Band Line up:
Tomas Lindberg Redant – Vocals
Martin Larsson – Guitars
Jonas Stålhammar – Guitars
Jonas Björler – Bass
Adrian Erlandsson – Drums
1. Spectre of Extinction (4:49)
2. The Paradox (4:43)
3. The Nightmare of Being (3:49)
4. Garden of Cyrus (4:25)
5. Touched by the White Hands of Death (4:07)
6. The Fall into Time (6:45)
7. Cult of Salvation (4:24)
8. The Abstract Enthroned (4:26)
9. Cosmic Pessimism (4:31)
10. Eternal Winter of Reason (3:38)
At The Gates proclaim in their bio that they are the ‘Undisputed masters of Swedish death metal’. That’s a rather big claim considering you have bands like In Flames, Amon Amarth and Arch Enemy in amongst that rather large list of 89 bands. Whether or not that’s true remains to be seen.
‘Spectre of Extinction’ starts the opus in a promising way with some classical guitar which links quickly into a colossal frantic sound from twin guitars backed admirably by Tomas Lindberg Redan on vocals. The break neck speed track sets the tone for most of what’s to come. There are though some surprises; but more of that later. The album progresses at a furious pace with no pause for breath although the verses do slow a little during the title track providing enough light and shade to make the songs different. Just when you are expecting another full tilt thrash fest which so many bands do meaning it becomes a slog to get to the end, something comes out of left field. ‘Gardens of Cyrus’ is a proggy bluesy number which certainly pushes against the boundaries that you would expect the rest of the album would portray. Jazz Saxophone is something you don’t expect in a Swedish Death Metal album and it has quite a startling effect. ‘No sorry, I don’t want my thrash mixed with jazz’ I hear you exclaim but before you jump to conclusions, give it a listen. It’s a very rewarding tune as are many of this album’s offerings. The song proves that this band are no one trick pony changing tact on a surprising number of occasions as you move though it finally finishing with a massive climatic sound.
There is a nice even mix on the instruments right through the album with no emphasis put on any particular hardware section or the vocalist meaning each song can breathe with no claustrophobic guitars or drums nulling the excellent vocals. It is though uncompromising stuff and ferocious at times even when complex rhythms are on display. There is undoubtedly a prog feel to some of the songs and this is very apparent in the aforementioned ‘Gardens of Cyrus’ as well as ‘The Fall Into Time’ but if anything this adds to the album’s diversity. It’s just not thrashing about until someone gets cramp. Interestingly they claim that their most well know album to date ‘Slaughter of the Souls’ sits in the single dimensional record category. This is clearly not the case in this instance. Take for example ‘Cosmic Pessimism’ which has a great groove and is my favourite on the album by some length.
The production is classy and even though the album was recorded in different locations, there doesn’t seem to be any sound difference in any of the songs although someone with a more learned ear might be able to differentiate. Throughout the whole composition there is a consistency of songs and not a single skipper which is often the case. Every new tune shows the band are suitably skilled in their area of expertise and are just as impressive in song construction avoiding any thrash clichés.
Lyrically the band show they are no slouches in writing interesting material as well. A perfect example of this is during ‘Cosmic Pessimism’ which states ‘Pessimism, the last refuge of hope’. This strikes quite a note in a time when the last year and a half has provided so little positiveness and a huge amount of despair. However this album brings an intensity and passion to a dark sad place and can only lift the soul.
With each listen I find myself being rewarded more and more and it feels that the band have poured their heart and soul into this album using all their creativity to produce something of real magnitude. Is it an album of career defining proportions? I would say yes. In terms of their claim to be the ‘Undisputed masters of Swedish Death metal’ I’m not sure that they quite meet the allegation, but they have had a damn fine kick at the ball trying to prove it with this album. Enjoy.