The Resistance Wakes When the Sun Sets
After lineup changes, At the Gates prove the only thing darker than their melodies is our history
When Swedish melodeath pioneers At the Gates helped establish Gothenburg as a death metal haven in the early to mid ’90s, it was with ornate riffs that could slice through tombstones. Now releasing their second post-reunion record, their sense of high drama even accompanies the unveiling of a new album title.
When their #TDFTNI hashtag mystery revealed To Drink From the Night Itself, the title’s grandeur brought to mind the band’s pre-Terminal Spirit Disease records. Sure, their signature soul-slaughtering melodies remain. The recognizable pummel of prolific drummer Adrian Erlandsson endures. But TDFTNI doesn’t feel as familiar or pre-calculated as its predecessor, At War with Reality. The menace of “Through Gardens of Grief” and the dichotomy of “Raped by the Light of Christ” subtly loom throughout their new offering. At the Gates are once again both the burning red sky and the kissable darkness after dusk.
Inspired by Peter Weiss’ dizzying three-volume anti-fascist novel The Aesthetics of Resistance, vocalist Tomas “Tompa” Lindberg explores the idea of art as opposition, and creation as combat. No surprise then that album opener “Der Widerstand” translates from German to “The Resistance.” Once the intro’s strings subside, the title track reacquaints us with At the Gates at their sharpest.
There’s the discordant hardcore and ashen gothicism of “Palace of Lepers.” The gentle piano and strings that dye “Daggers of Black Haze” scarlet. The old-school death grooves that surface in “The Colours of the Beast.” Or closer “The Mirror Black,” with its downbeat sublimity. While Anders Björler was certainly a significant part of At the Gates’ singularity, the guitarist’s departure pushed his brother Jonas into more intense songwriting duties. With new shredder Jonas Stålhammar now in the fold as well, TDFTNI reveals a band unbeholden to outside expectations or echoes from their past. They aren’t clawing at their discography’s dead harmonies, eager to coast on legacy or recapture glory days note for note. Like the source material, the record is a dynamic mosaic of textures and moods, a breathing tableau—but with approximately one million fewer commas.
Fueled by Lindberg’s lyrics and new blood raging through their veins, TDFTNI reflects the human condition and our history of permitting—and resisting—fascism. The record shines a blinding light on the treacherous path we continue to shuffle along to this day. The human spirit may be terminally diseased, but At the Gates’ smoldering anthems continue to loudly resist.