If you can set aside your AT THE GATES worship for just a moment, you'll be able to recognize NIGHTRAGE's "Descent into Chaos" for what it really is: Dependable Swedish melodic death metal. Don't get starry-eyed over the fact that it's Gus G who is laying down the meaty guitar parts and solos or that Tomas Lindberg is the vocalist screaming his guts out, which is not to say that both aren't accomplished artists. The follow up to the beloved "Sweet Vengeance" debut album is one of many discs that rides the genre for all its worth. My point? Don't let the hype distort your auditory faculties; "Sweet Vengeance" is a good album and one that I enjoy, but it's not a masterpiece.
In the way of housekeeping, I should add that Per M. Jensen (THE HAUNTED) has been replaced by Fotis Benardo (ex-CRADLE OF FILTH, ex-SEPTIC FLESH) on drums. In addition, Henric Carlsson (CIPHER SYSTEM) replaces Brice Leclercq (DISSECTION) on bass.
Anyway, "Descent into Chaos" takes what AT THE GATES started and spices it up with somewhat more traditional melodic metal elements. You'll hear it in the classic metal accents of Marios Iliopoulos' and Gus G's guitar work, as well as the hooky choruses that hit with more immediacy than usual for this style. That said, it sounds like Lindberg is trying too hard at times and his always harsh, unchanging vocals seem a little strained, forced even. It's a minor, picky point, I know. Aside from a take-it-or-leave-it instrumental ("Solus") and a Mikael Stanne (DARK TRANQUILLITY) clean vocal injection on "Frozen" that sounds awkward, each song is characterized, predictably so, by those ATG choppy guitar parts, usually frantic rhythms, and a chorus you can sing along with. The Studio Fredman trampoline-tight sound treatment is once again first rate.
In the final analysis, "Descent into Chaos" is still better than much of the Americanized, hardcore-inflected, Swedish-style melodic death metal that is currently (and has been) flooding the market. I'd have no problem recommending the album for virtually any fan of the real Swedish stuff. Just don't expect some kind of reinvention of the genre and you'll be just fine with it.