You’d be tough to find an argument in the claims that no albums had more of hand in shaping the melodic death metal scene than Carcass’ Heartwork record or At The Gates’ Slaughter Of The Soul. While other bands tried to put together a combination of melody with the aggressive styling’s of death metal, no one perfected it like these two albums. Funny enough, both bands didn’t stick around too much longer after the release of their seminal outings. Carcass would go to release one more record in the forgettable Swansong album but At The Gates would go out on the high note and call it a day shortly after Slaughter was released. Flash forward nearly 2 decades later and both bands are back and fully active. Last year Carcass was successful in releasing one of the best, if not the best, metal record of the year. They captured their heyday with utter perfection. A feat that was not predicted by very many of the metal community. Now At The Gates is following suit. Would their return be nearly as triumphant as the boys from Liverpool? We now have that answer in the form of At War With Reality.

While it does not provide the wow factor that Carcass did, I can say with utter confidence that At War With Reality is still a very good release and far exceeded the expectations that it had garnered from me. Slaughter Of the Soul was such a game changer for me in terms of what direction it pushed me towards in my own listening, I knew better than to expect part 2 of an album that came out almost 20 years ago. To be realistic, I looked at what the members of the band had been putting out recently. In 20 years, the songwriters have bound to mature or even change direction completely in their approach to writing music. Obviously the most critical components of the songwriting comes from brothers Anders and Jonas Bjorler, who have been playing exclusively in The Haunted. While The Haunted started out like a continuation of the At The Gates idea, the band seems to have taken measures into distancing themselves from that comparison and incorporated a lot more groove and even experimented with more melody to almost cross over into progressive metal territory (see The Dead Eye album). The other two members of At The Gates that remained active after their breakup were drummer Adrien Erlandsson and Tomas Lindberg. It would take the better part of an afternoon to talk about all the projects and genre variations that those two have been part of, most of which sound nothing like At The Gates at all. Again, how would all these pilgrimages into other territories affect the overall At The Gates sound?

I’m happy to say that it didn’t affect the sound at all. Again with the Carcass comparison, it seems that they took the same approach to recording music again that Jeff Walker and Bill Steer took in that they wouldn’t record a single note and call it by the old band name unless it captured that sound and feeling. While it’s not exactly Slaughter Of The Soul part 2, the idea has remained in tack. 13 tracks of the melodic death metal sound that they perfected and that spawned a million clones since. A balanced diet of thrash chords laced with note playing without ever taking its foot off the gas pedal for the albums entire duration. If I told you that this was actually a collection of lost tracks recorded during the sessions of Slaughter Of The Soul and Terminal Spirit Disease, you’d believe me.

Although this is a really solid album, it does come with a few flaws. In a way it shows their age, well atleast Lindberg’s. He has been screaming his face off for the better part of 30 years. That abuse on the vocal chords is bound to catch up you eventually. He doesn’t sound awful, by any means, but you can tell that his voice is starting it’s decent into being shot. The album also severely lacks any true stand out track. Maybe it’s because I’ve been listening to albums like Slaughter, Terminal, and With Fear I Kiss The Disease for the last 20 years, but I could rattle off a bunch of rippers from each of those albums that, to me, are must plays in their live setlist. So far, I haven’t heard that one single song on the album that I have completely lost my mind over. I’m not saying that it will never happen but the album definitely did not pack the wallop that the other albums in their catalog did when I first heard those.

Regardless of those issues, this is still a must have record. If you dug At The Gates before, you will definitely be satisfied in this release. If you go in expecting Slaughter Of The Soul’s sequel you will be let down but if you take into consideration that the band hasn’t written music together longer than some of you have been alive, then you should be greatly impressed with what you hear, despite the lack of a song that really kicks you in the teeth.