At The Gates - To Drink From The Night Itself
Century Media
Melodic Death Metal
12 songs (44:48)
Release year: 2018
Century Media
Reviewed by Goat
Major event

Following on from their solid if disappointing comeback in 2014, At The Gates trailed To Drink From The Night Itself by saying it would be heavier and 'more death metal' than At War With Reality, and well, they're not wrong. Those intrigued by rumoured comparisons with past classic The Red In The Sky Is Ours will be disappointed anew however, that distinctly twisted sound not making the comeback that we'd all like. This album took awhile to grow on me to the point of acceptance, in honesty! To Drink... has some elements to recommend it, heavier than its predecessor and more interesting, with moments that make an attempt to channel the mournful and atmospheric feel of before if not close to living up to the band's earliest material in that regard. There's even some violin here and there, although used as intro/outro pieces rather than mixed with the death metal.

Generally, your favoured era of the band will dictate which songs you enjoy most here although most will surely think that (after intro Der Wiederstand) the opening title track is a little too derivative of Slaughter of the Soul, although it's as close as any song here gets to being catchy. The hooks woven into At War With Reality are rare, tracks like the thrashy A Stare Bound in Stone coming close with a nicely atmospheric second half. Melodic riffing helps Palace of Lepers feel like a classic melodeath track at points, although Daggers of Black Haze is better-written and probably the best track on the album. On initial listens, it all seems repetitive and samey as songs don't really differ in formula, and you really have to fault the band for not being more ambitious in songwriting, as a little more experimentation would have made this album far better.

As it is, it's really a struggle to describe anything here as better than 'solid', the sort of standard melodeath album that we've all heard a thousand times by now - played very well, of course. These musicians have been doing this a long time now, but don't put that experience into the songwriting; a slightly faster or slower pace here or there doesn't make enough difference, the doomy pace of The Colours of the Beast or the faster A Labyrinth in Tombs aren't enough to truly feel distinct, although there is a mournful atmosphere that At War With Reality was missing. It's aided by the production, dank and moody and anything but crystal clear, seriously muffling the guitars and rhythm section while not providing much to support the vocals.

It's a frustrating listen, as a fan of the band who wishes that they'd do better. At The Gates may have invented this style, but bands like Dark Tranquillity have made far more albums and stayed mostly fresh while Soilwork and even In Flames have modernised to varying degrees of success. As with my review of At War With Reality, there are serious questions to ask about At The Gates' willingness and hunger, and why they feel content to be continuing down the post-Slaughter of the Soul route without challenging that album's quality or recognising that over two decades later it's not unreasonable to ask for more from melodic death metal. Compared to Slaughter, To Drink From The Night Itself feels seriously lacking, having none of the energy and viciousness whether in vocal performance, song structure, or riffs. It's slightly better than its predecessor, at least, and while these songs will doubtless be better live, I'm having trouble not feeling seriously let down by this reunion thus far.

Killing Songs :
A Stare Bound in Stone, Palace of Lepers, Daggers of Black Haze
Goat quoted 72 / 100
Other albums by At The Gates that we have reviewed:
At The Gates - The Nightmare of Being reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
At The Gates - The Red in the Sky is Ours reviewed by Goat and quoted 90 / 100
At The Gates - At War With Reality reviewed by Goat and quoted 70 / 100
At The Gates - Slaughter Of The Soul (Re-issue) reviewed by Crims and quoted 95 / 100
At The Gates - Suicidal Final Art reviewed by Danny and quoted no quote
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