on December 29, 1999
Unknown to many, the best metal of the last half of the 90's has come from Scandinavia, particularly Sweden. This now-defunct band was one of the first to break out internationally, with a style that combines death metal, Slayer, and Iron Maiden with original European influences. At the gates defined a distinct guitar sound, playing lots of notes in their riffs instead of just chords, hitting on a technical and varied sound that almost makes you forget this is extreme death metal. Tempos are almost all fast, thrashing insanely along with those galloping riffs. And the whole thing just knocks you over, this being the perfect blend of aggression and technicality. Before this album, I disliked most death metal, and couldn't stand non-singers, but this album's high-pitched screaming vocals are comprehensible and fit the music so well that they actually turned me into a fan of this style, and the lyrics are better than most death, exploring psychic pain and anguish instead of guts and gore. A great album, and unfortunately, the band's last. The drummer, bassist, and one of the guitarists would later resurface in the similar but not as good The Haunted.
on December 7, 2002
I wrote a four-star review of this album a while ago, saying I didn't find it as good as advertised, but since then I've come to appreciate it a lot more. Although the songs on "Slaughter of the Soul" are very accessible by death-metal standards, thanks to ample doses of melody, it's really the album's complexities that make it great. And while these nuances may not be readily apparent, given time they all emerge and come together to form one amazing album. Eventually I was able to appreciate the subtle changes in tempo, the killer guitar harmonies, the absurdly tight drumming, and the melding of melody and heaviness that At The Gates put into their music. The opener, "Blinded by Fear," crams about as much speed, heaviness, and intricacy into three minutes as is humanly possible, and the album rarely misses a step after that. And topping it all off is Tomas Lindberg, a unique vocalist whose throaty scream perfectly matches the intensity of the music. Now, making it even better, is a reissued version with some extra goodies for us fans. "Legion," their cover of a song by a band called Slaughterlord, is an excellent thrash song with lots of heavy riffing. "The Dying," the unreleased track from the "Slaughter of the Soul" sessions, isn't quite as good as the songs that made the album (makes sense) but it still rips. The real highlight of the extra tracks, though, is At The Gates's cover of Slayer's classic "Captor of Sin." With Tomas doing the vocals, it sounds as every bit as vicious and scary as the original (it's also nice to hear the band doing full-on guitar solos). There are also demo versions of the songs "Unto Others" and "World of Lies," which have a rawer (and in my opinion better) sound than the versions on the album. As a whole, the bonus songs make me more than happy that I traded in my copy of the original version of this album to buy the reissue. I encourage other fans to do the same.
on July 5, 2005
Oh man, this is practically the Swedish Melodeath Bible right here.
I first came upon At The Gates about a year ago via one of my friends, who burned me copies of this and two of their other albums (The Red In The Sky Is Ours and Terminal Spirit Disease). Though I was already vaguely familiar with the Gothenburg scene and thought early In Flames and Soilwork were pretty good, At The Gates' swansong Slaughter Of The Soul surpassed my every expectation while leaving the aforementioned bands in the dust. We're talking a Top 10 metal listen here--in the same lofty realms as Opeth's Morningrise, Death's last four albums, any of Meshuggah's albums from Destroy Erase Improve to the -I- EP, Converge's Jane Doe, Mastodon's Leviathan, Megadeth's Rust In Peace, or Metallica's Lightning/Master/Justice trio... just brilliant.
In a fitting move, Slaughter Of The Soul has been re-released at the height of its peak period of influence. Even now in a world filled with melodeath-referencing angsty metalcore acts, the album still holds up.
There seems to be some debate over whether Slaughter Of The Soul is a watered-down version of the band's previous work. From where I stand, the prior albums (especially The Red In The Sky Is Ours) were interesting and very good with an almost black metal aspect to them at times but they were more ornate and technical, sometimes to the point of feeling overcalculated and unrefined. Slaughter Of The Soul does away with the fussiness in lieu of brutal straightforward grooves, awesome melodies, and thrashy feel. The band feels absolutely confident on this one, a quality not evident on previous works. Moreover, it's definitely their heaviest and fastest release, so I fail to see how that quantifies "sellout."
Here you'll find the truest combination of Iron Maiden and Slayer (the good parts) ever put to tape. Tomas Lindburg is one of my favorite metal vocalists of all time, with a diabolical growl/shriek that could be mistaken for no one else. The band is a sleek, deadly killing machine--the guitarists put their heads down and SHRED (the leads here are some of the coolest in metal history), and drummer Adrian Erlandsson tears up his kit. Unlike the imitators that followed, At The Gates added just enough melody to make their music accessible (without degenerating into a sing-along) while retaining the complexity, rawness, and brutality of honest-to-goodness death metal.
Blinded By Fear kicks it off with a bang, and every song right to the coda of the solemn instrumental Flames Of The End maintains a similarly high standard. Of special note are Under A Serpent Sun (which has perhaps the best chorus of the whole album), the title track (awesome intro and leads), and Suicide Nation (cool opening sample of pistol being cocked, killer chorus, and seriously memorable riff). Faster tracks in the form of the breakneck Nausea and Cold round out the disc.
The reissue includes some great bonus tracks, including a notable cover of Slayer's Captor Of Sin (better than the original, in my opinion--Tomas >>> Tom Araya), demos of Suicide Nation and Unto Others, and a No Security cover (the only song the band sung in their native tongue). Also notable are some interesting liner notes penned by Tomas which give further insight on the recording sessions, right down to the guitar setup and some of Tomas' inspiration for the unusually intelligent lyrics.
Enough talk. Pass up hackneyed pretenders like Atreyu and Bleeding Through and buy this album NOW.
on December 18, 2000
If there ever was an essential purchase for a death metal fan this album would be it. In the roots of the New Wave of Swedish Death Metal, At the Gates stood high above the rest. Although somewhat comparable in brutality and catchiness to "Clandestine" by Entombed, "Slaughter..." has much stronger songwriting and much more tighter and well-constructed songs. The sound here is fast, razor-sharp duel-guitar harmonies, pounding double-bass and shrieking, ungodly vocals. There's not a bad cut on the record even though some of the luster wears off by the end. At the time this was released this was the most brutal and complete death metal albums I had ever heard. If you don't own this, but it now.
on July 6, 2008
At The Gates high point in their career was at the release of this record, Slaughter of The Soul. If you listen to even one song off this record you will know why. Although, Grunge was the new fad ATG stood strong and brought another unrelenting and speedy Melodic Death Metal record to have you bang your head. A timeless recording by a timeless band.
on July 22, 2006
If you consider yourself a melodeath metal fan, or if you're a newcomer, it is absolutely mandatory that you're familiar with the following four words: "Slaughter Of The Soul." If there ever was a classic in this genre, this album, the fifth studio release and fourth full length from At The Gates, is it. This record did the same thing for melodeath that "Reign In Blood" did for thrash. It's often thought of as being the epitome of the genre, because of its importance. It almost single handedly created and established the Gothenburg metal sound. It has influenced almost everybody-from In Flames (who are also a highly influential melodeath group), to nine-out-of-ten modern American metalcore bands (Shadows Fall, for example).
"Slaughter" was also probably the heaviest melodic metal album to be released in the 1990's. Every song on here is very scorching and infectious, and loaded with propulsive, attacking the jugular rhythms, fiery, bludgeoning riffs, catchy, ferocious guitar leads, fast, thumping (at times pounding) drum patterns, winding, careening (albeit brief and un-complex) guitar solos, and high-pitched, black metal influenced, almost Death or Kreator-esque vocals from frontman Tomas Lindberg.
The pounding, blistering, lead-off track, "Blinded By Fear", is one of the album's highlights, but every track is essential listening. "Suicide Nation" is a good representation of the disc as a whole, since it's one of many brutal songs on here with a breakneck tempo, blowtorch riffs, blinding guitar leads, and a wild guitar solo to cap it all off. The title cut is fueled by scorching, propulsive guitar shredding; "Cold" boasts a brutal, surging guitar and pounding drum attack, including a brief, skillful drum solo and a melodic guitar break around two minutes in; and "Into The Dead Sky" is a slow, serene instrumental interlude with clean guitar strums and whooshing background noise (bands like Killswitch Engage probably got the idea for an acoustic interlude from this song.) And, lastly, "Unto Others" is a particularly attention-grabbing, memorable, and infectious song, because it includes a somewhat pretty flamenco guitar interlude.
If you buy the reissue (which you definitely should, and probably will because the original version of this C.D. is very hard to find), you'll get six extra songs which make for a great listen and are essential for your collection. These songs are "Legion" (a Slaughterlord cover), "The Dying" (an unreleased track from the "Slaughter Of The Soul" recording sessions), a Slayer cover of "Captor Of Sin", two 1995 demos (one is of "Unto Others" and the other is "Suicide Nation"), and "Bister Verklighet," a song originally done by the band No Security.
If one had to find fault with this album (aside from that the guitar solos are nothing really special), it would be that it sounds a little dated by now. It has aged very well, but if you're already initiated with melodic death metal, or if you've been listening to metalcore for the past several years, "Slaughter Of The Soul" may have a very small initial "wow factor" on you. But this isn't At The Gates' fault-how were they to know that a countless number of other bands were going to cop their sound? In fact, if you listen closely to a metalcore album, you should be able to hear that some of the riffs on that album have been lifted wholesale from "Slaughter Of The Soul". Thus, this record might take a little while to grow on you, but you still need to own it. If nothing else, at least buy it so you know where melodeath began, and so you can say you have a complete collection. And if you're new to the genre, there's no better place to start than right here.
on March 14, 2006
Okay, the previous (negative) reviewers have all pointed out how this album is not as technical or as original as their earlier work. Having recently acquired the progressive With Fear I Kiss the Burning Darkness, I'll agree that Slaughter of the Soul's monolithic tempo, repeated riffs and conventional rock song structure don't match up to the weird, almost hiccupy changes in tempo, odd song structures, constantly changing guitar riffs and moments of shear silence on the previous album. There's nothing as blazingly original here as "Raped by the Light of Christ" or "Non Divine." Indeed these guys just don't -do- as much in three minutes as they did before.
But what this album lacks in technicality and progressiveness (proginess?) I'd argue that it makes up for in its sheer melodic/harmonic catchiness, a catchiness that leaves At The Gates' brutality untouched. It's an achievement that I can think of only one other band achieving in metal history, one that, like At the Gates, flirted with mainstream success but never quite made it: Testament, with their first album, The Legacy. No, At The Gates don't sound like Testament, but the combination of catchy melodic/harmonic hooks and aggression is what made The Legacy so great (along with Alex Skolnic's guitar solos, of course).
As with the Legacy, the fairly monolithic pace of Slaughter of the Soul makes it unrelenting in its assault. Far from making it less brutal, the catchiness of this album even enhances the brutality by boring the dark riffs and relentless rhythm into your subconscious. This, the wonderfully agonized vocals and the just-fuzzy-enough production make the album quite atmospheric, evoking inklings of some combination of despair and homicidal frenzy. It's not nearly as claustrophobic, frenzied or despairing as the greats of Black or Doom metal like Esoteric and Weakling, but the songs are catchier and more accessible and thus the atmosphere rubs off on you more easily. But then you'd hope it'd be brutal by as much as looking at the track list.
Speaking of which, if you don't want to read about the album in detail, skip to the end of this review. When I say something is `great' or awesome, I mean it simply sounds good. As I admitted before, this is not a very technical album.
"Blinded by Fear" is as wonderful an opening track as you can ask of this album. After a suitably ominous electronic fuzz and spoken-word clip it establishes the driving rhythm of the album and its dark atmosphere with great guitar riffing. There's a very brief bridge/solo in the last minutes, but it's extremely brief and doesn't make this song any 'slower' or more subtle while giving it a melodic edge that such a blunt instrument would normally lack. 5 stars
"Slaughter of the Soul" starts off with a very short, heavy intro section before going into the song proper. This is every other song on the album in a nutshell. Things are always changing enough that you don't get bored, but not so much you can't follow them. There's a really great interplay between the two guitars so that they compliment each other rather than dueling in total over-the-top metal fashion. 4 stars
"Cold" features a great solo and more fabulous guitar work, to the point it stands above the other excellent material on the album. 5 stars
"Into the Dead Sky" is a nice quiet instrumental interlude between musical blows to the face. It's not great and of itself but it fits perfectly. 4 stars
"Need" is in my opinion the best song of the album. Nice and varied, going from melody to melody on brutal guitar riffs until it fades out, almost serenely, into a single glockenspiel over silence.
So yeah. 11 catchy, brutal tracks together make one of the most accessible and most influential albums of the 90's. In addition to their Gothenburg contemporaries and successors it had a massive impact on metalcore-listen the Darkest Hour's The Mark of the Judas and you can't hope but hear the shadow of this album. In terms of making serious metal accessible, this album knows few peers save The Legacy by Testament and The Sham Mirrors by Arcturus. Indeed, I'd say that with this album At the Gates invented pop death metal, which is no mean feat.
I don't recommend this if you require your metal to be extremely technical (Opeth) or experimental (Ephel Duath) nor if you prefer it so raw that it sounds like it was recorded in bear's cave in some Scandinavian forest (Burzum, Leviathan) or so brutal that it makes you're eardrums bleed (Pig Destroyer). But if you like metal and you like good conventional rock songwriting, this is a treat.
on July 25, 2004
Here it is, At the Gates' "Slaughter Of The Soul" reissued with unreleased and exclusive material as bonus. What con one say about SOTS? One of the most influential death metal albums of the 90s, with that majestic and explosive mixture of speed, melodies and brutality, that revolutioned the genre. Sadly, after the release the band toured like madmen but then broke up, at their best, at their peak, leaving their music and sound as their legacy and trademark in the Swedish scene. Continuing the trend of the European labels of re-editing albums, now it was the time for SOTS.
As I said before, the album features 6 "new" songs: "Legion" (Slaughterlord cover), "The Dying" (unreleased ATG track) and "Bister Verklighet" (No Security cover) were taken from SOTS sessions. The first two with the ATG vibe, and the third a punk track! Also, you have "Captor of Sin" (Slayer cover), taken from "Slatanic Slaughter" compilation (a tribute to Slayer). Finally, "Unto Others" and "Suicide Nation" are the '95 demo versions.
Another cool thing about this re-edition is that you have comments in every song. After the songs titles and credits, and before the lyrics, you'll find liner notes written by Tomas 'Tompa' Lindbergh (ATG's singer) explaining the why and how of each song. You'll get to know lots of interesting anecdotes, intimacies and stories about what inspired them to write the songs, or what was going on with the band at those times, or what influenced them to write certain lyrics and many more that, personally, I didn't know. The bonus tracks are also explained. This re-issue has much more photos and the booklet's design was adapted to the new material a little bit, but keeping the spirit of the original one. I've already had the first edition of SOTS, but when I saw this new improved version on my local record store, I didn't hesitate, and got it! Why? Because SOTS it's a great album, and this new material makes it even more special, with a valuable, sentimental feeling, the one that all fans will always appreciate. The perfection perfected!
on March 13, 2006
Melodic death metal is a thoughtful genre, that's why I like it so much. Slaughter Of The Soul, in the same way as its peers, is a deep and insightful album, created by intelligent people; intelligent people who aren't afraid of making themselves heard.
Slaughter Of The Soul's greatest asset is sheer passion. The fury, despair and desperation with which it is delivered are unrivalled; Tomas Lindberg makes guys like Zack Delarocha look mildly annoyed. At The Gates were by far the heaviest of the Gothenburg holy trinity (themselves, In Flames and Dark Tranquillity), and also the most rhythm driven and least subtle, at least in terms of music. They come closest to the original style of brutal death metal from which melodic death metal originally developed. The riffs here are reasonably fast, aggressive and insanely powerful, helped along by the production: they sound like Krakatoa. Ditto for the drums, all ultimately making for a dark, aggressive assault on your senses. Musically it's relatively simple, but infectious as hell; make no mistake, you will bang your head.
Of course, the star here is Lindberg himself, arguably the greatest extreme vocalist of all time. There are no clean metalcore choruses here, it's entirely comprised of howls of soul-shredding agony. Largely because of him, Slaughter Of The Soul is by all means the godfather of depressing music: this is not recommended for people with suicidal tendancies. But by God, it is one hell of an experience! Like I say, the passion of this album is infectious; it portrays darkness, power and emotion as one. Buy it, listen to it, and prepare for nightmares.
on June 22, 2003
With Slaughter of the Soul, At the Gates has interlaced rock rhythms with melodic flavour under harmonized thrash affected riffs.
I would simple call this catchy and due to all of the fairly strong melodies and the good production it's quite delicate.
Slaughter of the Soul is definitely more glamorized and accessible than previous releases, but it's hard to compare them at all. While their previous album were designed to create motion and satisfaction in complex compositions with technical flair, Slaughter of the Soul is merely just a symbol of how good metal can sound.
The album has many attractions, especially good is Thomas Lindberg's vocals, desperate and suffering. The sweeping melodies of stringmasters Anders Björler and Martin Larsson are definitely an embellishment. A good example of the genius of the album is in "Cold", where the culmination takes its roots in an acoustic part, which embroils in the chaos, and the listener is shocked when the furious solo opens afterwards. "Under a serpent sun," is tightly strong in the epic refrain. The title track has a tasteful riff to introduce the song and a cool thrashy solo.
Slaugther of the Soul is a strong album with many original touches.