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3.56 | 8 ratings | 2 reviews
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Album · 2021


1. Spectre of Extinction (4:49)
2. The Paradox (4:55)
3. The Nightmare of Being (3:52)
4. Garden of Cyrus (4:26)
5. Touched by the White Hands of Death (4:08)
6. The Fall into Time (6:46)
7. Cult of Salvation (4:25)
8. The Abstract Enthroned 4:27)
9. Cosmic Pessimism (4:31)
10. Eternal Winter of Reason (3:39)


- Jonas Björler / Bass, Mellotron, Hammond, Rhodes, Piano, Chamberlin
- Adrian Erlandsson / Drums
- Tomas Lindberg / Vocals
- Martin Larsson / Guitars
- Jonas Stålhammar / Guitars

Guest musicians:
- Andy LaRocque / Guitars (track 1)
- Lars-Erik Almberg / Bass tuba (tracks 5, 6, 8)
- Marcus Carlsson / Bassoon (tracks 5, 6)
- Rajmund Follmann / Cello (tracks 5, 6, 8, 9)
- Alberto Alvarez Garcia / Clarinet (tracks 5, 6, 9)
- Gunnar Hjorth / Classical guitar (track 1)
- Peter Nitsche / Double bass (tracks 5, 6, 8, 9)
- Jill Widen / Flute (track 5)
- Anders Gabrielsson / Saxophone (track 4)
- Fredrik Hulthe / Viola (tracks 5, 6, 8, 9)
- Tino Fjeldli / Violin (tracks 5, 6, 8, 9)

About this release

Century Media Records
CD, Vinyl, Digital
Released 2nd July 2021

Thanks to Nightfly for the addition and lukretion, tupan for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

I am a late comer to the At the Gates appreciation club, having paid attention to the Swedish icons only since their 2018 album To Drink from the Night Itself. Therefore, when their new record, The Nightmare of Being, was released earlier this year, I finally decided to purchase the CD to properly check it out. The reason why the last two records caught my attention is probably also the reason why some oldtime supporters are giving the band a hard time in specialized webzines and review sites: slowly but surely, the Swedes have started weaving conspicuous progressive rock/metal into their sound, noticeably bastardizing the melodic death metal style they once contributed to create.

The Nightmare of Being brings together three different strands of musical influences. The core of the music is still melodic death metal, built on a foundation of fast guitar riffs that are both razor-sharp and exquisitely melodic, pounding and hypertight drumrolls (Adrian Erlandsson puts in a massive performance behind the drumkit), and Tomas Lindberg’s unhinged, high-pitched growls. While in a few songs At the Gates seem happy to not stray too far from the style that made them famous (most evidently in the initial three songs of the record), elsewhere they enrich the melodeath assault with hints of 1970s hard prog as well as dark wave and gothic rock, conjuring up a hybrid sonic world that it is hard not to find enthralling.

The prog rock influences hark back to the sound of the darkest end of the spectrum of 1970s bands, such as King Crimson and Van der Graaf Generator. This is conveyed through the use of the mellotron and other eerie keyboard sounds, as well as sombre real strings and woodwinds arrangements (“Touched by the White Hands of Death”, “The Fall into Time”, “The Abstract Enthroned”). Meanwhile, “Garden of Cyrus” introduces a jazzy saxophone lead, which again brings to mind King Crimson (and particularly their Red album). It should be said that At the Gates are not the only nor the first extreme metal band to look back at the dark progressive rock of the 1970s for inspiration. Ihsahn, Enslaved, and Opeth are three prominent examples of bands that have followed the same path several years ahead of the Swedes. Moreover, these bands have definitely pushed the prog rock influences much more prominently into their sound compared to At the Gates, which instead use the 1970s heritage only to add hints of a new dimension to their artform rather than as a way to completely revolutionize it, like Opeth have done for instance. It is nevertheless fascinating to hear violins, flutes and clarinets weaving in and out of aggressive death metal riffs, especially in tracks like “The Fall into Time” where the band have truly challenged themselves to write music that stretches well beyond the classic melodeath canon. Elsewhere, At the Gates make a more vanilla use of the barrage of classical instrumentation they have at their disposal, essentially as an atmospheric prelude or interlude to their more conventional death metal style. Tracks like “Touched by the White Hands of Death” and “The Abstract Enthroned” are slightly underwhelming in this respect, and they do not strike me as neither very original nor particularly accomplished.

The other element that emerges through the 10 tracks of The Nightmare of Being is an evident penchant for dark wave and gothic rock. This is most apparent on the oppressive yet groovy “Cosmic Pessimism”, a track that builds on a bouncy clean guitar riff apparently inspired to krautrock and bands like Neu! and Tangerine Dream, for what is one of the standout moments of the whole album. Elsewhere, the gothic undertones surface through the use of clean guitar breaks and especially Tomas Lindberg’s half-spoken vocal croon, a style he uses quite often on this record, reminding me at times of Dark Tranquillity’s Mikael Stanne.

With all these disparate ingredients thrown into the mix, The Nightmare of Being makes for a varied and engaging listening experience. Not everything on the album is gold, and in fact there are more than a couple of episodes that feel a tad too run-of-the-mill and unremarkable (“The Paradox”, the title-track, “Touched by the White Hands of Death” “Eternal Winter of Reason”). However, when inspiration strikes them, At the Gates manage to give us some striking pieces of music, perfectly balanced between raw aggression and sophisticated melancholy. “Garden of Cyrus”, “The Fall into Time”, “Cult of Salvation” and “Cosmic Pessimism” are all little gems of modern melodic death metal that cleverly push the boundaries of the genre without straying too far from its core essence. The Nightmare of Being is a bit too patchy to be heralded as a contemporary masterpiece, but it nevertheless shows that there is still creative blood running in the icy veins of the Swedish combo, and it will certainly be interesting to see where they will decide to bring this creativity next.

Members reviews

While At the Gates' output over the past decade or so since their reunion has undoubtedly been enjoyable, I think all but their die hard fans would agree that it has fallen short of the expectations one would have set for one of the most enduringly influential death metal bands of the 90's. But hey, there are death metal acts far less competent and important that have managed to string together a several decades-long career churning out the same recycled noise. If At the Gates wanted to spend the rest of their career riding the trends that, at the start of it all, were largely of their own making anyway, it would do nothing to tarnish their legacy.

And yet, with the release of The Nightmare of Being, At the Gates have announced to the world that they have no interest in sitting on their laurels and letting the opportunity to keep making worthwhile music this late into their careers slip away.

The Nightmare of Being starts off unassumingly with track 3, the title track, only beginning to tease what would follow. But from the tracks "Garden of Cyrus" through "The Fall into Time," the band strings together arguably the most unique and forward thinking stretch of music of their entire careers with instrumentation and chord progressions you would hardly ever expect to find on a record like this. The progressive ambition caked into these tracks belies a band both confident in their abilities and rife with inspiration. As front man and co-songwriter Tomas Lindberg told Loudwire, bringing in Jonas Stålhammar, a guitarist with a strong prog-rock foundation, to replace founding member Anders Björler enabled the group stretch their wings in ways they would not have previously dared to try.

The album's weakness is that it just doesn't commit enough to this new direction. The record is bookended by fairly standard melo-death fare. Its mesial section stands out, like a juicy and tender piece of meat between coarser cuts - edible but inferior. Still, The Nightmare of Being has succeeded in stoking my excitement for whatever At the Gates has in store for us going forward. How many veteran metal bands can we actually say that about?

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