At The Gates - The Red In The Sky Is Ours
Production: Instruments are given very suggestive tone leaving every aspect of the record in an autumnal shade. Not entirely epitome of "Swedish sound", it is thinner and separated, more like the sound of future Goethenburg.
Review: Being highly aware of Norsk movement, these musicians took a different path than their more overtly rhythmic Swedish counterparts, coding rythm within fluid, often multi layered melodies rather than placing it as a main conveyor of themes. Music moves forward joyfuly in its intents, towards the triumph of moral lawlessness, celebrating achievements it has made so far. Guitars play their topics almost verbally, with certain dramatics, crossing the border of abstract symbolism and pushing their voices to a visual art. Melodic and progressive riffs are often driven into conclusions resembling serialism in its "progressions", but manage to convey their strange beauty with gentleness and ease, instead of being a disjointed collection of notes, and succeed at it, even despite their intricacy by leaving internal conflict on a riff plane while the whole piece remains harmonic.
Major movements are done unconstrainedly, without pretense but with swift, intuitive logic and consequence possessed only by the most talented narrators. Sporadic, tasteful usage of folk violins laid on tremolo guitar phrases displays something which is apparent to those searching for proper context of this release: that they came from the same source and are utilized towards the same goal. Distinct percussion is placed on the record as a precise movement indicator, albeit not being one, often makes endeavor to express the same motive as the guitar but with its own means. As a byproduct it creates a satisfactory complexity and a sensation of interaction to the point where at moments of their greatest unity the two instruments melt into inseparable texture where their hierarchy becomes less obvious, seemingly influencing one another, while rationality still demands a retainement of melodic development as a main architect. Desperate vocal can only be compared to those of Burzum in terms of emphasizing an emotion of sorrow and misery but with a struggle loving spirit and sinister taste for uneasy victory of self realization and recognition of method of describing hither blurred reality. Its tendency to move its narration via chaotic bursts done within the space of percussion complementing its choices are well established Death Metal techniques (Slayer, Deicide) but here are used in a manner that creates more tension, which reveals compositional awareness greater than with simplier bands and actually adds dynamics rather than merely simple theatrical effect of brutally ripped silence. While astonishingly subtle, the music still remains cold and merciless as nature itself, like a predator and its prey participating in the same process, depicting the full spectrum of experience of life.
It's an attempt to soldify a characteristic for Death Metal semi-concept album, accomplished through compactness despite its abrupt start/stop method of articulation, in which every part is longing for another with peculiar dependency between them. As death is the consequence of life, every part here is an introduction to the next as it follows its mostly narrative structure, but with reoccurrences of moods, before a grotesque convulsion takes them away, if they are equipped with multiple possibilities of transition, into a different direction. If they are crafted like there's no logical continuation for them, to maintain clarity it leaves them behind while persevering their implication on meta-structure, in similar manner as nature act with those, who are undesired to reproduct, recognizing it as a necessary condition for further developements to occur.
As one may find the record self referential in few places, it is disputable at best as it indeed placed itself in certain context and wished to extend its content probably too literally and aside from the art, but without trying to make a theme out of it nor of itself, all of which is a favourite manner of those with populistic purposes to reach an audience orientated on externalized, simplistic messages. Sensible, individualistic songwriting of the main guitarist Alf Svensson, delicacy and holistic consciousness remain as factors which immunize this genuine band from immitators better than other, more obvious efforts to ezoterize the genre, namely excessive brutality and overtechnicality.