Thursday, January 15, 2009

At the Gates- Gardens of Grief

Obviously At the Gates are most famous (now) for their album Slaughter of the Soul, but in 2009, we can begin to rewrite history, and assign value to what is lasting, rather than ephemeral and commercial/disposable. The point being here, not that Slaughter of the Soul is a "sell-out" album which is "too poppy," but that only a few of the songs are memorable, that the "trick" gets tiresome fairly quickly, and that the style is indeed a trick and not brilliance.

But the band begins here, on the Gardens of Grief EP, which is unrecognizable as the same group, although an initial listen will try to find the later band within the earlier sound, automatically. However that may be, what you get here is more or less a very "artsy" Entombed, very complicated, not at all immediate, and wildly inventive: basically the opposite of Slaughter of the Soul, which is (whatever else it may be) NOT a dumbed-down version of *this*.

The difference between Entombed and this, though, is the real absence of any hardcore (Discharge) influence--ironic because two members of At the Gates would later play in Discharge-worship band Skitsystem. Rather, the music is very start/stop, jazzy, and never propulsive over an unchanging beat like Entombed or Discharge. To say the least, there are a TON of "parts" here, and it is obvious even on this first record that the band would be a leader in the Swedish death metal scene, since they take the Entombed heaviness and take it in three thousand different directions in these four songs. It's almost close to Demilich or Atheist, in some ways. 

These songs don't sear themselves into your memory, and the band's full-lengths are the real place to go, but this is a neat little disc that repays all the time put into it.

Score: 3 stars/5 (***)
Best songs: "City of Screaming Statues," "At the Gates"

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