The 25 Best Metal Albums of 2010 – 2019, #19: At the Gates, At War with Reality
MetalSucks recently polled nearly 180 prominent metal musicians and industry insiders to determine The 25 Best Metal Albums of 2010 – 2019! (You can read all about the voters and the methodology behind the poll here.) Over the next few weeks, we’ll be counting down the entire list, one entry per day.
The countdown continues today with At War with Reality (Century Media), the 2014 release by At the Gates!
Cuckoo bananas though it seems now, when At the Gates’ seminal release Slaughter of the Soul was first release in 1995, it was vastly under-appreciated. A few years later some American kids started passing the album around at parties and BOOM!, by 2004, seemingly every metal band in the United States sounded like they’d been mainlining Slaughter.
By that point, of course, At the Gates at called it quits. It would have taken a Herculean effort for the band to hold out on reuniting forever — I’m sure promoters were just throwing money at them to get back together, and besides, didn’t they deserve to enjoy the success they should have had more than a decade prior? But still, the band had a LOT to lose by making At War with Reality. As things stood, At the Gates were now heavy metal folk heroes (surely, few concepts appeal to metal fans more than being unappreciated in one’s own time, I suspect because it both lends tr00 elite status to their initial fanbase while confirming metal’s general world view that people are morons). If their comeback album was lackluster, it would put a serious dent in their legacy.
Given that the eventual reunion record is on this list, that obviously didn’t happen. At War with Reality is ostensibly Oh Shit, the Soul is Still Alive, Make Sure You Slaughter it Dead For REAL This Time — which is to say, if At the Gates had never broken up and instead released a new record circa 1997, this is likely how it would have sounded. The production is even bigger and a bit slicker, but AtG lost none of their talent for writing songs that are such a goddamn pleasure to listen to that they suck the listener in like whirlpools. Gothic, authoritative, and structured like the most compelling of narratives, hitting “play” on At War with Reality is a masterclass in songwriting. It seems to simultaneously disable the “stop” button… you cannot start listening to this record and then stop. In many cases, it’s been known to make the listener’s finger involuntarily hit the “repeat” button, too. I had to turn it off to write this, because I kept getting distracted and rocking out instead of typing.
What that means is that At the Gates have now one of the best, if not the best, melodic death metal albums of two separate decades. You can no longer argue that the band is unappreciated in their own time, but that’s a fair trade for a record this friggin’ good, ain’t it?
The 25 Best Metal Albums of 2010 – 2019:
#25: Cult of Luna & Julie Christmas, Mariner (2016)
#24: Triptykon, Eparistera Daimones (2010)
#23: Pig Destroyer, Book Burner (2012)
#22: Yob, Clearing the Path to Ascend (2014)
#21: The Black Dahlia Murder, Ritual (2011)
#20: Mastodon, Once More ‘Round the Sun (2014)