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Why the new At The Gates album is a good bet

For most of our readers, who are cognizant gentlemen and ladies of the Internet, the news that At The Gates is recording a new album is no longer new news. For those who dwelleth subterranean beneath the protuberant igneous excretions of Terra, as Nile might say, here’s the news: At The Gates is recording a new album.

There’s an aphorism which states that buried deep within every cynic there’s a disappointed romantic. I propose that cynics at heart may also be wizened and beaten-down fanboys. I keep my inner fanboy chained in the basement where he’s safe. I let him out only for The Big Stuff, like a new Gorguts or Carcass album, a new Elder Scrolls game, or a date who has D-cups. Rest assured that right now, regarding this new At The Gates album, he’s been let out of the basement.

I’m now going to mix sports and heavy metal to explain why I insist on being unreasonably excited about a new At The Gates album. Please just hear me out:

New-school sports analysis revolves around the concept of a “replacement-caliber player”. Basically, he or she is a scrub, cheaply available and plentiful, used to temporarily fill a role on a sports team. Moving back to music now, the Internet explosion of bands and releases has created a huge, amorphous mass of replacement-level bands. They sound the same, they rewrite the same songs, they have the same competent recording jobs, and they’re sonic wallpaper. They’re like the identical loaves of BIG PASTRY INC. bread on your grocery store’s shelves, because you’ll only notice the rotten ones.

Per the new album announcement, At The Gates will be recording and writing with the classic lineup we last heard on Terminal Spirit Disease, and more importantly, Slaughter of the Soul. Once upon a time, these people were not replacement-caliber songwriters. More specifically, their peak was Hall of Fame-worthy. Collectively and individually, their post-Slaughter output has been of varying quality, to put it succinctly, and nothing they’ve done has come close to Slaughter. Crowned in Terror and Agrimonia’s 2013 effort, which featured Martin Larsson, are the best things any of them have done.

So yes, there is cause for concern. Perhaps too much time has passed, too many original ideas have been used or wasted, or their hearts just aren’t in it, public declarations aside. Perhaps they just won’t gel again as a unit, will essentially be a supergroup, and like most supergroups, will fall short of quality, let alone expectations based on the talent involved.

Also, if you don’t want to hear something roughly like Slaughter of the Soul, I wouldn’t bother with this new record. When we heard that Gorguts and Carcass were recording, there was no reasonable doubt that we’d be hearing respective variations of Obscura/From Wisdom to Hate and Heartwork. Those were commercial and critical highlights, so it follows that the bands would tap into them. There’s also the membership involved here: Alf Svensson is not back in the band. Without his influence, At The Gates took just one EP to change from murky, idiosyncratic, tremolo-heavy death metal to a simpler style that melded melodic death metal and piledriver thrash.

Taking all of the above into account, if you had to bet a paycheck on who would put out a quality melodic death metal album in 2014, what band would you choose? Your choices are this At The Gates lineup, one of the 3.7 billion rookie bands that try and top Slaughter every year, or one of the 3.7 billion veteran bands that have tried for years to top Slaughter.

The rookie bands could be anything from classic to crap; we usually have no basis on which to predict performance, so the potential variation is immense. Odds are they’ll be replacement level, though. The veteran bands have narrower performance variations because they are known entities. The next Omnium Gatherum album, for instance, will be at least solid, with a few outlier fans claiming that it’s a classic. As with the rookie bands, most of the veteran bands are already replacement level.

At The Gates, though, has the track record. When the Björler brothers, Martin Larsson, Tompa Lindberg, and Adrian Erlandsson combine to form At The Gates, their performance variation as songwriters ranges from superb to classic. Ignore the doubters. Bet on the Hall of Famers.

— Richard Street-Jammer

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