Day Fifty-Four: Decapitated – Winds of Creation

Earache/Wicked World ■ WICK011LP

Released April 11, 2000

Produced by Piotr Wiwczarek (aka “Peter (VADER)”)

Side One: Side Two:
  1. Winds of Creation
  2. Blessed
  3. The First Damned
  4. Way to Salvation
  1. The Eye of Horus
  2. Human’s Dust
  3. Nine Steps
  4. Danse Macabre
  5. Mandatory Suicide

In discussing metal, I typically refer clearly–at some point, anyway–to my first ever “real” metal band, which was Morbid Angel.¹ Indeed, it was their second album, Blessed Are the Sick that really “clicked” with me finally, once I was able to get used to David Vincent’s vocals (and thus, forever after, the “cookie monster” growling that typifies death metal at large). I actually ordered the album direct from their label, Earache, at the time, back when I was still in high school. Coupled with it were a handful of stickers for other bands, like December Wolves and, well, Decapitated. Because I still knew so little about metal, I took those two names as inspiration for further exploration–and, hey, I was an eMusic Unlimited member at the time (when there still was such a thing), which meant their partnership with Earache opened the door for me to try just about anything I felt like that they recommended.

I snagged Winds of Creation readily back then, and found myself pleased (December Wolves did not go over so well, but that’s largely because they were not and are not strictly death metal, which is what I was looking for at that time–in fact, they were triggered-drum-heavy black metal, which was still a very foreign thing to me). I picked up 2002’s Nihility as well, eventually even ordering it on the massive 220g vinyl that I also ordered Slaughter of the Soul on, at the same time. Winds of Creation ended up on one of my “I want to blast this metal” CDs (most of them paired with other albums) I burnt in those days, but Nihility eventually took over for me, largely on the back of the album’s single “Spheres of Madness”–which, let me emphasize, has an absolutely killer main riff. Of course, if you wander around and compare ratings (such as those at the stupendously comprehensive Encyclopædia Metallum²) you will find Winds consistently receives the highest ratings out of all of their albums (and note that The Negation slips significantly after Nihility, and that the last two albums get passable scores at best).
Truth be told, Winds of Creation is a superior album overall. I still have a soft spot for Nihility and will often claim it as favoured personally, but I have to admit that the production, in particular, gives Winds the edge (Nihility is comparatively “dry” in production–intensely so, in fact). It was with this in mind–as well as a personal desire for ownership–that I ended up snagging Winds of Creation only a few weeks back. I’ve been wanting to give the album more spins, simply because it doesn’t have a song that completely breaks up the feel like “Spheres of Madness”, so there’s not as distinct a hook. Throw in the fact that it was actually issued on vinyl (this happened in 2010) and on coloured vinyl at that, and it was a given.
While I’ve never noticed as strong a hook as the riff in “Spheres of Madness”, the opening of Winds of Creation, the title track, is a fantastic opener which doesn’t rely on the studio-based radio fuzz that opens Nihility. Witold “Vitek” Kiełtyka’s drums are absurdly precise, and create a distinct and rigid backing for his older brother Wacław “Vogg” Kiełtyka’s guitar riffs, before he unleashes his frighteningly rapid double-kick, which eventually launches the album into the stratosphere and makes room for the lean, muscular riffs of Vogg to streak up the sides of the song. Wojciech “Sauron” Wąsowicz has a wonderful growl: his vocal rhythms are strange and hard to follow, and masked somewhat by his rather distinct Polish accent (when you can match his words to the written lyrics, you can hear it easily, and it became more clear in Nihility where his voice was more clear in general). The song is pummeling and serves as a fantastic introduction to the band, who had previously recorded only demos, some of which were released on the compilation Polish Assault previously, but otherwise unreleased publicly. The finale of the song returns it all to the breakneck pacing it saw only briefly earlier, and allows Marcin “Martin” Rygiel’s bass to appear for one of the only times it is audible on the record (an unfortunately common truth particular to extreme metal subgenres), that gives the song some very clear punctuation.
“Blessed” almost eases into place after the title track, with the actual playing speed undiminished, but the feel of the tempo seeming to connote a lesser emphasis on it–which does actually make Vogg’s riffs all the more blinding for their solitary choice of speed. Vitek and his brother blurr into a chaotic whirlwind as the first verse is introduced, Sauron’s voice blurring into the low end of the song fantastically. Vogg is given the briefest of spotlights, alone in the left channel, to which Vitek responds with deep thudding finality. After a low-end focus in the second verse portion, Vogg’s riffs seem to flash alongside as if they are the flames licking the sides of a rumbling engine–be they painted or real. There’s a wonderful breakdown of riffs that seem to stretch instead of chugging independently, buoyed by Martin’s matching bassline. Shifting tempos and movements are defined by a variety of riffs and drum beats. The ending speeds the song through a clearly locked snare and then charging riffs. Vogg drops a brilliant solo composed almost entirely of bends, that finally claims to an apex of bends. The way Vitek lays splash, ride, and snare over his rumbling engine of double-kick is something to behold, as if you could see him speeding beyond his bandmates, utterly unaware as they would seemingly need to struggle to ever catch up.
Also given as the name of the compilation of their demo recordings (which also contained a version of the song, as well as numerous others later re-recorded for this album), “The First Damned” washes in like a thickened tide, building from Vogg’s isolated guitar to a full-stereo sound from him and Vitek. The main riff comes along and it’s a long stretch of tremolo picking that gives that wonderful “appearance” of a single strike being held (almost). The pacing is actually reduced in large part for this one–Vitek does not actually drop to simple blast beats, but his beats are less dominated by double-kick then they have been to this point. The second riff is lovely and bendy, seeming to pose itself as a question in response to Sauron’s vocals. The track has the most “normal” solo on the album, in that it is not defined primarily by the “tap” method of playing (wherein the player taps his or her fingers on the strings of the guitar using the picking hand, rather than picking them with plectrum or fingers). It’s a delightful solo, which seems to act as a sudden spike in the established riffing, increasing speed and range, even as it, too, seems a bit “slow” as compared to the rest. The leads are also a bit more melodic in the track, though they give way to another isolated, left-channel riff that acts as herald to the forward rush of the song’s full return. It’s also unusual in its ending, allowing a sustained hold to ring, rather than fading or stopping abruptly.
Somewhat inexplicably, the lyrics to “Way to Salvation” are not printed in my vinyl or CD copy of this album, but that doesn’t reflect on the song itself. A nice balance of hand and foot drumming is marked by a scrabbling of riffs from Vogg. His guitar is practically unleashed as Sauron’s voice enters the track, seeming to splay and rush in all directions. The lead is one of the best full leads on the album, climbing to higher pitches than Vogg normally favours, and being possibly even double-tracked for a semi-harmonized stereo effect that is exaggerated by the guitar track’s absence in one channel prior to this effect. Vitek gets to throw in a fill that shows off his skill without breaking up the song, even as it does bring the song to a slowed tempo as if pulling at the reins–Vitek’s drumming is slowed for what might be the only time on the album, as is Vogg’s solo, which seems to be throwing in the exertion of a very steep climb as it makes its way along, occasionally stopping at a “plateau” for a seeming aside to listeners, sounding just slightly like the “Egyptian” tones of Nile for a moment, but regaining its own spirit, which has the slight pinches and squeals of Azagthoth-style³ soloing hidden in it. A semi-hypnotic, still slowed ending follows from this and is allowed to simply fade out, which seems only appropriate for the turn it has taken.
“The Eye of Horus” follows a similar path to the title track, with Vitek’s drums acting as a very strict skeleton for Vogg’s riffs at open, but filling in tendon and sinew as his double-kicks enter the fray. It’s one of the thrashiest tracks on the album, Sauron struggling to spit out his words in time. The haltingly descending riffs Vogg lays down after the first verse are absolutely fantastic, and hint at the usage a similar one will see later on in “Nine Steps”. There’s a peculiar and spiralling, chunky mid-section that ends each of Sauron’s following lines, seeming to circle itself to avoid tripping, eventually finding its gait and slinking along on the smooth tremolo we heard in “The First Damned”. Vogg’s solo is distorted and strange–perhaps even more Azagthoth-y, for its vague dissonance and experimental nature, though as is true of most, it maintains just a bit more melodicism than Trey’s usual blasts of “lava”. The outro is another fade, but it manages to include some flashes of lead we don’t hear a lot of in a single-guitarist band.
“Human’s Dust” seems to be designed to prove that the band has been holding weapons in reserve–the song drops out of the sky fully formed and thick with riff and drum, but breaks itself apart to a bare bones snare-based interlude that turns it to a near black-metal blastbeat-styled passage. Never ones to make their time signature changes and tempo shifts obvious or clumsy, the song seems to shift and change them more readily and constantly than the entire rest of the album, allowing for a solo that combines elements of all the previous ones–perhaps an apex in style, if not flavour. It bends, taps, squeals, and slides along into airy blasts of tremolo arm modulated gusts. 
Ah, “Nine Steps”. The only rest we’re given before it is the pummeling pounding of Vitek on toms and snare, which lead into a similarly isolated riff from Vogg that is dragged into the maelstrom by Vitek’s slide in on the ride cymbal. The song takes off, Vogg racing over the top of it with his amalgamated lead and rhythm riffing, a few hints of Slayer-esque riffage that are then buried into a more Decapitated-signature sound. There’s a sort of skating riff over an unusual drum beat composed of tight hi-hat rhythmic hissing, which is completely unexpected at this point, yet utterly fitting. But in all of this, the lead is to the best riff on the album: at about two minutes in, the song climbs ever upward and then zooms off, building intense energy that isn’t clearly anticipatory, seemingly resolved by the booming of Vitek’s drums announces the high end tremolo riffing of Vogg. He lays out a stupendously blurred solo that seems to slow the song down to a chugging riff that repeats to only the hiss of ride before the briefest of pauses, hovering on the brink, then leaping off to zig-zag from channel to channel as it descends. The riff is a sudden change in feel and that brilliant moment before it drops down only serves to make the drop that much more delicious, ending the song on its third repetition, quite abruptly.
As is often the case with metal bands, “Dance Macabre” appears at the end, not unlike “The Flames of the End” appearing at the end of Slaughter of the Soul, though this more closely resembles the booming, ominous synthetic inclusions of black metal bands, such as the earliest moments of Emperor’s Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk. It functions best as an outro, of course–it would come off strangely, at best, in the middle of the album. It is a nice vent for the heat the album has built to this point though–moody, spooky, like a cult horror soundtrack (hence the association with “The Flames of the End”).
The vinyl includes the previously international-only (don’t ask me which international–maybe their home Polish version lacked it, or Earache’s home UK, or the U.S. version, or maybe none of them–it’s not a genre prone to meticulous record-keeping, to be honest) cover of Slayer’s 1988 South of Heaven track “Mandatory Suicide”. Our Polish boys speed it up only slightly, and give it the more full crunch of death metal–somewhat “thicker” than the mid-high orientation of late 80s metal production and thrash metal in general. Sauron’s voice continues to be an interesting surprise, especially when compared to the already somewhat higher pitches of Tom Araya–nevermind when compared to the booming rumble of our young Polish lad. As “bonus tracks” go with covers–there’s not much to say beyond the quality: it’s a nimble and appropriate cover, that manages to blur their style in with the original, neither laying an overt kind of mutated claim to it, nor merely servicing it.
Decapitated’s biggest claim to fame I have thankfully left out until now: At the time of recording, Sauron was 17 years old, as was Vogg. Martin was 15. And Vogg’s little brother? Vitek had just turned 15 himself. As if that wasn’t “bad” enough, they recorded and released their first–very professionally performed–demo two years earlier.
This is a ridiculously professional, well-played, well-recorded, and well-written album–it can easily stand next to seasoned professionals, and clobber almost any starters. It doesn’t make a big deal out of its technicalities, nor fail to achieve them in the first place. If, indeed, it’s not so complicated as it sounds to my unprofessional ears (though that is one thing I’ve never heard contested about the band, even by the snobs), it’s still well done enough that it sure as hell sounds like it. And that’s an unbelievable strength, especially in a sub-sub-genre like “technical death metal”. And no, I didn’t make that up. It’s occasionally crossed with (indeed, sometimes synonymous with) “brutal death metal”, a designator that generally indicates the unfamiliar should be wary, as much of what I’m still wont to call “wankery” is likely to be present–that is, the masturbatory self-indulgences of proving technical skill. While Decapitated may prove they have exactly that, they don’t do so at the expense of songwriting at any moment on the album.
I may have softened to the idea of “brutal” or “technical” death metal in general–or, perhaps, Decapitated helped it to grow on me in the first place. Certainly, it was because of Sauron’s constant appearances in Immolation shirts that I eventually picked up that incredibly excellent band that occupies the same genre-space–even rendering my favourite “tech-death” album of all: Close to a World Below. They also helped to refine my taste in death metal, to direct me somewhat toward what I would like later, and away from the sinking notion that, in my limited ability to explore (as well as the handful of recommendations I had to receive then), I was stuck with the “gore-porn” lyrics that once defined death metal (I’m not a Cannibal Corpse fan, though I do love the heck out of Carcass). Despite the name, Decapitated effectively never touched on this–their album titles as well as their song titles seem to make that clear, but I’ll state it openly here as well. They’re lyrics that reflect–well, misanthropy and nihilism, perhaps most explicitly stated in the title track from their second album: “Nihility (Anti-Human Manifesto)”–there’s no sense of elitist dismissal of others, so much as full-on, general misanthropy, and blame laid at the feet of an all-too-deserving human race.
I also can’t say enough about Sauron’s voice: it defines much of what I want out of a death metal vocalist, as he sounds somewhat inhuman, but not as if it’s a strain so much as a shift in gears for him. Some vocalists grate, others are ho-hum, but Sauron’s perfect blend–sometimes criticized for this–manages to insinuate itself more completely into the band’s music and function perfectly on that level.
I know, as always, my endorsement of a metal album is meaningless to metal fans and worse to those who hate the genre, but this album receives my highest recommendations all the same. The band wandered into entirely different territory that was hinted at with The Negation and fully realized after Sauron was replaced by Adrian “Covan” Kowanek for Organic Hallucinosis, furthered yet by the exit of all but Vogg for 2011’s Carnival Is Forever. Of course, the interceding years were distinctly unkind to the band: in 2007, a bus accident left then-vocalist Covan in a coma, and killed the 23-year old Vitek. Sadly, this is now the new face of the band’s immediate introductions. Would that we were still just talking about how young they all are.
In any case, if you are willing to look into a full-fledged metal album and its aggression, give this one a spin–if you’re open to the idea, there’s no way it could disappoint.
¹Interestingly, Vogg auditioned to be the second guitarist for Morbid Angel, after Erik Rutan left to take on Hate Eternal full time. Funny, these “full circle” things.
²If you stop and peruse those reviews: welcome to the online metal community. Never will you find more harsh critics determined to convince others of the quality of their taste, and their superiority to almost any offering. Strict personal rules are applied vindictively, and no leeway is given to…anything. I didn’t last long, taste-wise, in such communities. I never do. Still, you will find that, barring the absurdly negative reviews of Nihility, it ends up just below Winds of Creation. Their (adjusted) scores are approximately 86% and 93% respectively, which also lines up with anecdotal experience of opinions. But, seriously, I don’t recommend dealing with the self-important nonsense that bleeds into that community endlessly. It’s tiresome posturing and pissing contests in almost every internet incarnation. When I saw Decapitated live, however, it was the most polite show I’ve ever been to, despite them playing along with Suffocation–unlike the more popular forms of aggressive music, everyone was given space and allowed to go about things in their own way. 
³Trey Azagthoth (aka George Emmanuelle III, no I’m not kidding) is the guitarist for Morbid Angel. He refers to his solos as “lava”, at least with respect to the compilation of them entitled Love of Lava.

Day Twelve: At the Gates – Slaughter of the Soul

Earache Records ■  MOSH 143

Released November 14, 1995

Produced by Fredrik Nordstrom, Co-Produced by At the Gates

“We are blind to the worlds within us, waiting to be born…”

Side One: Side Two:
  1. Blinded by Fear
  2. Slaughter of the Soul
  3. Cold
  4. Under a Serpent Sun
  5. Into the Dead Sky
  1. Suicide Nation
  2. World of Lies
  3. Unto Others
  4. Nausea
  5. Need
  6. The Flames of the End

This is actually an interesting title to discuss, as it actually also puts me in the awkward place of talking about a classic album, which was something I intended to somewhat avoid by going through my own record collection instead of a set of albums pre-determined by history or anything of the kind. Naturally, I’m not defiant about classics and do own plenty (and far more if we look at my CD collection), but I’m occasionally peculiar about how I purchase vinyl in particular. 

However, this is a classic extreme metal album, which means that its reputation tends to hold up only in that particular “scene”. If you aren’t into death metal, you’ve probably never heard of this album. Indeed, the indirect inspiration for this, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, is, like many similar collections, very light on metal in general: there’s a single Judas Priest album, a Sepultura album, a Pantera album, two Megadeth albums [?!], 1 Slayer album, 1 Iron Maiden album, 1 Anthrax album, 3 Metallica albums [!], and 1 Venom album–and, the one concession to extreme metal, Napalm Death’s Scum, which receives the hilarious (but ultimately quite useless) review at the blog to which my own is also a response to (wherein the aforementioned 1001 albums are reviewed). This does indicate the one flaw in my approach: the genres I remain only hazily familiar with–jazz, though I own a reasonable amount, I’m an absolute novice with; classical, which I barely own any of, but do own on vinyl in a few instances; country, which resembles jazz as my collection goes; the music of other countries that is not heavily Western in nature; so on–as I approach music on the whole as something to understand as well as just appreciate and enjoy. Alas, I won’t have much in the way of revelation for myself to pass on to you, but this does allow me to attempt something else: conveying to the unfamiliar the value of genres and releases you may not be familiar with.

While it took me a while to get into death metal at all, I started from the more formative variety, leapt to from the metal inflected/influenced sound of “nu metal” in the late 1990s–Morbid Angel’s Blessed Are the Sick, which was released in 1991. Depending on who you are and how your tastes run, this is not the album I would suggest first, most likely. Slaughter of the Soul, on the other hand, leapt out at me immediately: it was recommended to me by a friend in college who acted as “mentor” to me on the subject of metal, having been involved with listening to it for a much longer time than I had. He unequivocally recommended this album, and I listened to it repeatedly on my first acquisition of it.

I bought this copy, on <a href="”&gt;heavyweight vinyl (220g!), as the first physical copy I owned, ordered directly from Earache (the label, in case you do not understand the notation I use at the beginning of each of these entries!) alongside Decapitated’s Nihility (which was also pressed on 220g vinyl at the time). It was my first experience with the whole idea of heavyweight, and is an exceptional example, as 180g is usually the ideal. I actually had some issues with the order–Earache is originally a British album, and I was ordering from the US store that, as I recall, insisted the album was out of stock. I actually ended up getting an e-mail from the label’s head, Digby Pearson, who is the first person thanked by the band on this album–who sorted things out and got me the albums.

The band and the album are some of the icons of a particular strain of death metal: melodic death metal, aka “melodeath”, aka “Swedish melodic death metal”, so named because the sound originates primarily in Sweden (if not exclusively). It’s actually interesting, as the pillars of this sound are Slaughter itself, In Flames’ The Jester Race, and Dark Tranquility’s The Gallery, all of which were recorded at Studio Fredman with Fredrik Nordstrom in Gothenburg (Göteborg), Sweden. Even more amazing, Slaughter and The Gallery were both released in November, 1995, separated by only two weeks. The Jester Race was recorded in that same month, too, though it was released three months later. The sound is easily identified, as it is recognizably death metal in terms of the distortion, aggression, volume, and growled vocals, but it is defined by guitars that carry clear and obvious melody. All three albums–and many successors and predecessors, both from those bands and others–also carry moments of folk-inflected acoustic passages and tracks. These elements tend to make the subgenre the most immediately accessible works of extreme metal.

Slaughter of the Soul opens with “Blinded by Fear”, which the band wrote as a deliberate opener for the album, and was the last track the band recorded a promotional music video for. It begins with the hum and buzz of amplifiers with nothing being played through them, cutting away to phased, metallic sounds that vocalist Tomas Lindberg speaks over: “We are blind to the worlds within us, waiting to be born”. And then the guitars of Anders Björler and Martin Larsson drop in and the album takes off at–if you’ll pardon me–blinding speed. The video, though, is illustrative of Adrian Erlandsson’s, drummer, role in the album: he is an absolute machine in this recording(which Nordstrom confirmed as being defined by absolute perfectionism–exhausting on an analog recording!), and the video shows what that looks like: while the rest of the band bears the long hair that is so indicative of the look of metal–Lindberg with long locks of braided red hair and a full beard, Anders, Martin and Anders’ twin Jonas with the more standard straight hair swirling through the rhythmic headbanging the drive of the sound tends to induce–Adrian is both shaven and shirtless, his muscles coiled and tight, aggressive and loud hits forced by short distance from stick to drumhead to maintain absolute control over an extremely precise rhythm, one that is defined by the blast beats I mentioned in discussing Aborym’s Kali Yuga Bizarre: alternating bass drum and snare hits accented with matched cymbal hits. The signature double-kick bass drum sound (wherein two pedals are operated on the same or paired bass drums–in Erlandsson’s case, the same drum) of much of death metal–as well as thrash metal–appears only briefly as a fill (an exception to the basic rhythmic pattern of the song that adds more flavour to a drum performance). The apex is a twin-guitar solo that reminds us that the sound has strong roots in the work of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. The song ends on one emphatic beat, leaving only the original amplifier buzz to bring us into the title track.

Martin Larsson has said that his favourite riff on the album–an album defined by riffs–is that of “Slaughter of the Soul”, which begins with a single guitar playing a riff from the left with emphases from Erlandsson before it is cut short for a momentary pause, notoriously released with Tomas’ cry of “GO!” which brings back the riff, expands Erlandsson’s drumming to its full usage, adds the second guitar as well as the bass. While riffs define metal in general, or at least characterize much of it, the melodic element of the Swedish sound is heavy on tremolo picking and the use of bends and single strings to bring unmistakable melodies to the aggressive riffing of distorted guitars. Martin and Anders have fingers dancing from fret to fret to accent the riffs of this song, which contains the only “breakdown”–a moment where the tempo drops to a minimum and is heavily emphasized on-beat, in this case, Erlandsson giving a steady 1, 2 from bass to snare–on the album, which acts as the opening to the song’s solo. The song contains the phrase which titled their “best of” collection: “Suicidal final art”, and ends with two hits from Erlandsson to stop the song short, a technique used throughout to actually maintain the energy and forward drive of a primarily relentless album.
“Cold” was one of the songs that inspired a rather silly short story I wrote in the throes of admiration for the album, and has a distinct climbing guitar line as Lindberg calls out, “I feel my soul go cold/Only the dead are smiling”. At its second appearance, it gives way to a new riff which falls back to a clean and pretty moment of slowly ascending notes that lead in to the album’s guest guitar solo from King Diamond guitarist Andy LaRocque, which makes unusual and fascinating use of the tremolo arm for some wavering notes in the middle, before turning to the rapid “tapping” technique that defines the most impressive histrionics of metal soloing, but here feels less showy than appropriate. Lindberg’s vocals are let ring out clearly for just a moment as the guitars disappear, his voice intoning “22 years of pain/And I can feel it closing in/The will to rise above/Tearing my insides out”. Extended squalls of feedback carry the song outward, and bring us to “Under the Serpent Sun”.
Seeming to start almost in the middle of itself–despite the lead-in from light cymbals by Erlandsson–“Under the Serpent Sun” brings some of the meatier, bassier riffs to the album, rolling and thundering along as Tomas yells out his first appearance nonverbally, before a moment of showier druming from Erlandsson that brings the song back to the higher notes that define much of the melodic elements of the band. Rapid picking defines one of my favourite twin-guitar solos on the album, while the song is allowed to stop short for a more ominous, still distorted break that lets Tomas let loose another spoken line: “Sweetfleshed hellbent creature/Artist of the fevered soul/Heavenly, venomous rapture”, which he ends with a sudden return to his death metal stylings: “Sickened on by fear I fall!” Another sudden ending lets us reach the one full-fledged island in the album.
“Into the Dead Sky” is a beautiful, primarily acoustic piece–even the electric parts are primarily clean, the drums are left alone but for a bit of studio-phased background beat (played by Anders due to schedule conflicts). The sound of the guitar strings, especially with two of them playing together and Jonas’ bass only momentarily moving past a downtempo beat, sound as if they cannot still or move together, dancing around each other and sliding from note to note in a moment that can be appreciated, I should think, by nearly anyone.
The transition to “Suicide Nation” is brilliant: a sample of a pistol slide chambering a bullet from “Reservoir Dogs” plays in isolation, the implied violence immediately contrasting with the beauty of the prior track and allowing the guitar riff that follows to feel natural and appropriate, well-introduced. The title is at least in part a reference to the alleged status of Sweden as the country with the highest suicide rate (a fact Lindberg has later said he’s unsure of, but that helped to inspire the song nonetheless). Erlandsson is finally allowed to let loose with the double kick, much of the song already sounding like a stampede of weighty animals, but further emphasized by the more spacious moments under Tomas’ refrain of “Control, control!” that leads into the crescendo of “Suicide, suicide” that was apparently achieved by literally running at the microphone screaming the word. One of the more emotive solos leads into the most distinct rhythmic portion of the song, which finally closes with the full force of the song’s various parts.
“World of Lies” has a fantastic descending riff to open it, spiralling downward until the tribalistic drumming of the intro brings it to the second fantastic riff of the song, which seems to answer its own lower notes with higher ones. A thrashy break underscores the first verse, while the chorus is the most brightly melodic portion of the song–until the bridge. Oh, that bridge! Chunky, muted riffing brings us back to that call-and-answer riff, until Tomas begins singing: “Final psychotic eclipse/Painted in the colours of war”, and the song lets free of its restrained rhythm, Erlandsson allowing space for the guitars to waver and hang on notes, Tomas finishing the lines with the musical change emphasizing his rhythm and words: “Final psychotic eclipse/A world drenched in blood”. A quote from the book Tomas says inspired the album (The Dice Man by Luke Rhineheart–aka George Cockroft) is spoken, “And it’s his illusions about what constitutes the real world which are inhibiting him…His reality, his reason, his society…these are what must be destroyed.” The bridge returns and it is even more breath-taking, with Tomas modifying the final line to match the rhythm even more closely: “Final psychotic eclipse/A world drenched in the blood of the innocent”.
Tomas has described “Unto Others” as the song’s “inevitable” rant against organized religion. “You’ve got to have at least one, right?” he says–and it’s a common theme in much of death metal, the defining aspect, indeed, of some bands. It has one of the most peculiar moments on the album though: while an acoustic break is not entirely unexpected at this point, that it is met with Tomas’ growls of “You walk through what is me/Stare blind–cannot see/Your thoughts flee to a different land/They are free, but you are bound” and not the more “normal” spoken approach he uses previously makes for a very interesting juxtaposition. Lest you think that they operate on a notion similar to some segments of the populace regarding this, the expressed anger comes through most clearly with one pair of lines: “You mock the weak for not giving you their trust/In your world of make believe, where statues turn to dust”.
“Nausea” is defined by a buzzing guitar sound reminiscent of musical attempts to represent the flight of insects through a scattered mix of notes whirling around itself, and is probably the track I find least remarkable in all the album–which is less a knock against it and more an indicator of how good the rest of it is. 
“Need” follows it, however, and is the most explicit expression of Tomas’ misanthropic, not-even-vaguely suicidal thoughts: “Open me, with your kiss of steel/End my pain-set me free/For we are enslaved, forever enslaved”. Cascades of drum fill define transitions between riffs, and sound utterly exhausting in an album Erlandsson has described as exactly that. The climbing tremolo riffs that are a large part of the At the Gates sound appear again as well, with strong lead lines from Anders coming out more distinctly than in previous tracks. Horror movie-esque keys end the song with a light melody played on bells (the kind that resembles a xylophone, not the kind one rings), which is only appropriate as it brings us to the close: “The Flames of the End”. The second largely instrumental track, as well as the second to drop the majority of the aggression, this is actually a heavily electronic (keyboard) track that was originally part of the soundtrack to Anders’ homemade horror movie Day of Blood (which the band discusses as incredibly terrible on numerous occasions), though it is layered over with slippery, wandering distortion on guitars that whine in and eventually take over the entire track, even when simple, martial riffing is added as well, nothing can compete with those squealing sounds, which finally turn to absolute chaos.
This album holds up to repeated listens in rapid succession, at great distances, and is often thought of as the absolute apex of At the Gates’ career: indeed, when they reunited a few years ago, they emphatically said they would not record new material (though they’ve softened a bit, it’s more to avoid being to absolutist about it) as it would just be “disappointing” so long after an album that was effectively enshrined. At the Gates regularly follows At the Drive-In in any music collection I have–at least, it did before I began to split off a handful of genres, including metal. Both were bands that reached what was considered a peak, by the public, by their respective scenes, managing to bring together popularity with now audiences and recognition from their own existing audiences as a general rule–and then broke up, neither giving even a hint that, ten years later on both counts, they would reunite and play live, forswearing new studio recordings. 
Like At the Drive-In’s swansong, Relationship of Command, Slaughter of the Soul very much serves as the collective experience of an established career filtered into a single work: while original second guitarist Alf Svensson and his more artistic bent was long lost since his exit after their second album, With Fear I Kiss the Burning Darkness, allowing a more concise, controlled sort of sound to define Terminal Spirit Disease and Slaughter. Like Vaya, Terminal Spirit Disease was a shorter release (22 minutes and 6 tracks, though 3 lives tracks were appended to the original issue) and contained more scattered experimentation–“And the World Returned” may be At the Gates’ most beautiful acoustic piece, but it brought with it a small string section, fitting in its place there, but odd in the totality of their work. Slaughter introduced the briefest of electronic moments, but it was almost more defining: the album as a whole is lyrically misanthropic, depressed, vaguely nihilistic and socially condemnatory: violence is seen as both indication of the reckless descent of man and as inevitable in light of that. The machinistic drumming of Erlandsson, while impressive and excellent, is also thematically appropriate. Society is represented as a controlling influence and a soul-crushing one; the cover melds a subdued palette of brown, orange, and yellow to the concrete lines of the schematics of weapons, bones, and chains to the distressed, faded, ripped image of a messianic figure, most likely Jesus. And it is encapsulated in “The Flames of the End”, which technically contains lyrics, ones which close a song, an album, and a studio career: “Humanity–the living end, a walking disease/Beyond good and evil, the flesh that never rests/The flames of the end inside us rest”.

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