At the Gates have once again proven themselves one of the most formidable forces in Death Metal with their latest offering, ‘To Drink from the Night Itself.’ As one of the progenitors of the scene in Sweden 30 years ago, it could be said that At the Gates have a lot to live up to these days; particularly their much-beloved landmark, ‘Slaughter of the Soul.’ ‘To Drink from the Night Itself’ is a worthy successor however, and guitarist Martin Larsson reflects on the direction of the album. “I think there are some hints of part of the direction we’re going now on the last album in songs like Night Eternal and Heroes and Tombs and Order from Chaos. A little bit more epic, cinematic or what you will. And at the same time reaching a little bit further back into our roots, and also looking forward; so hopefully there’s a good mixture of history and future on the new one.”
‘To Drink from the Night Itself’ is very dark both lyrically and musically. Larsson adds, “It’s probably just a knee-jerk reaction to the times we live in. It’s hard not to look around and see what’s going on, and not have this dark influence on the art you’re making. I know definitely the lyrics are looking at how there’s so much apathy in the world right now. I know that’s a huge,” he hesitates, searching for the best way to describe it. “I suppose influence is the wrong word, but just really, really feeling the need to make a difference and just shake some action into people. Do something, whatever, it doesn’t matter. Do something,” he repeats with conviction.
When it comes to the inevitable comparisons with ‘Slaughter of the Soul,’ Larsson recalls, “We felt at the time it came out a little bit one-dimensional, ‘Slaughter of the Soul,’ so had we made another album a couple of years after that, it would’ve branched out, I’m sure of it, at that time too.”
At the Gates recently welcomed a new lead guitarist, Jonas Stalhammar to their ranks. Larsson says of Stalhammar, “When he joined, we were already more than halfway through the writing of the new album, so musically it’s a little too early to say what kind of influence he has. But socially and energy-wise and those kind of things, he’s been a huge influence already. It’s like there’s a new life in the band now, and there’s a hunger we haven’t felt in a long time.” That hunger can truly be felt in the depth of Larsson’s voice as he intones that word. “He’s a really easy person to work with. And of course playing-wise, he’s nailing it. Tomas always talks about all these boxes that need to be checked for the new guitar player, and eventually there was really only one guy left once we started ticking the boxes, and that was him. He’s from the same background as us, way back 30 years ago when the scene started in Sweden. So he’s an old friend. You don’t have to think or talk about things because you already know, because you’re from the same place mentally.”
Another part of the creative team was producer Russ Russell. Larsson elaborates on how the band selected him to work on ‘To Drink from the Night Itself.’ “For the last album, ‘At War with Reality,’ we recorded one song and sent it to maybe five, six different guys for a test mix, a trial only. Russ was one of them, and he was one of the ones we really wanted. Eventually it turned out to be Jens Bogren mixing the last album, but it might as well have been Russ from the sound. So this time around we just felt, let’s try this guy from the start. And also, all those kinds of producers are heavily booked, so it’s usually a matter of scheduling and timing. But we’re super happy with Russ. Also, we wanted to go in a harsher direction sound-wise, and that we know he can really, really pull off. So he did, in a big way.
Prior to the band’s return to recording with ‘At War with Reality,’ there was a lot of reluctance to go back into the studio, and Larsson opens up about how that changed. “I think we grew into that position over the years. In the beginning it was just a farewell thing that we didn’t have time to do when Anders and Jonas abruptly quit in ’96. So firstly it was meant as a closure, finally, eventually. And then we wanted to do it in one Summer, to try to squeeze as much as possible into this Summer. And then afterwards we felt kind of frustrated because there were so many things we didn’t have time to do in that Summer. So we got a few offers a few years later, took a few more shows, and didn’t want to just set a date for when it was over. It just gradually went on and on. It was just so rewarding in all kinds of ways,” Larsson reflects with positivity in his voice, “so it just went on and on, and then eventually it just happens. If you’re playing in a band, you want to make new music. But because we had said that we wouldn’t do any more music, that kind of worked against us, but eventually the urge became stronger than that promise. It just happened, I suppose.”
As for whether we can hope to see At the Gates return to Australian shores any time soon, things are looking good. “We want to go all over the place, and I’d say it definitely looks like we’re going to have a busy few years. I don’t know exactly what the plans for Australia are, but I know that we’re coming there pretty soon. The album just came out, so we’ve only really started, and we’re looking at bookings next Summer already. And probably beyond that as well. It’s going to be busy, but it’s going to be a good kind of busy, because this is what we want to do.”
AT THE GATES’ ‘TO DRINK FROM THE NIGHT ITSELF’ IS AVAILABLE FROM NUCLEAR BLAST HERE!