Since their reunion in 2014, At The Gates have had to deal with comparisons to the band's classic output, particularly with 1995's To Drink From The Night Itself. But while that bond remains in play on The Nightmare Of Being, the Swedes shook up their formula just enough to make it interesting.
The icy atmospheres on the album are a clear highlight. Instead of just churning guitars and pummeling drums, the group's dabbles in other musical genres feel just as integral to the mix. Pianos replace chugging riffs on "The Paradox," while Tomas Lindberg's throat-ripping growl is underpinned by a plink of bass at key moments. And the band's forays into jazz ("Garden of Cyrus"), symphonic black metal (the sinister orchestral intro to "Touched By The White Hands Of Death") and Krautrock (the swooping saxophone on "Cosmic Pessimism") add new layers to the Gothenburg sound without compromising its essential ferocity.
While it's certainly heartening to see a veteran death metal outfit break out of their mold, the experimentation on this album can sometimes backfire. Songs like "Spectre Of Extinction" and "The Fall Into Time" sound too much like their tried-and-true formula to stand out, while lulls such as the title track are short on energy.
But if you can look past these flaws, The Nightmare Of Being is a powerful, impressive record. Its fusion of deft arrangements, unexpected sonic detours and existential pessimism makes it the most rewarding At The Gates album in years.