After getting At The Gates back together in 2010, The Nightmare Of Being is the band’s third full length since then. The previous two albums (2014’s At War With Reality and 2018’s To Drink From The Night Itself( stuck closely to the Slaughter Of The Soul formula. This new album starts that way, but just give it a few tracks to settle in.
Album opener “Spectre of Extinction” adheres to their familiar formula just add Swedish guitarist Andy LaRocque (King Diamond) to the mix and you have a veritable banger on your hands. Lindberg’s barked vocal delivery lends itself nicely to this as well as on “The Paradox.” The latter track starts to introduce some stop-and-start elements between vocal sections before the rhythm section launches headlong into riffs that are heavily peppered with d-beat sensibilities.
From the title track onward, something seems to change with the band’s sound, perhaps underscored by the previous track’s title. Adrian Erlandsson’s drum fills and rolls sound excellent as the bedrock of the track. What does not happen here is the usual sense of being launched headlong into riffs that move at light speed. Instead, this develops as something mid-paced and different. “Garden of Cyrus” has a heavy emphasis on the saxophone which gives way to a very brooding tone with some spoken word vocals to join with it, recalling bands like King Crimson and other references not often heard from the band.
“Touched By the White Hands of Death” and “The Abstract Enthroned” retread familiar territory which certainly fits within the Slaughter Of The Soul and At War With Reality mold. It gives fans a bit more of that kind of home cooking they so desire. “Cosmic Pessimism” throws a new wrinkle into the mix, being somewhat of a krautrock song especially with the drums sounding like they came from a Can album, certainly not a metal track.
After six previous albums it is refreshing to see At The Gates break some new ground and try something new. On The Nightmare Of Being they do just that and then some, leading to their best album since At War With Reality and taking risks like they did during The Red In The Sky Is Ours days. A solid effort by a veteran group. Who knows what is next for these melodic murderers?
(released July 2, 2021 on Century Media Records)