Slaughter Of The Soul

At The Gates

Earache, 1995

http://www.atthegates.se

REVIEW BY: Benny Balneg

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/25/2006

This is the album responsible for inciting a musical movement called The New Wave of Swedish Death Metal, a.k.a. Melodeath. The melodic yet crushing sound have become the signature of Gothenburg bands, influencing other metal-based bands such as Shadows Fall and Killswitch Engage.

Yet some metal purists vilify and scorn Slaughter Of The Soul , claiming At the Gates sold out (which is apparently punishable by death in the metal realm). They say this album single-handedly produced a stream of copycats that diluted the metal scene, which eventually destroyed the movement the band once owned.

As far as I’m concerned, Slaughter Of The Soul is one of the better albums released in the 90s, one of the best guitar-oriented metal albums ever, and certainly one of the most influential albums in the current wave of metal music. It is by no means perfect, and many of the songs sound too similar, but the flashes of brilliance make it worthwhile. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The songs are typified by an in-your-face attack, heralded by the sterling guitar work, a mix between brutal death metal and the vigor of power metal, and a tight, active rhythm section. The vocals are a mix of hardcore shouts and black metal screams. The album is appropriately produced by Fredrik Nordstrom, notable for his guitar-heavy recordings.

The guitars really stand out in this album, both with their production and the riffs that make up the songs – and Slaughter of the Soul boasts some of the most visceral riffs in metal music. “Cold” is timeless metal classic that will surely stand the test of time, featuring a crushing intro which leads to the lurching mid-tempo riff ripe for headbanging. The off-kilter bridge riff and the serene acoustic part, leading back to the bridge with an overlaying short but sweet lead courtesy of Andy LaRocque (of King Diamond fame) is excellent. And the chorus is damn infectious, making the song a must-hear for metal fans.“Suicide Nation” and “World Of Lies” also contain creative and powerful guitar lines with loads of melody.

But while Slaughter Of The Soul epitomizes what is great in the Gothenburg genre, the album also features the worst qualities of Gothenburg music. Both appear to ring true in the title track, where the guitar riffs are rooted on low-E tremolo picking, with notes alternately picked or played in an arpeggio to provide the melody. And what ultimately makes Gothenburg music unsatisfying is its insistence to rely on recycled chord progressions and formulaic verse-chorus-lead pattern that becomes predictable as the album wears on, and renders the songs easily digestible. Even on the band’s aforementioned good songs, one cannot help but scratch their head and wonder if they’re actually hearing the same chord progression (they are). Because of this, the songs have the tendency to be powerful and memorable at one point, but quickly lose their impact.

The only thing that separates these songs from each other is the intensity and urgency of the delivery, which is plentiful in this album. And any disc with Slaughter Of The Soul's influence is worth hearing, even if it tends to repeat itself.

 

Rating: B

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© 2006 Benny Balneg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Earache, and is used for informational purposes only.