Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Gates of Ishtar - At Dusk and Forever (1998)

Three years, three albums released, but by the time At Dusk and Forever dropped it became tearfully clear that Gates of Isthar might not erupt like I once thought they would, that they might become another drop in the bucket of melodeath history. This was still right in that timeframe where At the Gates had taken over the universe because of some nasty vocals, a great guitar tone and one of the best breakdowns since Reign in Blood, so these Swedes were perfectly poised to succeed in that wake. But something was happening...bands like Soilwork and Darkane were about to arrive and make it all much more interesting, whereas this band were still playing it pretty close to the hilt when emulating the Big Three of that scene, and interest just seemed to dwindle.

It's not the fault of At Dusk and Forever, because if anything, this one gives the band an energetic kick that takes them back to the orbit of the debut, a little less washed out than The Dawn of Flames. The old cover art for this one looks absolutely fucking horrible, and I don't even think it was meant for this album, with the logo and title font looking like shit. Who in their right minds at Invasion or within the ranks of the band thought this was anything but an eyesore? They had a great logo. Fortunately, the sound is a bit better, they weren't using Dan this time, but still managed to get what might be their best, most propulsive guitar tone, which seamlessly infused the force and heaviness of the riffing with the actual melodies they're threading through it. The bass is a bit grainier than before, the drums perhaps not the best mixed of their catalogue, but it still seemed brighter than the previous album, and the band was just ripping through these tracks like they were blowing their a good way.

Ultimately, it's my least favorite of their three albums, because it all seemed to blend together for me, and still does now. It's possible that I just became too overfed with this particular style, hearing so many dozens of bands forming melodies in such comparable patterns, and finding nothing to really push the envelope anywhere beyond what I'd expect. This is fiery as hell, perhaps their most passionate and desperate performance, sort of a foreshadowing for the style Dimension Zero would adopt, and I do like some of the leads here and riffs in general ("Battles to Come", etc), but the Swedes seemed a little stuck in time and unable to really progress themselves forward or sideways into any more curious pastures, so they remained for their entire career a meat & potatoes melodeath band on that fateful second tier. Granted, a pretty damn good one, worth the hype they once stood on...AND may stand on once more, because ladies and gentlemen, the Gates of Ishtar are open yet again, we'll have to see what strides boldly forth from them.

Verdict: Win [7.25/10]

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