Yesterday, At The Gates announced that they will release a new album later this year. Entitled At War With Reality and due via Century Media, the band’s first release since 1995’s seminal Slaughter of the Soul has been painted as an organic happenstance, naturally developed after six-odd years of hanging together during a seemingly endless reunion tour.
That’s cool to hear, as it’d be easy to paint this thing as a little more than a shrewd business decision. (After all, the ATG engine can’t run on the “BLINDED BY FEAR OMG” sentiment forever. Leaning on the “reunion show” tagline for another half a decade’s worth of festival paychecks would be quite daunting, even for a band of their caliber; signing a contract with the biggest metal label in the land isn’t a bad move.) It sounds like they’re legitimately stoked about putting things to tape, and reaction around the web from fans and critics alike has been one of jubilant anticipation.
On one hand, it’s easy to see the logic behind the giddiness. 2013 was the year of the Death Metal Comeback. Carcass and Gorguts dominated the conversation with triumphant returns: Colored Sands bent convention with composition, and Surgical Steel rode to success on an irreplicable cocktail of mystique and shrewd marketing.
Unfortunately for At The Gates and their fans, the anomalous successes of those records are incongruent with the build towards At War With Reality. Unlike the Carcass record, which was an I’ll-believe-it-when-I-see-it affair, At The Gates’ impending album has been a foregone conclusion for years, telegraphed by the band members’ constant strides to hover at the peak of the scene. (Contrast the exploits of Tompa and The Haunted with the interim projects of Luc Lemay and Bill Steer, which were so foreign to the metallic consciousness that they could’ve been produced on Melmac.) The ATG boys never really went away, and as Doug Moore noted yesterday, their aughts-era projects have yielded mixed results. After The Haunted released a series of increasingly-awful albums before splintering into a lazy rehash of itself, it was only a matter of time before the ATG revenues beckoned.
Given the circumstances, it’d be wise to temper your expectations, Heavy Metal. Yes, this is the band that gave us Slaughter of the Soul. Nineteen years ago. Since then, as the subgenre they spawned has died a protracted death, they’ve gifted us the likes of Terra Incognito and Unseen.
Don’t buy the hype blindly. Make your idols earn their crown.