2021 Best of Metal: #16 At The Gates-The Nightmare of Being

Origin: Gothenberg, Sweden

Release date: 7/2/2021

Personnel: Tomas Lindberg-vox, Martin Larsson-guitar, Jonas Stalhammar-guitar, Anders Bjoler-bass, Adrian Erlandsson-drums

At The Gates is back with album number three since their reunion. The first two albums they put out after getting back together were straight up traditional At The Gates death metal. On this latest release, it was as if they were feeling a need to stretch their creative legs a bit. They’ve worked in some fairly melodic parts, some spoken word segues and even a bit of saxophone. These changes brought a bit of fresh air to the band’s sound and has resulted in one of their stronger albums.

The list so far:

16. At The Gates-The Nightmare of Being
17. The Vintage Caravan-Monuments
18. Nervosa-Perpetual Chaos
19. Baest-Necro Sapiens
20. Agrypnie-Metamorphosis

At The Gates-The Nightmare of Being

Damn. I’m always impressed when a band really goes for it. I mean, for the most part, bands that have been around for 20+ years tend to get into a groove with things. It’s not necessarily that they get stuck in a rut or that they recycle similar ideas. But, there’s usually a formula for things. Album to album, especially in the latter era years of many bands, things may not seem as fresh or as daring as they were in their early days. Hell, that’s just life, ain’t it? We get comfortable. We slow down. We cease to grow. And that’s fine. It’s expected.

So, it gets my juices going when a long time band just tries some new shit out of the blue. At The Gates broke up in 1996 after releasing the landmark Slaughter of the Soul album. They reunited in 2011 and released two albums prior to this latest one. These two post-reunion albums were both very solid releases and really felt like the picked right up from where the band was in 1996. They were very listenable albums, but didn’t really break any new ground.

So, it was a surprise to hear some pretty creative and innovative stuff happening on post-reunion album number three. I would really love to know the backstory to the creation of this album because it feels like such a departure from any of their prior albums. What prompted the band to go out on a limb this time? I mean, it still sounds like At The Gates. It’s not that radical. But there’s a deliberate attempt at changing things up. Lots of clean guitars. Multiple songs with an almost spoken-word type delivery by Tomas Lindberg. Hell, they even jumped on the becoming-ever-more-prevalent-use-of-a-saxophone on one song. It honestly feels like a good portion of this album could be viewed more as a post-rock/metal type album than the traditional Swedish death metal sound that At The Gates helped establish.

There are probably fans out there that won’t like this album due to its different sound. I, for one, think it really works and is a breath of fresh air for the band. This album brought excitement to me when I first listened to it because it just wasn’t what I expected. It’s always a gamble to stray from the well-tread path. But, as At The Gates has shown, rolling the dice can sometimes result in some magic.

4.5 flip flops out of 5