Noisey Vs. MetalSucks: At the Gates Should Make a Reunion Album
Welcome to Noisey Vs. MetalSucks, a (sometimes) bi-weekly column in which the staff of Noisey and the staff of MetalSucks will engage in vigorous academic debate concerning some of extreme music’s most relevant topics of the day. For this week’s edition, MetalSucks’ own Axl Rosenberg does battle with Noisey’s Jon Wiederhorn on the subject of whether At the Gates should make a reunion album. Read Axl’s position below, then head over to Noisey to check out Jon’s counter-argument. Enjoy!
The success of Carcass’ Surgical Steel is the nail in the coffin of the anti-reunion-album argument. In addition to Carcass, the past decade alone as he seen reunion albums Alice in Chains, Cynic, Exodus, Death Angel, Living Colour, Asphyx, Pestilence, Convulse, and two different versions of Black Sabbath — and all of these releases were well-received by both their fans and most critics (and that’s to say nothing of bands like Anthrax, Slayer, and Testament, who had what might best be categorized as “mini-reunions” — they never broke up, but a key member of members from their past re-joined the band). And yet, there continues to be a bizarre disconnect between the way people generally groan when they hear the phrase “reunion album” and the actual quality of reunion albums. It makes absolutely no sense.
I suspect reunion-phobia has something to do with that most important of concepts — THE LEGACY! But the fear of a reunited band ruining a legacy is an unfounded one. Bands that have stayed together long after they’ve lost the proverbial fire in their bellies have actually done far more to damage their legacy than any of the groups I mentioned above (think of all the pain and suffering Metallica fans could have been spared had the band just thrown in the towel twenty years ago). In fact, I suspect part of the reason reunion albums seem to be so consistently satisfying is because the band (or key members of the band) have spent so much time not collaborating. It’s a long-term version of “recharging your batteries,” as the expression goes.
Which brings me to At the Gates. Yes, I know they said they’d never make a follow-up to Slaughter of the Soul. They also called their 2008 reunion tour the “Suicidal Final Tour,” the name of which strongly implies that it was intended to be their, y’know, final tour. But here we are in 2014, and they’re still going.
So why not make an album? To protect their legacy? Again, I don’t think, in the instance of a great band reuniting after a long time, that the legacy is something which needs protecting. Yes, expectations would be impossibly high, and in that regard, the band is more or less screwed: metal fans often have a hard time giving a really solid follow-up to a bonda fide classic its due (take, for example, the initial fan reactions to Slayer’s South of Heaven and Converge’s You Fail Me). But that doesn’t mean the album would be bad. Maybe you don’t think Black Gives Way to Blue is as good as Facelift or Dirt or Alice in Chains — but do you wish it didn’t even exist?
Finally, I would tell those who aren’t convinced that At the Gates should record a new album this: if you don’t like it, you can always ignore it! Just because the Star Wars prequels sucked doesn’t mean The Empire Strikes Back isn’t still awesome. Slaughter of the Soul isn’t going anywhere. No metal fan will ever lay on his death bed thinking “I wish I’d heard less great music.” Why rob ourselves of the opportunity to hear new material from one of the most important bands in the history of the genre?