDFTNI was well underway. That absence brought the band back to writing tight rhythms. Most of the tracks don't even feature a true lead guitar. Every ounce of effort stays within each melody, allowing them to become beasty earworms that burrow deep into your ears for days on end. 

While Lindberg's lyrics deal with breaking the chains of oppression, this version of At the Gates is also breaking the chains of comparison. The perfunctory comeback album is well out of the way. Now they are truly free, and it's time to get out of their way.