Thursday, 31 March 2011

CD Review: Slaughter Of The Soul, by At The Gates (1995)

It may not have been apparent at the time, but Slaughter Of The Soul quite possibly pin-points the exact moment when heavy metal was re-born.

Five guys from Sweden toiling away in an obscure band released their fourth studio album, believing that they were pushing the boundaries of thrash, long after most of the creators of the genre had abandoned it. Instead, what At The Gates unknowingly did on Slaughter Of The Soul was invent melodic death metal, and produce one of the best heavy metal albums of all time.

The opening triple salvo of Blinded By Fear, Slaughter Of The Soul and Cold play like one epic 9 minute track, At The Gates at once inventing and mastering melodic death metal. Blinded By Fear sets the stage with a simple but intimidating melody riding a hectic beat while Tomas Lindberg explodes on vocals. Slaughter Of The Soul immediately ups the danger with an in-you-face riff that refuses to yield, burrowing deep into the brain and finding instant metal immortality. Cold is the finale of the trio, picking up almost the exact same theme from Slaughter Of The Soul, polishing it up, and incredibly injecting it with even more power and adding a dazzling interlude of guitar artistry.

The rest of the album continues in the same style, reaching another peak when Unto Others lets loose with a barely contained staccato riff intent on blasting away at any and all targets.

Slaughter Of The Soul relies little on guitar solos. The stand-out sound is an incredible, monstrous guitar tone, often in staccato, unleashed by Anders Bjorler and Martin Larsson. It is impossible to listen to the album and not be certain that something is indeed at the gates, and whatever it is, it does not have a single good intention in its soul. The band create an unrelenting sense of impending catastrophic doom, and sustains it for 35 searing minutes. Slaughter Of The Soul has 11 tracks, but none are longer than four minutes, and the album effortlessly holds together as a cohesive, continuous menacing theme.

The tempo is medium-high, with some remarkably controlled changes in pace, and the engine is built on a solid foundation of melodies married to an outrageous amount of outright power. At around the 2:30 mark, the otherwise unremarkable World Of Lies surrenders to a thunderous assault of guitar riffage that shakes several time zones simultaneously. At high volumes, the rich depth of sound on Slaughter Of The Soul will cause walls to sway and deform, and the quality of music is such that crumbling infrastructure is a small price to pay.

At The Gates split-up shortly after the release of Slaughter Of The Soul, and despite several reunions for live performances, the band members have vowed not to record another album. Slaughter Of The Soul starts and ends with unconfined distortion; the album exists on a mysterious channel amid the white noise, difficult to find and impossible to duplicate.


Tomas Lindberg - Vocals
Anders Bjorler - Lead Guitar
Martin Larsson - Rhythm Guitar
Jonas Bjorler - Bass
Adrian Erlandsson - Drums

Songlist (ratings out of 10):

1. Blinded By Fear - 10
2. Slaughter Of The Soul - 10 *see below*
3. Cold - 10
4. Under A Serpent Sky - 8
5. Into The Dead Sky - 7
6. Suicide Nation - 8
7. World Of Lies - 9
8. Unto Others - 10
9. Nausea - 7
10. Need - 8
11. The Flames Of The End - 8

Average: 8.64

Mastered by Noel Summerville.
Produced by Fredrik Nordstrom.

Note: The 2005 CD / DVD re-release includes 6 bonus tracks, consisting of unreleased tracks, demos and covers.

All Ace Black Blog Heavy Metal CD Reviews are here.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...