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How do you follow up one of the most ground-breaking and influential metal albums of all times, decades after it's release? I imagine that's a question the guys in At The Gates have asked themselved many times over the years. As many others, including themselves, I never expected them to ever release another album. And when the announcement finally came I naturally worried that At War With Reality would just turn out to be a disappointment that would put a shadow over the legacy of At The Gates.
As it turns out, I really had nothing to worry about. As soon as Death And The Labyrinth kicks off, it's rather obvious that this is not a reimagining or rebranding of At The Gates. This album sounds just like a successor to Slaughter Of The Soul should. Death And The Labyrinth and the title track are an incredibly strong start and both songs should be compulsory in every future setlist.
It's hard to imagine that almost twenty year have passed when listening to this album. The sound captures that same spirit from the earlier albums while still sounding fresh. Tompa sounds as tormented as ever and the guitar sound is spot-on. There are a lot of impressive riffs and melodies present, as they should, and some notable moments are the solos in The Conspiracy Of The Blind, the chorus guitar melodies in The Head Of The Hydra and the epicness of closing song The Night Eternal.
The smart riffs and thought-through guitar melodies aside, the real foundation of the album is the rock-solid rhythm section provided by Adrian Erlandsson and Jonas Björler. The drumming and bass playing give an incredible drive to the entire record - especially to midtempo songs as The Circular Ruins and Order From Chaos. Many songs are played in different keys, as well, which gives a more dynamic listening experience compared to Slaughter Of The Soul where the entire album was played in the same key.
Overall the album shows a band that has evolved and matured, while remembering what once made them great. Some listeners might be inclined to feel that they played it a little too safe with this album but I, for one, am thankful that they didn't try to reinvent the wheel but rather refine it somewhat. They have a strong concept to build upon and as long as they have inspiration to create good music within that foundation, I'm happy as a clam. In short: if you like At The Gates you'll like At War With Reality.
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Flames Of The End