Saturday, August 8, 2009

At the Gates - Terminal Spirit Disease (1994)

The third full-length from At the Gates is sort of a mixed bag. On this album, you can hear hints of the band's previous sound, as well as definite clues to the direction that they were headed toward. The prime reason for the change was the departure of guitarist and songwriter, Alf Svensson, who left the band after With Fear I Kiss the Burning Darkness. The result was that the overall style became very simplified and the thrash element began to dominate. Released in July 1994, Terminal Spirit Disease was a setp down from the previous output of At the Gates, but it still retained some semblance of the familiar atmosphere that their fans had come to expect.

The cello and violin, found in the intro to "The Swarm", was enough to get one's hopes up. However, the mournful guitar melody that flows from this manages to fade into oblivion, being replaced by less inspired riffs. The music still bears a somber feeling, owing quite a bit to the shredded-throat vocals of Tomas Lindberg.

As the title track gets underway, it gives a false impression. The darkness of this betrayal is soon illuminated, as the song shifts gears, riff-wise, to the dismay of the listener. This is not to say that the song is bad, but that it had the potential to be much better. That seems to be something that plagues the entire recording.

"And the World Returned" is a peaceful, yet sorrowful, instrumental. It's not nearly as bleak as "The Scar"; however, I don't think that was their intention. Either way, it is pleasant enough and serves as a good lead-in to the next song. The nature of the song is introspective enough to get you thinking of something sad, but not so miserable that you slice your throat.

The vibe is carried over into "Forever Blind", which relies too much on the thrash riffs and not enough on fleshing out these ideas and creating something remarkable. The feeling is kind of there, but there's quite a bit of room for improvement. With that said, the vocals still possess a tortured quality that can be appreciated.

Clocking in a little over four minutes, "The Fevered Circle" is the longest song on the album. This one shows a little promise, hearkening back to the previous albums. Ironically, this is the only song featuring any input from Svensson, prior to his departure. Unfortunately, he may have run out of ideas as this isn't even the best song on here.

"The Beautiful Wound" opens with a rather bleak melody, but the dominance of thrash riffs soon obliterates this. As the song progresses, there are more depressive melodies, despite the fact that they're not fully developed.

The three live tracks aren't really worth mention, as it's useless to include live songs on a full-length. This seems more like filler, to me. As for the studio tracks, they were recorded in Studio Fredman but the album does not have the over-produced sound that is present on the following album. In other words, the sound hadn't totally been raped yet.

Terminable Spirit Disease is an album with a lot of potential; unfortunately, it is never realized. There is still a mournful atmosphere, for the most part, but this release displays but a mere shadow of this band's potential. It's a shame that they didn't call it quits with this one. The album isn't a complete loss, but I'd only ever recommend picking it up if you can do so at a serious discount.