Recently renovated classic venue Irving Plaza in New York City is the scene for the finale of the US leg of At The Gates most popular album, Slaughter of the Soul.Enforced opened the night. They’re an interesting group to me. They sound like a mix of Death Metal/Thrash with a some hardcore-tinged vocals. Whatever they’re going for, it’s working for them. I dig it.
In a new post, At the Gates has announced the return of founding guitarist, Anders Björler after five years out of the band. This is following the dismal of former guitarist Jonas Stallhammmer, who himself replaced Anders. The band finished tour commitments in the UK and USA with The Haunted’s Patrik Jensen and Atheist guitarist Daniel Martinez. In November, Anders’s first show back in the band will be Damnation Fest in the UK, followed by a tour of Europe with In Flames.Continue reading →
There’s a fine line between “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and “there’s always room for improvement”, and more often than not the re-recording of old albums usually falls snugly into the former category. No matter how much more accomplished the revised version might sound from a technical standpoint, the overall results rarely change. Lightning in a bottle cannot be captured twice.
Swedish extreme metallers At The Gates have been keeping themselves busy on the road, and venturing into new areas on each stop. Their venture took them to Knotfest in Devore, CA where they played to a packed second stage area on the Saturday of the two day event.
It has been over a year since they released At War With Reality, their first new album since 1994’s Slaughter of the Soul. Being away from the music scene under this moniker since the band stopped, guitarist Martin Larsson spoke about how different their writing approaches were, versus prior to their abrupt stop years ago.
“The actual writing [is] not much difference, but the collaboration is so much easier. Now we’re so spread out. In the 90s we were all in Gothenberg…um I wasn’t so nevermind…basically Gothenburg.”
“But now the drummer’s [Adrian Erlandsson] in London in the UK and three of us are in Gothenberg, and the bass player [Jonas Bjorler] is about three to four hours away in Sweden. With the internet and email and files to Dropbox and what have you, usually what happened on this album is Anders [Bjorler] made a demo and then once he’s satisfied, in a second we can all listen to it wherever we are and comment on it. Ideas bounce back and forth over the internet.“
“I think we spent the better part of a year just sending ideas back and forth and doing demos. We had such a full idea of the album already when we went into the studio. I think that’s the big difference – the whole collaboration is so much easier.”
Photo Credit: Hillarie Jason
During the time away from the band, the various members were at various times involved in a number of other bands and projects. Frontman Tomas “Tompa’ Lindberg was involved in The Crown,Disfear, Skitsystem, Nightrage and Lock Up; guitarist Anders Bjorler was with The Haunted and now his solo project; bassist Bjorler is with the Haunted; and Erlandsson with Nehain, as well as his stints in Cradle of Filth and Paradise Lost. Larsson himself is currently playing with Agrimonia when At The Gates has down time.
Have doing other projects re-energized the members of At The Gates towards adding a new spark into the band? “Maybe in a way yeah. I guess doing other stuff always gets you excited to do At The Gates, I suppose. A lot of outside influences and ideas or whatever, so I guess so,” he said.
Photo Credit: Hillarie Jason
When it comes to the touring side, Larsson explained how they balance out who will be touring with what band and aligning schedules to make it work in the long run.
“With the other bands it’s first come first serve, so it’s an easy rule to follow. Whatever band gets the booking first has the privilege. All of us do regular stuff on the side or At The Gates is on the side. Mostly Tomas and Jonas have regular proper jobs. They work part-time during the week. We mostly play weekends. We’ve done that for this year since the album came out. We’ve done a couple of tours. We did a US tour for three weeks in March. Right after this we have a week in Australia and a couple of dates in Japan. It’s mostly weekends.”
“There’s a lot of travelling just doing weekends. I feel like I’ve been jet lagged constantly for about a year, but playing is such a pleasure. You don’t mind it at all. We’re privileged that we get to do this and that people still want to see us.”
Photo Credit: Hillarie Jason
Since the band has reformed, At The Gates has found themselves touring new territories they were unable to visit the first time around. Larsson spoke about some of their target areas they wish to hit.
“I’m a bit of an explorer myself. I always like going to places I haven’t been before. We’re going to South Africa in March. I’m stoked to do that. I’d like to play more in Eastern Europe and Asian countries. We’ll take it gradually.”
He spoke about their visit to China, one of the newest frontiers for many artists in recent years.
“We played China twice. Things haven’t really happened in China metal wise, but they’re starting to. First time we were there we played to 100 people, and the second time 200 people. There’s a progression. Things are happening. It’s exciting. It’s like when we started 25 years ago.”
Aside from their upcoming US tour with The Haunted and Decpaitated, he also unveiled another upcoming tour stop on a cruise. “The cruise in the Carribbean – 70,000 Tons of Metal. We’re playing that. This is the first time under that name. We did the Barge to Hell ones, which is kind of the same. That one had even more focus on the extreme metal. I guess this one is all around metal. It’s going to be great.”
Lastly, he talked about the possibilities of a new At The Gates record and whether it was realistic to talk about one yet. “No. I’m not saying we’re not gonna but we don’t know. The only plan we have at the moment is not quitting. So we’re going to take it as it comes. We’re already booked until August. Once this goes down we’ll just sit down and see.”
“We’re not going to push it. If there’s more music – fine. That’s good. I’d like it there to be more music but we’ll find out.”
Few bands have the kind of legacy At The Gates managed to create in their relatively brief run in the 90s. That one album has had such an impact on modern metal is nothing short of amazing. But legacies can be double-edged. There’ll be many who say new album At War With Reality (Century Media) is the album of the year solely because it’s At The Gates, and they’ll be just as many saying it’s failure because it’s not an exact replica of their seminal 1995 record Slaughter of the Soul (Earache).
For the few who have actually waited to listen before they pass judgement, At War With Reality is a genuinely worthwhile listen and worth the 19 year wait. It still sounds like At The Gates, not the razor-focused Slayer-worship of Slaughter of the Soul, although those moments are still present, but an all-encompassing At The Gates that draws from the band’s entire back catalogue.
The riffs are still there; the guitar work of Anders Björler & Martin Larsson is as fast, furious and intricate as ever. The title track, ‘Death and the Labyrinth,’ and ‘The Conspiracy of the Blind’ all recall the band’s thrash-fuelled energy of Slaughter. Tomas Lindberg’s vocals are still savage, but they’ve aged into a deeper, more pained howl. But as well as the speed and the aggression, the album has its fair share of slower moments and dark atmospherics that recall earlier albums such as Terminal Spirit Disease or 1993’s With Fear I Kiss the Burning Darkness (both Peaceville).
The crisp production just adds extra weight to those crunching yet addictive guitar lines. The slow burning ‘Order from Chaos’ and ‘Heroes and Tombs,’ both brood over irresistibly catchy guitar lines, while the epic ‘Book of Sand (The Abomination)’ mixes relentless aggression with squealing melodic solos and breakdowns. While fans of ATG or melo-death will feel at home straight away, there are few dull or predictable moments.
The return of Carcass last year showed reunion albums didn’t have to hackneyed rehashes, and history has repeated itself in the best way possible. At The Gates have shown the world that they’re still the most powerful force in melodic death metal. At War With Reality does more than just prop up the band’s legacy, it enhances it.