At The Gates’ 2014 comeback, At War With Reality, was a welcome to return to action from the Swedes, but anyone hoping for something with Slaughter Of The Soul’s impact was probably left disappointed. So there’s been a strong sense of anticipation around the release of To Drink From The Night Itself, especially given that it’s the first ATG record to be without the talents of Anders Björler – a mainstay of the band since 1990.
Yet the guitarist’s absence (he’s been replaced here by Jonas Stålhammar) does not seem to have blunted the Gothenburg outfit’s attack. Indeed, if anything, his brother Jonas, and vocalist Tomas ‘Tompa’ Lindberg, have taken their songwriting up a few notches; To Drink From The Night Itself is the next evolutionary step for At The Gates, which is clear as soon as In Nameless Sleep’s pitch black melodies weave their around Tompa’s trademark bark.
Of course, there is the title track and A Stare Bound In Stone, where the quintet’s magnificently executed, serrated melodeath harks back to the band’s 90s heyday (and shows the copycats just how it’s done) but Stålhammar and fellow guitarist, Martin Larsson, have brought multiple textures to the table this time out. Palace Of Lepers, for instance, is anchored by mighty Gothenriffs, but the pair embellish its assault with jagged, jarring chord progressions and deeper melodies. And for an act well known for speed and groove, it’s actually the slower paced songs – Daggers Of Black Haze for example – which really catch the attention here… and demonstrate the strength of Björler and Lindberg’s imaginative arrangements.
To Drink From The Night Itself, then, is a work of musicians revitalised – and a legendary band who in no way need to trade on past glories.
It feels like a second comeback. It sounds absolutely vital.