Tuesday, June 11, 2013

At The Gates - Gardens of Grief EP

Slaughter of the Soul.

If there's a single release that anyone knows if you ask them about At The Gates, the seminal Gothenburg melodeath band that helped pioneer its distinctive sound and inspire thousands of imitators, it's that one, which is rather unfortunate considering how overlooked their previous releases are, despite them being of equal quality. Gardens of Grief was their debut EP, and would lay the foundation for the sound they would develop for the rest of their career.

The first thing made apparent on this EP is the limited use of keyboards. They're far from layered or overdubbed as in most symphonic black metal, but they add more of a somber mood not heard in any of their other releases. The production is raw, with guitars and vocals taking the center of the mix. This leads to the drums often being drowned out, especially the snare drum during blastbeats. The songs themselves, production aside, are quite good and, stylistically, are more death metal oriented than their later releases. All Life Ends is the highlight of the EP, with its complex song structure and funerary atmosphere being executed to a T. That's not to discourage the quality found in the other tracks, however, with At The Gates employing some great riffs and City of Screaming Statues hinting at a darker melodic aspect. (City of Screaming Statues would be rerecorded for the debut At The Gates record, The Red In The Sky Is Ours).

Gardens of Grief, while not as polished or as noteworthy as their full-length albums, is certainly worth finding for the already-initiated ATG fans familiar with their older material. It's an interesting release that holds some oft-underappreciated material and an atmosphere all its own.

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