At The Gates - The Red in the Sky is Ours
Deaf Records
Progressive Death Metal
10 songs (45:50)
Release year: 1992
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

Although many consider Slaughter of the Soul to be At The Gates' best work, a depressingly small minority know that the band never made a bad album, and indeed arguably have more classic releases than any other melodic death metal group. They're the godfathers of the genre for a reason, and no, not just because every two-bite metalcore band out there has ripped off Slaughter of the Soul! The Red in the Sky is Ours is something quite remarkable, all too rare nowadays; the sound of a talented band experimenting with a genre then still in its infancy to make something utterly unique. Indeed, can you think of another band that reproduced the sound here exactly, including At The Gates themselves? An unearthly mixture of death, thrash, black and even gothic sounds, with mournful violin and keyboard passages like some proto-My Dying Bride, this is still an extraordinary album nearly thirty years later. Harsh and difficult to listen to, yet clearly melodic, beset by the screams and howls of vocalist Tomas "Tompa" Lindberg yet about as emotional a performance as it's possible to have in death metal; this is a mass of contradictions, yet strangely, it works.

Opening with relatively raw black metal, complete with harsh screams and blastbeats, The Red in the Sky is Ours/The Season to Come acts as a kind of intro to the album. Moving through a technical death metal breakdown with plenty of audible basswork and superb drumming (the production is excellent, rough-edged yet ensuring each instrument has its place) this is a great introduction to the band for those that only know them from Slaughter of the Soul - a rabid blast more akin to early Dissection than what At The Gates would become, complete with a discordant (and oddly sinister) violin outro. Each member of the band plays his part well, but you have to give the ultimate credit to guitarist Alf Svensson, who apparently came up with riff ideas by playing tapes backwards and who makes the likes of Kingdom Gone so simultaneously spinechilling and thrilling, the guitarwork outstanding. Moments like the opening of Through Gardens of Grief have more in common with early Cryptopsy than, say, Soilwork, the song moving between technical riff dances atop vibrant drumming and brutal, almost grinding grooves - and in its closing passages, incorporating the violin perfectly with the death metal.

There are too many highlights to mention, but a favourite is Within with its gloomy doom-paced opening and the atmospheric later portions with the violin. Although you can hear roots of the band's later, more mainstream sound to come in songs like Night Comes Blood Black, this is anything but listener-friendly in comparison. In some ways that gothic element is the biggest aspect of the band's sound to change - newer songs like Daggers of Black Haze have a shadow of this, but it's still interesting to imagine a world where At The Gates went in a more gothic or doom direction than they did. Of course, that's not the most obvious change since then, the comparative dumbing-down of the riffs and simpler structures would also mean fans of this early period of the band tend to view their later output as inherently inferior. Personally, I like each for what they are, but if you're yet to partake of this - or indeed any of the band's lesser-known albums - then do yourself a favour and drink deep.

Killing Songs :
All! Especially Kingdom Gone, Within, Through Gardens of Grief
Goat quoted 90 / 100
Other albums by At The Gates that we have reviewed:
At The Gates - To Drink From The Night Itself reviewed by Goat and quoted 72 / 100
At The Gates - At War With Reality reviewed by Goat and quoted 70 / 100
At The Gates - Slaughter Of The Soul (Re-issue) reviewed by Crims and quoted 95 / 100
At The Gates - Suicidal Final Art reviewed by Danny and quoted no quote
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