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A good number of so-called classic albums don't fully reach such a state until long after their time, achieving a kind of cult classic status at first that eventually blossoms into an army of reminiscing minds of better days gone by. Some classics, however, achieve near instant success and become a genre staple right in the midst of things, and sometimes the band literally never recovers from it for some reason. These are the sort of albums that, regardless of the intent of the band, spawn a whole legion of imitators in fairly short order and brings about a genre revolution of sorts, and in the case of "Slaughter Of The Soul", this would be the signature sound that defined the Gothenburg scene and all its international imitators in the late 90s and so forth. And while imitation is said to be the ultimate form of flattery, it is also the key ingredient in market saturation that will eventually inspire a backlash in certain quarters, as can be gleaned from the healthy number of critics that this album has earned since the close of the 90s.
While most trend setting albums stand on a varying level of artistic merit, there is usually an over-emphasis on accessibility that will go with such a collection of songs that makes it vulnerable to heavy emulation, as well as shorten its shelf life. In the case of this album, the primary symptoms of this tendency are the usual down play of complexity and flash in favor of predictable song structures, along with a combination of brevity and repetition that makes for quick digestion. Apart from a few outliers, most albums will tend to employ a few shorter, catchy songs in order to wet the appetite before leading the listener down a maze of intricacy. But this album is more of a straight and wide path, albeit one that is nicely ornamented with a few beautiful melodic interludes and guitar shred breaks, like the occasional tree or shrub amid an endless landscape of tall grass. This isn't to say that the album is boring or lacking in passion, but it definitely wants for a little more than the occasional acoustic interlude gimmick or a few scattered sampled atmospheric sections to break up the limited array of riffs and progressions.
Perhaps the only thing that really deviates from the predictability of the arrangement is the vocals of Tomas Lindberg, which are loaded with rage and fury. His vocal style is a good bit more agonized than guttural, almost like a upper mid-ranged hardcore shout that has been painted over with a greater degree of darkness and intensity that gives it a superhuman character. Just about every American metalcore band that has tried to employ this style of toneless shouts usually ends up sounding comical or even gimp-like, and even this band's own home town compatriots In Flames' vocalist Anders Fridén struggled to really get this style down to the point that it sounded convincing, let alone exemplary. Yet at the same time, there is a bittersweet reminder of the deliberate limitation present on this album as generally mundane, thrash-infused anthems such as "Blinded By Fear" and "Under A Serpent Sun" are given that little nudge over the hurdle by the intense bombardment of emotion and anger coming from Lindberg's pipes.
In spite of the mix of grandeur and mundaneness, this album is pretty much worthy of the level of emulation that came after it, though obviously not every band that came after toting the "Slaughter Of The Soul" stylistic banner was really worthy of what they were carrying. Ultimately this approach to album construction standardized the melodeath style to the point that more multifaceted albums like "Skydancer" and "With Fear I Kiss The Burning Darkness" became a rarity, and latter 90s efforts out of Dark Tranquillity and In Flames would follow a similar model to this, all but to the point of continuing At The Gates' studio career since the band never recorded any new material since. At the same time, the level of exposure this album and the style it influenced reflect its vassal nature in regard to what happened in the style previously, including the band's own older efforts. Perhaps its unfair to wholly judge this album based on the excessive output of knockoffs, but hindsight is definitely a factor for anyone who has listened to anything in this style since 1996. It's a good album, and definitely a fun one, but it lacks the amount of depth to have a lasting level of staying power, which pretty well explains why there's always hunger for more albums of this sort.
This is one of those albums where you either blindly praise it and take its popularity and importance far too much into consideration or you despise it with every fiber of your being just because everyone else like it. OR you can do what I did and think for yourself and bring yourself to objectively say "I like this," or " I don't like this." Seriously though, if you really think about it, you should like this. Slaughter of the Soul is a fantastic album!
*Army of haters closes the page*
For those of you still with me, I'd like to point out that when you really think about it, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS THE GOTHENBURG SOUND!! Be honest, how many melodeath bands from Gothenburg are there let alone bands that people know or care about?! First three that come up, In Flames, Dark Tranquillity, At the Gates... and uhm... Dimension Zero, oh wait, that's Jesper Stromland and Glenn Lungstrom (pretty much In Flames). Uhm... Gardenian? Wait, not many people know or care about them. So, the three left that matter... they all sound completely different. In Flames had a lot of melody and those folksy acoustic guitrars, DT had a lot of really technical riffs, and At the Gates had the anti-religious, misanthropic brutality. Yet for some reason people seem to group these bands and pretty much any band that decides to abandon some of the death in death metal for melody (*sarcasm* How could they?!?!) into a category they consider "stereotypical Gothenburg bullshit." I sigh at these people. Onto the music.
As the band states themselves in the lyric book (in the DVD bonus rerelease version at least), they wanted to open this up with a really catchy thrasher. "Blinded by Fear" more than succeeds. The song is intense througout, has one creepy part, then explodes into one of the catchiest and to the point leads I've heard in a while. Plus, it's worth mentioning that the lyrics are incredibly memorable and flow very well.
This sort of thing happens throughout the whole album. The songs all have intensity, catchiness and well thought out riffs. Though, I will say that I think the intro riff to "World of Lies" is kinda stupid. Other than that, riffage is all good and each song is distinctly different than the others. On top of that, the leads are fantastic. Notable mentions other than the one mentioned earlier are "Cold" and the title track in the lead department.
Vocally, Lindberg is going all out here. Unfortunately, I think the vocals feel very produced. I know how great the vocals are out of the studio, and I think the extra production was unnecessary. So, basically the vocals are great, but thehy could have been just as good without the production.
The rhythm department is tight here. Drumming keeps a thrashtastic rhythm going and doesn't obnoxiously show off, which I feel far too many drummers do. And the bass manages to keep the guitars going strong while not trying way too hard to be in the front. Though, I must complain about the fact that it feels like bass doesn't add much to the composition of the music and stays as support more than it should.
The two instrumentals on the album are fanfreakingtastic. "Into the Dead Sky" is a perfect breather song and has some of the most beautiful acoustic work I've heard outside of Opeth songs. When the other instruments come into the mix, it comes together perfectly! And the closing track is creepy. Creepy in an atmospheric way. It's simple, yet it's meant to be! Quite possibly the best closer they could have come up with. I feel that it would be the perfect background music to watching the entire world crumble. Perfect moment that just makes me stare blankly at my hand thinking, "Whoah..."
Seriously though, this is probably At the Gates' weakest effort BY FAR. I don't blindly love this album, and no one should. But I don't blindly hate it because it's actually good! Seriously haters, get your heads out of your asses.
Get the bonus tracks version if you can. It's kind of a short album and the extras are awesome.
I got my first earful of this album via illegal download, way back when I was first getting into the harder varieties of metal. I was listening to a lot of Arch Enemy, In Flames, Dark Tranquillity, and Necroticism/Heartwork-era Carcass, and being the dewy-eyed enthusiastic youngster that I was, I scoured the still dial-up-based internet for similar bands. Eventually, I came upon quite a bit of praise for this album: At the Gates’ 1995 smash hit Slaughter of the Soul. So, I fired up my LimeWire, searched around for a bit, grabbed the mp3s, and about an hour later deleted them off of my hard drive because I thought it sounded like a boring version of Arch Enemy.
Now, later on, I found out that At the Gates essentially established the Gothenburg school of melodic death metal, and when I went back to explore their early albums, they ended up becoming one of my favorite bands. Amusingly enough, those albums seem to be experiencing a bit of a popularity resurgence online as of late, but every person I’ve ever talked to in real life has hated them and loved Slaughter of the Soul. That probably says more about the social taciturnity of all of these “old school death metal” guys than anything else, but it also shows that for whatever reason, a lot of people love this album.
I can definitely understand why people like this album: the production is heavy, it’s very accessible and catchy, and it doesn’t require a lot from the listener. Outside of some of the twists and turns towards the end of “Nausea” and “Need” (conveniently tucked away at the back of the album), there isn’t much in the way of the compositional density and unsettling atmosphere that marked At the Gates’ earlier stuff. It’s pretty much just all ahead GO (a word that Tomas Lindberg seems obligated to shout before each and every break on the album, unless he says “yeah”, “do it”, or “come on” instead): melodic semi-thrashy riffs played at fairly high-speed over simple but infectious beats. Apparently, Slayer was used as something of a frame of reference by the band when writing this album, but I sure as Hell can’t here it. Slayer took lots of chances on their canonical albums, blazing a new stylistic trail for metal to follow, but this album feels almost like pop punk with harsh vocals most of the time.
And it’s not even a particularly good pop album, either. Eucharist would do the whole semi-thrashy simple melodeath thing a lot better two years later on their second album, but then again, that album took chances. This one seems content to slap a few catchy riffs together and shout the name of the song as the chorus a few times to get the kids moshing. It’s not composed like death metal at all, and it’s not really composed in the riff-stacking manner of thrash either. Once again: very, very pop.
I suppose the best songs on the album are the ones that manage to be the most successful as pop songs. I haven’t given this one a full listen in about a year or so, but I can still remember all of “Blinded by Fear,” which manages to successfully ride a couple of good riffs for two minutes or so. I can remember the chorus of the title track. I can remember the guest solo in “Cold” being fairly good, but they didn’t really do anything interesting songwriting-wise with it outside of setting aside a few bars for Andy La Rocque to shred over. “World of Lies” has some cool stuff at the beginning, but by the time the chorus shows up, Anders and Martin appear to have fallen asleep. The rest of the album? Can’t say I remember much outside of the basic style. So, not only is it not a real death metal album, but it doesn’t really do its job as pop music either. Basically, this one’s only really good for comedy value: there’s something tragically hilarious about listening to obviously talented musicians dumb down their songwriting style to impress moshers, but the really sad part is that everyone bought it for the better part of fifteen years. At least now this album’s star appears to be fading with the fall of the Gothenburg-y metalcore trend. A trend that, it’s worth noting, this album started.
Folks, what we have here is arguably one of the most significant albums in all of metal, regardless of whether you love it or hate it. At the Gates’ swansong effort, Slaughter of the Soul, has been the introduction (and sometimes even the gold standard) for death metal for countless fans, while also being the inspiration and direct influence on much of the popular modern metal music scene as we know it. While setting the blueprint for what melodeath was supposed to be, this also influenced everything from metalcore, to deathcore, to modern thrash, and has had a smaller effect on most other subgenres as well. The thing is, Slaughter of the Soul not only popularized a certain sound, but as an album, it was one of the first extreme metal albums to really embrace the glossy, polished sound that has seemingly become a staple of popular metal as we know it, for better or worse.
I just spent an entire paragraph trying to sound unbiased. Be happy, because now I’m going to let the haterade flow! As anyone who knows my taste in metal might expect, I despise this album. This album not only had a huge influence in destroying the future of metal, but also sounds like mindless fodder for children on its own. It’s obvious how this album became the one that new fans of metal (particularly mainstream metal) latched onto immediately–it basically has the qualities of a pop album. This is a shallow, downright juvenile album that is the equivalent of over-sugared candy in the diets of metal fans everywhere. Sure, this album has the hooks, the catchy riffs, the melodic solos, and all of that nonsense, but in the end, it lacks substance. Simply put, Slaughter of the Soul has no depth at all, and ended up being the final blow to pure metal as we knew it.
Let’s look at some of the songs here. ‘Blinded by Fear’ is the first track, as well as the single from the album. The mere fact that this album had a legitimate single should be the first warning flag. With this song, we’re presented with the basic formula of a catchy riff over a blastbeat. Sometimes the riff changes, sometimes the drumming switches to double bass plodding. Also, there’s a melodic, short, unadventurous solo. Of course, that’s pretty much the formula for this entire album. Don’t get me wrong, this song is quite catchy, but it’s so utterly one-dimensional that it makes me sick to my stomach.
‘Slaughter of the Soul’ continues the formula, except this time having a really boring riff behind the vocals during the verse. This is another common trend on the album, leading me to believe that this is literally a pop album. Everything here is either incredibly guitar-centric or vocal-centric depending on the part of the song that it’s insulting. Of course, this is metal, so being guitar-centric should be good, except the guitar parts are utterly boring. We either have a stale riff, a wimpy lead melody, or a solo. How fun. There is no intricacy whatsoever, nor is there anything remotely interesting. The riffs are headbang-able, though, so if you want some mindless music to stupidly wave your hair to, then go for it.
If the tracks don’t start to blend together by now, then god (satan?) bless you. The main problem here is that everything is interchangeable. There is simply no cohesion going on, and that at any given moment, you could feasible trade out any riff here and put in another riff from the album. This is a significant problem in that it shows that nothing really builds off anything. There is no cohesive whole entity with which to listen to and understand the development of. Instead, this is pop drivel. Poppy, generic, melodeath drivel.
I’d like to give special mention to another track that simply bothers me, ‘Into the Dead Sky,’ an acoustic instrumental piece. As odd as it may seem, this track is the one that most exemplifies my gripes with Slaughter of the Soul as a whole. On its own, this is a nice little piece. There is nothing offensive about it in any way. However, it also doesn’t really do anything at all, feeling completely out of place, while also not adding anything to the atmosphere of the album (which is completely not-existent, by the way). I’d like to compare this to ‘The Scar,’ from their debut album, The Red in the Sky is Ours. ‘The Scar,’ even with its shit-tastic production value, does an excellent job of evoking a sense of emotion through simple layering and counterpoint, with melodies contrasting each other to create a very tense feeling throughout. There is nothing complicated about it, but it has its slight changes throughout, while also serving as an excellent gap between the last two songs. In addition, it maintains the air of bleakness that The Red in the Sky is Ours had.
In the end, this seems to be the main problem. At the Gates showed a great degree of creativity with their debut, crafting an interesting, decently complex, emotive album that had its own special kind of atmosphere, despite its utterly shit production. That album had character! Slaughter of the Soul dropped all of that in favor of some dolled up, plastic, dumbed-down version of that. Instead of winding song structures, we now have some of the most predictable metal you can find, complete with a sterile sound and utterly unconvincing performances from anyone, especially Tomas Lindberg, whose vocals were phenomenally charismatic on their debut (“KINGDOM! FUCKING! GONE!”), now sounding empty and purposeless.
But it’s not just that transition to sterility that makes this such a hated album in more purist circles. It’s more the fact that this is the album that has had the influence on so much modern music as we know it. If anything, The Red in the Sky is Ours had some interesting ideas that could have really been great for other death metal bands to work with (the violins, no matter how haphazardly placed they were on the album, were an original touch that could have been greatly expanded on in future works). Slaughter of the Soul is, if anything, a direct contrast to this creativity in favor of an incredibly streamlined and palatable sound to appeal to the masses. Well, it certainly did appeal to the masses, and metal suffered as a whole from it.
Written for http://thenumberoftheblog.com/
Typically, the early albums from any given band best represent their vision and tend to be the best ones; those fueled by a passion to create. Often, the debut album from a band will be the most thought-out, since the band usually has a few years to perfect their music before getting signed and releasing a full-length. In many cases, bands will progress and improve, over time. At the Gates is a curious anomaly, as they seem to have regressed as they went along. Stylistically, Slaughter of the Soul is a very simplistic, stripped-down album. When compared to the absolute brilliance of their debut, The Red in the Sky is Ours, it seems quite childish. The members of At the Gates were never able to recreate the genius that was so prominently displayed on that album. There were hints of it, but nothing that ever came close. As time passed, they descended deeper into the murky swamp of mediocrity. However, when this album was released in November 1995, it was met with great praise. Truth be told, I was a fan of this album when I first heard it.
My first exposure to this band came when I heard their cover of Slayer's "Captor of Sin", late one night, on a college radio program. My friend picked up a copy of Slaughter of the Soul, not too long after, and I recorded it onto a cassette and listened to it quite a bit, prior to tracking down the CD. After several months, I'd grown tired of it and spent more time listening to Dissections' Storm of the Light's Bane, which I'd also gotten around this time. Some time later, I decided to pay attention to At the Gates again, but I was bored. I ran across a copy of Terminal Spirit Disease and my interest was rekindled. As average as that album is, it still showed a lot more promise than the one that followed it. As I continued digging back into the discography of At the Gates, I grew to respect them a lot more, while becoming even more disappointed with their swansong. I couldn't figure out how or why a band could possibly be capable of such brilliance, only to throw it away in order to seek out mass appeal.
There's no need for an in-depth analysis of each track. This album features several brief Thrash songs and a semi-atmospheric outro that wasn't even intended for use on an album. The production is overdone, sounding too slick and polished. There's also something grating about the sound, in a sense. There's some decent riffs, here and there, but nothing that hasn't been done before. Worse yet, this is all far below what these musicians were capable of doing. This is an extremely dumbed-down version of At the Gates. Somehow, they managed to take the riffing style of Dismember (which they had adopted earlier in their career, only utilized to a lesser extent) and to simplify it even more in an attempt to make the music accessible to every metalhead under the sun (or "Under A Serpent Sun"). Hey, a lame album deserves a lame joke.
The vocals are very much streamlined, possessing very little of the feeling that was present on their earlier albums. There are brief moments where you are reminded of the old days, though the band was so intent on creating another Reign In Blood (yet one more album that saw a great band trading artistic integrity for the almighty dollar) that they never expand upon the few decent ideas that appear, here. The longest song is just under four minutes, which is a departure from the ways of old. Oddly, the lengthiest song on here is the aforementioned "Under A Serpent Sun", which shows some faint signs of their previous style, though the production ruins it. These guys really lost their soul when Alf Svensson left the band. Personally, the only worthwhile song on here is "Need". This one still manages to maintaint he miserable atmosphere from the past, though it's far too short. However, it has some realy dismal guitar melodies and an eerie whispered section, at the end.
"Now let the final darkness fall"
Slaughter of the Soul is an album for those that want instant gratification, without having to put much (or any) thought into what they are listening to. It's simple music for simple-minded people. It's constructed in such a way as to appeal to all Metal fans. However, its effects are temporary. It's an album that you either love or hate, though many love it at first and then grow to hate it. It's definitely overhyped and inferior to the rest of the band's discography. If you truly want the At the Gates experience, seek out The Red in the Sky is Ours. It is the pinnacle of their careers, regardless of what other bands they've been involved in (yes, putting it just a notch above Grotesque). As for Slaughter of the Soul, it's decent if all you ask of your music is to give you something to mindlessly bang your head to, but you'll get bored with it over time. If you must purchase it, do yourself a favour and look for it in the $1 bin.
Everyone knows At the Gates, Gothenburg metal, and more importantly Slaughter of the Soul; so I won’t go into a long winded journey into the back history of such and just get on with why I think this is such an amazing album. Honestly, when I first heard this I wasn’t aware of the movement called “Gothenburg melodeath” and I wasn’t aware of all those wannabe bands, all those legendary bands selling out (In Flames) and those straying into odd territory (Dark Tranquillity), but I was aware when I first heard this… that something amazing had been concieved. This one one of my first extreme metal albums I remember hearing few years ago with much enthusiasm I remember enjoying this straight from the get go.
Now that I’ve become more educated and knowledgeable towards metal and the scene I understand how split the community has become towards this. Slaughter of the Soul has some of the best melodeath riffs, melodic harmonies that perfectly fit in with the atmosphere of misanthropy brought in by the ridiculously amazing vocals of Tomas Lindberg. Those who know me, know I’m a gigantic Lindberg fanboy, loving his performances especially in Nightrage and At the Gates, he’s by far the best harsh vocalist out there. Songs like Under a Serpent Sun, Cold and the stand out title track all stick out to be some of the coolest vocal performances ever. From the opening riffs to Under a Serpent Sun to the twisted yell into distorted Gothenburg riffing the song erupts into probably the highlight of the album with one of the catchiest choruses on here.
Everything about this makes this something special, from the stellar musicianship, the aforementioned vocals, to the slickened production all makes this highly memorable. The production gets a lot of slack I’ve seen here from being too clean, too crisp or something that is frowned upon by morons who need it to be a cheap production for it to be decent or something. I think the cleanliness and heightened production only aid to the memorability of the songs, which is what Slaughter of the Soul runs on. The songs here, every fucking one of them, are highly memorable. For days, I’ll have the riff to the title track playing in my head or importantly the awesome catchy as hell choruses and how it’s possible to sing along to every song on here; Tomas Lindberg once again makes it just something above what it should be by delivering the goods with raspy goodness that is harsh as shit but still clearly understandable.
The songs on here are all highlights, even the melancholic instrumentals that meander throughout the album being somewhat skipworthy, are still enjoyable. The solos here are just as good as it should expect, even though they aren’t especially out there or some sort of shred fest, they stick out like the solo in Cold, where the sweet effects or something build up the tension before spewing forth awesome shredding notes that are so melodic and fast that they go flowing in and out of the wind like free flowing rivers. Cold also has my favorite lyric/line from Slaughter of the Soul with the convoluted vocals of Lindberg ripping out, “Only the dead are smiling! Ohhhhh!” Blinded by Fear is the perfect opener, starting from the strange and eerie opening nosies and spoken word intro, to the blasting riff and once again, awesome vocals. I dare you not to be singing along, “THE FACE OFALL YOU FEAAAARRSSS!”, it’s so fucking awesome. Then right off the bat it leads into another highlight, the title track with the sweet low riff and the pause and the infamous… “GO!” the chaos ensues with riffer and headbanging madness. It’s so energetic and wonderfully brutal that it makes for such fun. There’s another song to sing along to, being probably the second best chorus to sing along to as well as the best main riff, at 1:23 mark. Yeah, try not to headbang motherfuckers.
I think Slaughter of the Soul is a monumental album in At the Gates career and the best Gothenburg release to date, finding it hard to discover a better, more energetic and powerful, and especially more catchy and memorable release. Everything about this is just simply awe-striking and it blows my mind how music can be so catchy and memorable sometimes. The performances here are just beyond all expectation, major props to Tomas Lindberg for being one of the best extreme metal vocalists out there and having such presence in every work he does. This is definitely essential to extreme metal fans, melodeath fans and more importantly, metal fans. Everything about this sums up what I enjoy in melodic death metal, it’s hard to find songs that are just so downright memorable in their own individual right, short or not… my only complaint is I wish this album wouldn’t end so quickly, but that’s nit-picking, so I suggest ignoring the haters and buying this album.
There are bands that have changed a lot their musical style during their career. Most of Swedish melodic death metal cult bands are among those and At The Gates is probably one of the best examples. They were the precursor of a musical orientation that exploded a couple of years later through Dark Tranquillity or In Flames. As these two disciples and plenty of others, they began playing melodic death metal and moved progressively to a more hard core/metal core oriented music.
Granted that Slaughter of the Soul is their last release before they split up, this album is the one that has the most metal core roots. Although I generally don't stand this kind of music, I must admit that it's in the case of At The Gates really well done. They are an exception and improved themselves as the best band in this musical evolution. At the opposite of some of their compatriots who have just lost their soul by playing an annoying noisy piece of shit without variation or interesting riffs, they crush our ears and blow our minds with this Slaughter of the Soul and its extremely recommended captivating violence.
The instrument that is the less audible is, as often in this style, the bass. However, that doesn't affect at all the quality of the cd and the bass is just enough present to reinforce the power and atmosphere created by the guitars, whose riffs are all excellent and whose cohesion is undeniable. The drums are pretty good too, perfectly alternating quick parts and heavier ones. The vocals are very harsh, maybe even a bit harsher than on the previous album Terminal Spirit Disease. In spite of this vocal and musical intensity, At The Gates did not just seek to play the most violent music they could do, there is really a melodic research and the quality of most of the choruses is incredible. If you have the opportunity to listen to this stuff, you'll understand how unforgettable are the choruses of songs like Unto Others, World of Lies, Suicide Nation or Blinded by Fear.
I first had the normal version of this cd, that means without the bonus tracks (there were 11 titles instead of the current version with 17 titles that is now the one we mostly find). The first edition length of 34 minutes would have been too short for a symphonic black metal or for a gothic/doom metal album, but it was just ok for the kind of music on Slaughter of the Soul. The six bonus tracks are, as often, less interesting than the rest of the cd and probably just a good way to make quick money. However, they remain quite good, before all the demo version of the excellent Unto Others, and they definitely don't reduce the quality of the album. Anyway, if you really consider them as worst than the rest, nobody obliges you to listen to them; so that they can only be positive.
To conclude, if there is one cd that marks an exception in all the albums of former melodic death metal bands who have integrated metal core influences in their later releases, it's Slaughter of the Soul. At The Gates was one of the best bands I've ever heard and this album is absolutely fantastic and shouldn't be compared to the mass of current shitty albums that are half way between melodic death and metal core. At The Gates were masters and they remained it until the end. The main difference between this album and the vast majority of so called similar releases results in the band's ability of creating a various music with crushing riffs and incredible choruses. Don't miss this masterpiece, it would be a sin.
Gotta love pop metal. The longest song on here is 3:58 and, incidentally, by far the best and most developed. "Under a Serpent Sun" is the only thing on this album that really brings to mind the greatness of old AT THE GATES, with its tremolo harmony riffs reminisceing things like "Raped by the Light of Christ", but even moreso "Terminal Spirit Disease" -- yes, this is the only song on this album that would even have fit right in on the previous MCD; such is the dramatic change in style here. Look, it even has a little nifty part in 11/8 time -- remember back when AT THE GATES would unpretentiously and effortlessly play weird time signatures all the time like it was the most natural thing in the world? Most of this album, of course, is in 2/4 or 4/4.
Listening to "Slaughter of the Soul" is like getting beaten over the head repeatedly with a hammer -- well, one of those inflatable rubber hammers. By virtue of its simplicity and straightforwardness, it pretends to be more aggressive than the preceding albums, but make no mistake -- this is neither as brutal and malevolent as "The Red in the Sky is Ours", as evocative and thoughtful as "With Fear i Kiss the Burning Darkness", nor is it the modern-day "Reign in Blood" some make it out to be. What it is, then, is basically "Terminal Spirit Disease" forced into a melodic speed metal mold. Unfortunately, most of the subtleties that made AT THE GATES one of Sweden's VERY BEST BANDS EVER were lost in the process. Too fucking polished. A certain amount of shine helps most albums, but this has just been rubbed with thinner and a lint-free cloth over and over until all the honesty wore off.
Apart from "Under a Serpent Sun", there are, to be fair, some other cool tracks here. "Into the Dead Sky" is one, but it's just a short instrumental interlude like "The Scar" or "And the World Returned", but not as good as either. "Blinded by Fear" and "Slaughter of the Soul" are cool for what they are, short bursts of polished pseudo-aggression -- but the problem is that after this initial one-two punch, the rest of the album is just more of the same, and even at 34 minutes, it severely overstays its welcome. By the time "Nausea" and "Need" roll around, "Slaughter of the Soul" has blatantly run of out ideas and is even recycling the lyrics.
"Release me from your world of lies
I cannot bear this pain
The monsters we create
The monsters we create"
Yeah, whatever. If the music wasn't enough to make you notice, here's more conclusive evidence that this is very much not "The Break of Autumn", "Through Gardens of Grief", nor "Non-Divine".
Some of the lyrics are better, though (especially in the aforementioned "Under a Serpent Sun", heh heh), filled with bitterness, sorrow and hate, but unfortunately the music doesn't really back them up very well. This album does not punch the world in the face and rain napalm upon your cities, it writes polite letters of complaint to various authorities at best.
See, I understand why people give this ratings in the high 90's. I loved this back when I was 15 as well, but seven years later or so this is just not a very interesting album. "Slaughter of the Soul" is listenable, I don't intend to excise it from my collection, and sure, sometimes when I'm drinking beer somewhere and this album is pumping out of the speakers I will be headbanging along and screaming NEVER AGAIN! ON YOUR FORCEFED ILLUSIONS TO CHOKE! but at no point do these songs really go beyond that sort of mindless entertainment -- and if that's what you're after, I would suggest maybe buying a proper thrash metal album instead? See this? This is another Swedish metal album called "Extreme Hatred" by HYPNOSIA, and once you've heard this, your beer and heavy metal parties will never again be accompanied by "Slaughter of the Soul". If you're an AT THE GATES newcomer, I would suggest "Terminal Spirit Disease" as a first buy since it's very accessible yet still retains a lot of the greatness of the somewhat-hard-to-get-into two first LP's -- but in the end, those albums were what made AT THE GATES great and their only truly mandatory releases.
Jesus fucking Christ, I don't remember "World of Lies" sucking this much. But it does. "Cold" is terrible as well. Anyway. I've heard well over a thousand metal albums, and "The Red in the Sky is Ours" is constantly in my top three of all time. This? Maybe somewhere in the lower half of top 500, if I'm feeling generous...
There has been much already said about this album in previous reviews, and since I only review for this website, this review will not be particularly expansive. After reading the positive reviews for this album, I feel compelled to state that there are always at least three primary ways in which to rate an album. First, one can review the album on its own merits, as objectively as possible, such as on the basis of its musicianship, its production values, its lyrical content, the quality of composition, and so forth. Secondly, one can relate the album to other albums created by the same artist, so as to determine whether the artist is progressing or regressing. Thirdly, one can relate the album to the entire musical genre to which it belongs, to assess where in the overall scheme of things the album belongs. It seems that many people reviewing Slaughter of the Soul rate this album on the first criterion, while blissfully ignoring the latter two - and even then, there is a lot that can be detracted from the "own merits" criterion.
Certainly, the album is slickly produced, and the musical talents of At the Gates are on full display (though not nearly as impressive on earlier, more technical and ambitious outings), though lyrical content is bordering on what today would be known as "emo" and is hardly inspirational or thought-inspiring, while the quality of composition is highly suspect, given the pop song, verse-chorus-versus structure of every single track on the album. There is plenty of melody present, and every track is easily digestible, but much like bubble gum pop music, the allure fades away after a few listens. The only song that seems to hearken back to earlier times of grander composition is the opener, Blinded By Fear, and even this song could only be considered "average" by the standards of any previous work by At the Gates.
Part of what made At the Gates so appealing over the course of their career between Gardens of Grief and Terminal Spirit Disease was their originality (after all, the style developed on Gardens of Grief and The Red in the Sky is Ours had an influence on the rest of death metal) and the reasonably chaotic song structures that adorned every album in this period. Melodies were beautiful yet palpably unrestrained, and song structures, while clearly premeditated, seemed to flow with an organic energy characteristic of an untamed beast that was aware of its start and end point but chose to be completely wild in the execution of its journey.
On Slaughter of the Soul, the beast has been tamed, if not outright slain, and every song has a predictable and neat quality about it, very much like a lot of the nu-metal and pop metal that followed the album. That is to say, the listener could become quite familiar with the album by about the second track, and comfortably enjoy the rest of the album with a sense of expectation that was not likely to be challenged. The other major problem with Slaughter of the Soul is that there are moments on the album, including in the seemingly thematically sombre title track, where the mood is notably upbeat, thus belying the alleged spiritual intent of the album. There are perhaps hundreds of albums in death and black metal that purport to address the issue of suicide and death in general, and they create a mood that is significantly more appropriate to the topic than is to be found on Slaughter of the Soul. All of these factors contribute to the inescapable conclusion that At the Gates did not put forth all of their creative energies in the execution of this album, which in the final analysis remains an unfortunate swan song to one of the most important and most talented death metal bands to ever have existed.
Listeners of this album should listen to every other album by At the Gates - not only will you be pleasantly surprised by what is on display, but you will also be privy to some of the best of what the death metal genre has had to offer.
Slaughter of the Soul is an outrageous blasphemy against metal. It has more in common with a stale pop record than it does with an honest metal album. Why do people insist on holding this album in such high regard? What is it that they find here that is of such high quality? Nothing, but I bet the believers were fooled by the catchy hooks, ultra recursive songwriting and the absolutely laughable displays of “emotion”.
What’s most aggravating is that there are certain peoples whom honestly believe this is At the Gates best effort! Such persons should be laughed at, ridiculed, embarrassed, humiliated and de-trousered in public. At the Gates themselves should undergo similar punishments for betraying what they originally accomplished.
Prior to this sub-mediocre record, At the Gates pursued musical excellence. They didn’t settle for streamlined rock ‘n’ roll songs. They wrote what can be considered the most compositionally ambitious batch of songs in the history of death metal. Not only that, they were also artistically relevant. On Slaughter of the Soul, they apparently “matured”; meaning they figured that the best way to attract a metal audience is to write ultra-simple, easy to understand collection of songs. Gone are the complex compositions of old and along with any integrity. Gone is the ambitious attitude behind the beautifully chaotic masterwork: The Red in the Sky is Ours. In its place now stands the anti-metal position of “Oh, let’s just make music that every metal head can enjoy!”
Bearing that train of thought in mind, At the Gates crafted an absolutely mediocre album. It’s impossible to see why the hell people praise this crap. The band members are not particularly adept at their instruments, the songwriting is half assed, and the riffs are watered down thrash riffs. So what the hell is there worth praising?
There is only “catchy and “memorable” melodies; the same type that permeate many a pop band to be found here. Technicality-wise, the work featured here is not all that impressive. The guitar riffs are nothing more than straight thrashing that require nigh average ability. The riffs themselves consist of tremolo picking with basic melodies. Perhaps these riffs would be interesting if the notes chosen created some viable contrast, but that is not the case. Instead, each melody is awash in sappy sentimentality and cutesy stabs at novelty that it is difficult to take seriously. The drums and bass follow suit; absolutely average 1+2+1+2 rhythms played right behind the guitars. Maybe the musicianship would be more impressive if this was released twelve years before. Obviously, that is not the case. By around, or even before 1995, there were already many bands displaying a level of musicianship far greater than Slaughter of the Soul. Including, but not limited to, Atheist, Morbid Angel, Cryptopsy, Suffocation and earlier At the Gates (That’s Right!).
Perhaps the musicianship shouldn’t be taken so seriously. After all, many artists proved themselves worthy by overcoming instrumental deficiencies with powerful songwriting. Unfortunately, no such powerful songwriting is present anywhere on this album. The listener is instead treated to unspectacular rock ‘n’ roll arrangements that do little to deviate from traditional verse/chorus/repeat/bridge/verse/chorus structures, and much less innovate. The songwriting contains nothing more than catchy melodies carried by predictable, cyclical arrangements. This is also the same formula utilized by pop artists. Needless to say, there were plenty of bands at the time that dabbled in more complex compositions; including, but not limited to, Emperor, Gorgoroth, Immortal, Darkthrone, and Early At the Gates (That’s right!).
Slaughter of the Soul is a completely watered down version of At the Gates. Avoid it at all costs. There are far much better creations in the realm of metal. It is clear that At the Gates created this for the sole purpose of making safe, accessible, and inoffensive metal in order to garner more fans from the scene. Call it ‘light’ metal if you will. Or how about, At the Gates in light flavor! It’s At the Gates with all the distortion and aggression, but none of the challenging thinking required to comprehend it! Whatever you want to call it, I call it ‘Crap in the middle of the road.”
When was the last time you could recall staring at the face of hostility, only to be perplexed by the beauty surrounding it? It’s hard really to even conceive such a thought, since those two hardly go hand in hand. But maybe some of us have never been in a situation like that before, and therefore can’t comprehend it as well as another might. For instance, my father, who served in Vietnam, told me about a time that his base was under mortar fire. In-between the mortar rounds and explosions, he claimed that smoke mixed with the morning Vietnamese sun to create an inexplicable surrounding.
But At the Gates seemed to master this effect flawlessly.
“We are blind to the world within us…waiting to be born”
After 32 seconds of industrial noise and effects, those chilling words are passionately and calmly spoken on “Blinded by Fear” before you’re taken down the path of lunacy and depravity. This deranged portrait of life is known as “Slaughter of the Soul”, and you’re stepping square into its asylum. Tomas Lindberg’s seething vocals mixed with Larsson and Björler’s vindictive riffs are enough to make you collapse to the floor. However, with every lyric sung, every riff that is played, there is an undisputed presence of touching melody. The wonderful euphony of “Under a Serpent Sun” is more than a confession to the power of melody that these musicians posses. It’s no question that brutality and grace exist in harmony here, but it’s the brutal aspect that could be the selling points at critical moments. The title track is one of the most rip-roaring tracks on this album, complete with frothing vocals and searing guitars. And composing of one of the most ingenious audio clips ever used, “Suicide Nation” will send a chilling message within the first second as the sound of a shotgun being loaded is blasted into the speakers, only to be followed by maliciously crunched riffs.
“Children born of sin, tear your soul apart!”
On past albums, Lindberg had a bit more of “Death Growl”, and was certainly deeper. On here, however, his voice is a bit more rasped and stretched, making him seem even more desperate. And when Lindberg snarls, you know his giving it his all. He aims to leave his body void of all energy after every song, and it’s a wonder he got through a whole album with death by the cause of exhaustion. After listening to him put his body to the test on “Blinded by Fear”, he continues on his impressive performance throughout the whole album, notably again on “Cold” and “World of Lies”. Listening to him bark out “Suicide - jaws locked around your spine” on "Suicide Nation" will leave the vision of a man stripped of all hope.
Combine Lindberg with the experience of the guitar work, and a whole new world is opened. From the unrelenting “Blinded by Fear” to the acoustic based “Into the Dead Sky”, Larsson and Björler effortlessly put forth one of the most stunningly unique Metal albums. While the riffs they fire off on this album are a bit simpler and straight-forward than their past releases, they feel more completely written and thought out. And their solos, while short, are nicotine to the ear. “Cold” features a striking use of effects blended in with raw talent to envelop the listener and stamp its mark on the song.
While the work here is truly breathtaking, there are a few blemishes. For starters, since this isn’t as technical as their past releases, some of these songs border on being ripped off one another. This surely isn’t a problem in the beginning with the first 7 songs being completely distinguishable, but the last few, like “Nausea” and “Unto Others”, are hard to tell apart. And that being said, “Nausea” is probably the blandest track on here, as it becomes borderline hardcore punk with its overly simple riff base. And besides a shining moment on “Blinded by Fear”, the bass is still virtually non-existent. However, to cancel that out, Adrian Erlandsson does a phenomenal job on his drum parts. While it’s not anything that will drop your jaw, it’s more than solid. Adrian performs with pin-point precession, and never misses a beat.
This was the last album by At the Gates, and what a way to leave. The compassionate mix of brutality and melody that they created on “Slaughter of the Soul” has still yet to be matched within the Gothenburg genre. And besides a few hiccups here and there, this is their masterpiece. If you call yourself any kind of a metal head, I can’t stress to you enough how much you need this album.
Overall – 4.5/5 (92)
Blinded by Fear
Slaughter of the Soul
Under a Serpent Sun
*For a better summary than the last real paragraph above, please obtain the track "Suicide Nation" and listen to the first second. Thank you.
There is an obvious dividing line in the opinions about At The Gates' classic album 'Slaughter Of The Soul'. Many people hail it as one of the few Swedish melodic Death Metal classics, but many At The Gates fans consider this album as an attempt to be too accessible. Let me point out, before I get to my own opinion, that both groups are right. 'Slaughter Of The Soul' is in deed much more melodic and accessible than anything At The Gates has ever done before, but that is exactly why I like this album so much. The debut album 'The Red In The Sky Is Ours' is just too noisy for me. That is the strongest division between "old" At The Gates and this album: the older albums are really melodic Death Metal, while 'Slaughter Of The Soul' has a lot of influences from the Thrash field and the likes of Iron Maiden. And those Thrash influences make this album an enjoyable one for me. Almost every riff you hear could, in a slightly less melodic form, have been on a Slayer album.
So what do we have here? The album starts out in the right way with 'Blinded By Fear'. The video to that song was basically my first introduction to At The Gates (forgive me, I was born in 1986) and I liked it right away. As much as I despise grunts and screams, Tomas Lindberg had something different, a more versatile grunt, which gave this song the right atmosphere. Things I loved right away as well were the guitar sound and the drumming. Plus, that main riff to 'Blinded By Fear' is just amazing!
The album continues in the same vein with the title track, which might just be even better and the same line is continued throughout most of the songs, which is my only complaint about the album; it could have used a little more variation.
Personal highlights include 'Blinded By Fear', the title track, the absolutely amazing 'Suicide Nation', the "slower" (which in case of At The Gates means moderately fast) 'World Of Lies' and that nifty opening riff to 'Under A Serpent Sun'. Another nice thing on the album is Andy LaRoque's guest guitar solo on the track 'Cold'. While not being one of Andy's best, it's definitely the most memorable solo on the album. It fits the song quite well; 'Cold' is one of the more melodic tracks on the album and really breathes a desperate atmosphere.
'Into The Dead Sky' is one of the few non-Metal moments on the album. It's a tranquil instrumental and I've always quite liked those. Especially on albums of Swedish bands. There's something with the way Swedes play the acoustic guitar...maybe it's just their musical tradition, but somehow, there's always wonderful melodies coming out of an acoustic guitar played by a Swede... The other non-Metal track is the closing instrumental 'Flames Of The End', which is a really, really strange one. It's an experimental, soundtrack-ish mood that sets the tension for something which is never to come. It sets a climax for something that just isn't there. Even though it is a good track quality wise, I think it's in the wrong place on the album.
After that, if you have the remastered version, there is a handful of completely useless bonus tracks. Among those, there are demos of two album tracks ('Unto Others' and 'Suicide Nation') which are vastly inferior to the album versions, if only because the tuning is different. The cover songs aren't that good as well, but something I have to note with that is that I hate cover tracks, so maybe some of you will like them.
'Slaughter Of The Soul' is an amazing Thrash album with just the right amounts of melody and aggression. I never cared much for terms as "classics" or "milestones", but when it was up to me, both would fit this album very well. Not one of the musicians did anything better before or after the album.
This is the album responsible for inciting a musical movement called The New Wave of Swedish Death Metal a.k.a. Melodeath, more so than The Gallery, Jester Race, or any other album out there. The melodic, yet crushing sound have become the signature of Gothenburg bands. The album has reached its influences into broad areas of rock/metal music, especially with American bands like Shadows Fall, Lamb of God, Killswitch Engage, etc. etc.
However, on the other end of the spectrum, this album is vilified and scorned by metal purists, claiming that the band has sold out from its original sound to create this pop-structured album. This album single-handedly produced a stream of copycats that has diluted the metal scene, which eventually destroyed the movement the band once owned.
Now, everybody has their own opinion about this album. But as far as I’m concerned, Slaughter of the Soul is simply one of the better albums released in the 90’s, one of the best guitar-oriented Metal albums ever, and easily one of the most influential albums in the current wave of Metal music. At the same time, Slaughter of the Soul is a flawed album that shows flashes of brilliance, only to leave listeners ultimately unsatisfied.
The songs are typified by an in-your-face attack, heralded by the sterling guitar work, a mix between brutal Death Metal and the vigor of Power Metal, and tight, active rhythm section. The vocals are a mix of Hardcore shouts and Black Metal screams. The album is appropriately produced by Fredrik Nordstrom, notable for his guitar-heavy recordings.
The guitars really stand out in this album, production-wise, as well as song-wise. Slaughter of the Soul boasts some of the most visceral riffs in metal music. ‘Cold’, ‘Suicide Nation’, and ‘World of Lies’ contain creative and powerful guitar lines with loads of melody that makes the music whistle-able, ala Heartwork.
In ‘Cold’, At the Gates has crafted a timeless Metal classic that will surely stand the test of time. The crushing intro which leads to the lurching mid-tempo riff is the stuff made for headbanging. The off-kilter bridge riff and the serene acoustic part, leading back to the bridge with an overlaying short, but sweet lead is excellent. And the chorus is damn infectious. A must hear for any Metal fans.
However, the problem with the album is that most of the songs follow a verse-chorus-lead formula that becomes predictable as the album wears on, which renders them easily digestible. The songs have the tendency to be powerful and memorable at one point, but after repeated listens, they lose their luster and impact. Another gripe with the album is that the band recycles chord progressions heard on previous songs. Nevertheless, this doesn’t discount the songs from its greatness, since all of them are performed with venomous intensity and urgency.
Overall, despite its shortcomings, Slaughter of the Soul is still highly recommended. My suggestion: buy the album, and make your opinion about it.
When one thinks about the creation and evolution of the melodic death metal sound, it really comes down to three bands: Carcass, At the Gates, and In Flames. Sure, in the early 90’s Entombed set the stage with their pioneering death & roll landmark Wolverine Blues, and Sepultura was busy reshaping death in its own proudly South American image, but these bands only opened the door; they never stepped through. Carcass brought the big hooks and the basic concept, At the Gates presented us with a new and exciting guitar tuning and the roots of the melodeath style, and In Flames… well, they really really liked Iron Maiden.
Slaughter of the Soul is really the first fully realized expression of melodic death metal’s potential, Heartwork for all its innovation still being defiantly underground at heart. This is the first death metal record where you get a sense of this potentially being mainstream, this sensation that this could become a new brand name in metal. I mean, previous to this only Cannibal Corpse and a handful of other Floridian mooks had made inroads on commercial success, but they were still creating too much of a racket with their Jurassic-era spoo. At the Gates, on the other hand, have some of what made Def Leppard stand out from the NWOBHM or Metallica from the rest of the thrashers, this sort of verve and confidence, an eye cocked toward the prize. Starting from this point, they became a separate entity from their shaggy, frostbitten contemporaries like Dark Tranquillity and Dissection and (after their break-up) began collecting the dues and boos that all innovators receive.
The really fun thing about picking up a record like this is that you get to hear both the ideas everybody and their bearded sun-fearing mothers cribbed and the ideas that were left behind, other paths that remain unexplored (see Priest’s first five records for tons of these). It seems a rule of thumb that almost all innovative bands are composed of players who refuse to sit still and play their music straight. Sometimes that means that their derivatives will reap the success, and other times it means that the watershed record will forever be held up as a superior piece of art. ATG falls somewhere in the middle of this range.
Slaughter of the Soul’s stunning guitar tone and garbled but intelligible caws are undoubtedly at the foundation of the modern sound, but the really cool thing is how much more variance you’ll find here than in the average Darkane record. The music is based much more strongly upon speed and thrash metal than death metal (truth be told, there’s hardly any death to speak of), with all sorts of black and Soundgarden and Pantera stuff overtop. The highly distorted guitars add the mechanized crunch that’s become so familiar through the works of Hypocrisy and The Crown, while the slightly more shrieky than usual vocals point towards the likes of Children of Bodom and Old Man’s Child. It’s a perfect example of how the initial influences of a form of music are slowly strained out with each successive imitation, the highly apparent Reign in Blood song structures and claustrophobic riffing disappearing in the successive generation just as Diamond Head’s overt Zeppelin affection was so mercilessly purged by Metallica and Megadeth.
The songs here are for the most part very short and to the point, four songs (if you subtract the long-ish intro to “Blinded by Fear”) clocking in at under three minutes. With the exception of the two instrumentals, each song seems calculated to get the pit moshing hard but smooth, the band wisely scraping away the more complex elements of thrash and glaring with a laser-eyed focus on the straight-forward ‘bang thy head’ riffery with an occasional Carcassian swinging hook to mix things up, dangling like a booger before the band sneezes out a compact flurry of riffage to segue back into the main thrust of the song.
The main problem with this is that many of the songs (particularly in the first half of the record) tend to blur together in one’s mind if they aren’t the ‘hits’ like “Blinded by Fear” or “Suicide Nation”. The album is also far too angsty for its own good, too much ‘nobody cares about meeeeee’ too little of the supposed philosophy the liners ramble about. Also, Tomas Lindberg may have discovered a new vocal style on this LP, but he also discovers the greatest weakness it has: it sounds like crap when it doesn’t have riffs under it. In “Cold” there is a break where he basically sits there screaming about how nobody loves him and, while I refuse to use the analogy most any other reviewer here would use, once you hear it described as such you can’t help but think of Tomas gargling back some of the white stuff while getting his angst on. Furthermore, the acoustic instrumental is beyond basic and the MIDI-sounding “The Flames of the End” wouldn’t sound out of place on the next Shadow of Death demo.
Still, the album is saved from the terrifying fate of the OVERRATED stamp by the nastier backwash that awaits on the latter half of the album, At the Gates apparently having satisfied their commercial jones and ready to show off the ugly, harsh side of their new baby boy, “World of Lies” kicking off a four-song blitzkrieg of neo-thrash with enough vitriol to strip the paint off of the walls. Three of the four are total Slayer worship, “Unto Others” in particular being a really mean piece of business, the sound of angry robots playing Tormentor while “Need” beats absolutely everyone to the ‘gothic Gothenburg’ punch.
Overall, I recommend this record to anyone who likes the less ornate Gothenburg bands out there, and for those thrash-heads who don’t mind that the tuning is slightly different and can tolerate the vocals of bands like Children of Bodom. I also have to say, in the strongest words possible, that anyone with a ‘scholarly’ interest in the evolution of heavy metal must hear this record at least five or six times in order to understand melodic death. For the rest of you out there, you won’t find many easier headbangs.
A word about the reissue: it adds six fine tracks including extremely intense covers of Slaughterlord and Slayer and a ballsy unreleased cut called “The Dying”. Some of this stuff is actually better than what you’ll find on the album proper.
Stand-Out Tracks: “Unto Others”, “Blinded by Fear”, “Nausea”
Apparently At the Gates “got bored” with their formerly complex and technical style of death metal, or they “progressed beyond” writing structurally difficult music, or they finally figured out that “the most powerful songs are the most direct ones”. You know the drill; you’ve heard it from other bands. As of this album (their final one) they just want to rock out and play some catchy music, and hey, who can blame them? They paid their dues, and I’m sure they had bills to worry about; who are we to judge them… uh, right?
Anyway, what we have here is the sound of older Swedish death metal crossbreeding itself back into rock music – franticly fast, hard rock-influenced riffing and scream-a-long vocals over basic thrash drumming. Fast, aggressive ear candy, basically. Indeed, when a death metal band's vocalist starts interjecting "yeah" and "do it" into songs, you might as well say farewell. If you’ve heard pretty much any heavily hyped release by a Swedish band to come out in the past several years, very little description should be necessary, because this thing’s fingerprints are all over what’s currently passed off as “melodic death metal”.
None of this is really brilliant, but now and again it’s at least as catchy and memorable as it’s trying to be, like on the first two tracks and “World of Lies”. Most of the rest of the album is kind of a blur, though, and as a whole it's woefully unambitious and not really worth the time it takes to sit through, not when there’s so much really good metal out there.
Nice guitar tone, though.
Now, I’m not all that familiar with this band, or the Gaythenburg scene in general, but I figured I’d give this a review, since I feel it’s a rather strong album. We start off with "Blinded by Fear" which everyone knows is a spastic little ditty full of rage and such. The title track is the next offering from these Swedes, which is another fine tune, but really just more of the same as the first. The guitar tone on this album is insane. Much like a chainsaw crossed with a rhino.
The vocals on "Cold" kinda piss me off, a little too pleading or something, but the song’s not too great anyway, so no matter. Next. "Under a Serpent Sun". Cool. I like it. It keeps a very good pace throughout. The vocals are very strong on this one. Vicious. Did I mention the guitar tone? Killer! Much like an angry tiger trying to eat an equally angry crocodile. The next track is an instrumental which is very very good. It seems to be inspired by something called the 13th Floor Elevators.
We’ve come to the high point of the album. "Suicide Nation" is the coolest melodic death metal song I’ve ever heard (which may not say much but it’s MY review, so fuck off and get your own opinions). I love the sound of a shotgun being cocked to start off the intro riff -- which is very strong by the way. Next we have "World of Lies" another good one, if a little lacking in the continuity department. "Unto Others" is strong as well. This block of three songs seems to be the best on the album, all very immediate, angry and intense. That guitar tone. I’m not sure if I said anything about it, but it rules. Kinda like a lawn mower getting butt fucked by a Harley.
Next up is "Nausea" which begins well enough, but then they give us the stupid textbook Gaythenburg chorus, you know, the one with no riff, a fast drum beat and the vocalist bleating the name of the song out over top of it all? Yeah, that one. It sucks. I’m having a hard time with the next one, "Need", I think I’ve heard it before, and it was probably a few tracks ago, but it sounded better. That’s the problem with these bands, this shit just starts to sound the same after a while. I won’t even bother with the last track since it’s some kind of techno shit.
The reason this album scores so high is because the good songs are really fucking great, whereas the bad songs, well they aren’t really bad, so much as paler versions of the good ones. Don’t forget to check out that guitar tone, though!
So imagine if The Haunted actually threw in more than one thrash riff per career, and didn't have that idiot of a hardcore barker doing vocals... well, you'd get this album. This is pretty much staple Gothenburg death metal, with some decent riffage every once in a while... unfortunately every once in a while it succumbs to the absolute wretched dynamic excesses that make Dark Tranquillity and the other mainstays of the genre so unlistenable. These two cardinal sins are: a) Drop the guitars and make the vocals the main point of the song, and 2) lots of overlong noodling without real riff intensity.
The first two songs are straightforward and solid, with even a nice thrash riff in Blinded by Fear popping up - then Cold is where the album reveals its true "melodic" character... there's the silly acoustic passage around 1.45 and then the solo over the really fucking boring midpaced riff right after that. Then, the end of Under a Serpent Sun has the vocals interlude. Yeah, if you like Gothenburg, you'll like this one.
Then there's the dumb interlude "Into a Dead Sky", which then returns us to the "usual" sound of fast not-quite-thrash riffage of Suicide Nation. The Haunted fans, listen up... this is your album right here. The song gets better as it goes on, but it is still very repetitive. Suicide, suicide, suicide.... great.
The good parts of the album - decent solos and when they have fast riffs underneath they are quite enjoyable, it is the midpaced wankery that really sucks, and man these guys are good at that too - apparently to graduate from Gothenburg University you have to take a degree in that. Even the fast songs kinda blend into each other - the verse sections are completely interchangeable.
But hey, it's a massive step up over previous At the Gates, which was just absurdly bad.
It's always a shame to see a band break up, and it's even more a shame when the band that breaks up is so damn good. Sadly, nothing can get At The Gates back together, but that didn't stop the Earache label from rereleasing the band's swansong, Slaughter of the Soul with some new tracks and unreleased material that makes one of the best melodic death metal albums even better.
Slaughter of the Soul finds the band at their peak form; guitarists Anders Bjoler and Martin Larsson trading off brutal riffs and excellent rhythm guitar, drummer Adrian Erlandsson showing off some excellent alternating patterns (that he still uses in Cradle of Filth), and vocalist Tomas Lindberg providing some excellent growling that is heavy, but clear enough that you can hear the rather excellent lyrics.
The re-release comes with liner notes by Tomas Lindberg, and although he offers a lot of interesting comments, it's clear that he dislikes some of the material on the album, and for the most part the tracks he dislikes aren't quite as original, or even as good as some of the standout tracks on the album. And like many melo-death albums, the potential for repetition does begin to set in after a short while, as a lot of the songs are structured similarly.
But Slaughter of the Soul is the best At the Gates album for a reason; everything is crisp, the production isn't too overblown, and the lyrics are quite good. There are a few bits of extremely original, almost Opeth-like breakdowns and mini-sections trying to get out during certain songs, but it's clear that the musical polish is when delivering the extremely refined melo-death sound. Under a Serpent Sun begins with some simple 4/4 riffing that shows holds for around twenty seconds before changing ever so slightly, a change that leads into an almost complete rhythm change as the song gets underway, alternating between these two sections with complete ease - and when the song breaks down into a brief spoken section underlined by some softer instrumentals, it really becomes apparent that the band knows what they're doing. Further proof of this is in the more concise title track, Slaughter of the Soul, which has a similar song structure but works with more efficiency at harmonizing guitar riffs, particularly during the guitar solo towards the end of the song. And anyone who hasn't heard the band's cover of Slayer's Captor of Sin needs to stop reading this review and download it immediately, as the band is talented enough with their rhythm guitar and overall speed to keep the thrash feel of original song while adding in their own subtle touch.
Slaughter of the Soul is one of the best melo-death albums from one of the best melo-death bands in the genre's history, and although much of the new material on the re-release is cheap filler, there are at least a dozen jaw-dropping moments that display such chemistry, you'll wonder why At the Gates ever disbanded.