Review: At The Gates “The Nightmare Of Being” [Century Media Records]

Review: At The Gates “The Nightmare Of Being” [Century Media Records]

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In 2020 At The Gates celebrated their 30 years anniversary. However, it was a quiet celebration: last year was complicated for all of us and for the band as well. But now, in 2021 the band returns with their new album, The Nightmare Of Being.

The band’s previous release, To Drink From The Night Itself was based on a giant work from Peter Weiss, “The Aesthetics Of Resistance”, where he explains how the art can be a weapon against violence, dictatorship, suppression and oppression. The Nightmare Of Being is also basing on a book – this time it is “The Conspiracy Against The Human Race” by Thomas Ligotti. “I had just read something by Thomas Ligotti – he writes horror and there’s a lot of Lovecraft-like, dark philosophy in there, the philosophy of pessimism, – says vocalist Tomas Lindberg, – Then I found Ligotti had written another book called “The Conspiracy Against The Human Race”, which is more a biography of pessimist thought. I thought, ‘Wow, this is cool…’ and when I started reading that, it was him defending his worldview and going into detail about other pessimistic writers that had come before and how they can sometimes be connected to the horror genre. He namedropped so many people in that book, that it became a starting point for finding all this other stuff, and then I knew where we wanted to go with this record.”

Musically, the band stepped out of traditional Goteborg Melodix Death Metal. Let me explain: there is still a plenty of MDM in The Nighmare Of Being and the first single “Spectre Of Extinction” gives the fans exactly what they wanted: melodic acoustic intro changes with tough riffs, fast drumming and catchy melody with Tomas’ harsh vocals. The same happens in “Cult Of Salvation” where synth emphasize the atmosphere and then dark piano plays a melody with guitar – that’s quite impressive. “The Abstract Enthroned” sounds fast and brutal; the only melodic thing you can hear in it is a guitar solo. “Touched By The White Hands Of Death” starts in a cinematic way, escalating the atmosphere, changed later with MDM riffs and melodic passages, which reminds Heavy sometimes. And the album finishes with mid-paced, dark “Eternal Winter Of Reason” with great bass line.

At the same time, At The Gates stepped real far to Progressive Metal territory on this album. Tomas says about it: “I told Jonas (Björler) I wanted this to be a really dark record. The last one was dark but maybe more aggressive. It was more about struggle and resistance. This one is deeper, darker and more philosophical, so I told Jonas he could really go far with this one, with the ideas that we always had about putting the progressive stuff in there. Pretty early on he came out with the first sketches for “Garden Of Cyrus” which is the more King Crimson-like song on there. After that we knew that we could do this and there was nothing holding us back from where we want to go. Of course, it’s not the most commercial album, in that sense, but none of the albums are, and they’re all different.”

The titled “The Nightmare Of Being” starts with grim finger picking and clean vocals. Later the music turns into Death Metal with great drums but from here you can clearly hear the band’s willingness to go Prog – they still stay Death Metal but already set the direction. In aforementioned “Garden Of Cyrus” the music changes beyond recognition: irregular time signatures, melodic solos, thought-out bass line and sudden saxophone (I remember, it was a shtick in 2018). In his turn, Tomas even not singing but delivers a spoken word with clean vocals. In the end guitars become heavier, vocals turn to extreme but it’s still Progressive Metal, while overall the songs is dark, with some tragedy notes from time to time but the most important, it’s like nothing you’ve expected from At The Gates. “The Fall Into Time” also starts in a grim way with some orchestra samples, which gradually changes with dark, mid-paced Death Metal riff but in the middle of the song it change direction to Progressive Metal quite seamlessly. Next to last, “Cosmic Pessimism” is pure Progressive song as well and it is so unexpected that you’ll probably need some effort to listen to it to the end.

Nevertheless, The Nightmare Of Being is still At The Gates‘ album, as it may sound controversial; maybe not in all but in many. Yes, there are lots of surprises or rather suddenness but the boundaries between genres mostly blurred here and overall it sounds quite seamless and interesting. I don’t think we have some “loss of identity” here, “searching for a new sound” and everything that usually said in this case but I can be possibly wrong.

The Nightmare Of Being was released on July, 2 via Century Media Records.

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