At the Gates’ At War with Reality is Mercilessly Addictive
Let’s just get this out of the way, since I know everyone reading this is on the edge of his or her seat: At War with Reality, At the Gates’ first new studio album in nineteen years, is FUCKING GREAT. Since getting my promo copy several weeks ago, I’ve had a hard time listening to anything else — and it’s not as though there’s been a shortage of killer releases this season. It’s just that, more than another fine addition to At the Gates’ already-intimidating legacy, At War with Reality is as addictive as heroin. Don’t even try to listen to it unless you’ve got plenty of free time on your hands, ’cause the moment this ride is over, you’re gonna wanna get back and do it all over again immediately.
Will At War with Reality make the same cultural and historical impact on metal than Slaughter of the Soul has? Almost certainly not. At War with Reality doesn’t reinvent the wheel; uneducated metal fans who don’t know any better might remark that it sounds an awful lot like the countless bands that have aped At the Gates since they split up after Slaughter‘s release, and that uneducated metal fan would be right. But even he would have to admit that At War with Reality is the best possible version of that album imaginable. Or, put another way: At War with Reality sounds like the record all those younger bands have been trying to make for the first fifteen years. At the Gates have, in effect, out melodeathed and metalcored every melodeath and metalcore band of the twenty-first century.
The secret to their success? When you get right down to it: the songwriting. Like I said, this album is addictive, and that’s because every riff is nothing short of goddamn fantastic. If you were to be forced to stop listening to the album at any random point during At War with Reality‘s running time, the last notes you heard would reverberate in your memory on an endless loop until that time you were able to hit “play” again. These are the kinds of riffs which will give you goosebumps, the aural equivalent of a hundred dollar steak or the best sex you’ve ever had. At the Gates still know how to hit that sweet spot between sounding totally evil and totally invigorating.
In fact, the album has so many highlights as to basically render that word meaningless. From the gothic chorus of “Death and the Labyrinth” to the driving rhythms of “The Circular Ruins” to the anxious energy of “The Head of the Hydra” to the swirling intro and outro of “The Book of Sand (The Abonimation)” to the melancholic, cinematic, neo-classic conclusion of “The Night Eternal” — At War with Reality is a record you’re going to want to revisit again and again and again.
It’s still early, but not too early to declare At War with Reality the best metal album of 2014. Now if someone will just book these dudes on a co-headlining tour with Carcass, we can all die happy.