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Album Review: At the Gates’ to Drink from the Night Itself

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Sorry to throw this review under the bus in the very first sentence, but I’ve been listening to At the Gates’ To Drink from the Night Itself for the past few weeks, hoping repeat listens would clarify my feelings about the record… and they haven’t. I don’t like it very much. I love it. It’s okay. At least it’s not awful.

My schizophrenic feelings about Night are appropriate, given that it’s the schizophrenic nature of the album that has me all tied up in knots. Ostensibly, what the band has done on this, their second album since reuniting in 2008 and sixth album overall, is attempt to meld the addictively tasty riffage of albums like Slaughter of the Soul and Terminal Spirit Disease with the more jagged, less “traditional” (pop) songwriting structures of earlier works like The Red in the Sky is Ours and With Fear I Kiss the Burning Darkness. The result is a ton of really cool melodeath songs without any of the anthemic, instantly memorable choruses that made AtG’s last three albums — including 2014’s At War with Reality — such a blast (not for nothing did Soul appeal to a generation that grew up with both Slayer and Slaughter). Songs that would have seemed more at home on Reality, like the title track and “Seas of Starvation,” are the exception, not the rule.

That’s not automatically a bad thing; like I said, the music on Night generally rules, and its strongest tracks, like the back-to-back whoppers “The Colours of the Beast” and “A Labyrinth of Tombs,” are all-timers. On the other hand, it’s gonna take a minute before you’re able to whistle any of the melodies from memory; initially, Night may seem a bit too much like a plateau, the songs not easily distinguishable from one another. Which leaves Night in a weird position: it rewards multiple listens, but doesn’t necessarily compel them.

So is To Drink from the Night Itself good or bad or somewhere in-between? Uh… can you ask me again in a year?

At the Gates‘ To Drink from the Night Itself comes out May 18 on Century Media. You can listen to the track “Daggers of Black Haze” here and pre-order the album here.

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