Autobiographical Order No. 621: At the Gates – Slaughter of the Soul

Well, it appears we have—yes, that’s right—another blog about a metal record! I mean, I warned you. For some of you this means nothing but solid gold content. For some of you it might mean you’ve checked out until I get back to like, I dunno, Neil Young or Kendrick Lamar or something. And I will—don’t you think that I won’t! But I hope everyone’s comfortable, at least, because we haven’t seen the last of these metal records. And that’s fine by me, a metal-likin’ guy who likes metal. (But if I can get a little meta for a moment, I tend to be a little more excited about the albums that spark in me either a particular memory or had a significant impact on me; this is just a really solid record that I like a lot but didn’t change my life or coincide with any major life events, make of that what you will.)

So after a distinctively American kind of death metal record yesterday, we get the poster album for the Gothenburg sound. Death metal had several kind of parallel outgrowths in the early ’90s. There was the Tampa death metal scene that produced bands like Morbid Angel and Death, as well as a separate scene in New York that was a little bit grosser (Cannibal Corpse were on a level of their own, but they’re from Buffalo, so that’s definitely not the same as New York City). But Sweden’s death metal scene had a more streamlined sound. Initially bands like Entombed emerged, with a scuzzy, kind of punk buzzsaw guitar sound. But At the Gates took it a step further and basically made all of the rough edges a little smoother, locked in their rhythms with an almost electronic efficiency and added some pretty massive hooks.

Folks, this is what we in the biz call “melodeath.” A lot of metalheads hate it. But then again, a lot of metalheads love At the Gates, so it’s complicated. And if I’m being honest here, I fully believe this is the only album of its style that I need in my life. (The first In Flames album, The Jester Race, is also really good, but after a while you start to notice that most other bands of this style are making carbon copies of these two records. That said, At the Gates’ other records are all pretty great.)

Slaughter of the Soul is pretty kickass. It’s the point where At the Gates really sharpened and streamlined everything and made a record that’s just super enjoyable to listen to throughout. One ripper starts up right after another, and it all moves really fast. But the riffs are blazing, the rhythms are relentless, and it’s all a hell of a lot of fun.

I want to mention that I have no idea what’s going on with the cover: Guns and Jesus? Feels like a statement on America, probably, but I could be wrong. Also, the title is in Papyrus. And it’s one of two death metal albums I own where that’s the case. Lol.

Rating: 9.1

Sound Quality: Good/Great

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