At The Gates is a household name to every Melodic Death Metal fan out there. Formed over thirty years ago, this group of guys invigorated the scene by gifting the people with their unruly and extreme proclamations. Along with several other eager acts from their hometown, like Dark Tranquility and In Flames, ATG bolstered what is now defined as Gothenburg Melodic Death Metal. The signature sound that they captured still storms the scene today, showing off the band’s Swedish roots with a grim and wistful flourish. They continue on to profess their dark truths on their new seventh full-length record, The Nightmare of Being (Century Media Records).
Out of all of the annual big name tours that hit North America, none have been as consistent as The Decibel Magazine Tour. On April 10th at the Royale in Boston, Decibel provided a diverse, yet exciting lineup of newcomers, Vallenfyre, one of rising stars in doom, Pallbearer, metalcore titans Converge, and the legends in the flesh, At The Gates.Vallenfyre, by Hillarie Jason Photography.
Kicking off the night was Vallenfyre who, even with an early set time starting at 5:30 in the early-evening, was greeted by a generous and excited crowd. With the Royale having a strict cut off time at 9:30 on a Friday night (I know, I know) the supergroup out of the UK only had time for a few quick songs. Having said that, they got in three songs from each of their albums with favorites such as: ‘Bereft’, ‘Cathedrals of Dread’, ‘The Grim Irony’, and ‘Splinters’. I will certainly be looking forward to seeing these guys again and so should you!
Pallbearer hit the stage next to destroy the crowd’s ears and emotions with a wall of sound via doom metal. Obviously in the doom world, songs tend to run a bit longer than your typical song to truly hold atmosphere and provide a mood. Due to this, we only got three songs from the foursome from Little Rock, Arkansas. Boston got to hear ‘Worlds Apart’ and ‘The Ghost I Use to Be’ from the latest release as well as ‘Foreigner’ from Pallbearer’s debut album. Get on the bandwagon for this band as space is limited!Converge, by Hillarie Jason Photography.
Next up to try and tear down the venue were local heroes, Converge. I will be honest and mention I have never truly been a big fan of these guys, but after seeing them live I think I like the taste of their brand of kool-aid. The adrenaline from the four men on stage had trickled down to the floor as fans started surfing right up and over the barricade to sing their favorite lyrics. The set list was very well constructed to allow for four tracks each from the two latest releases (All We Love We Leave Behind, Axe to Fall) and two tracks each from You Fail Me as well as the classic, Jane Doe. A few favorites heard were: ‘Dark Horse’, ‘Trespasses’, ‘Reap What You Sow’, and the closer, ‘Jane Doe’. I may not have known a single word to any of the songs played, but the sheer energy of this live set by Converge is enough to get me to come back for more.
Lastly, the gods themselves, At The Gates, took to the stage. Even given the time constraints, the Swedish legends were able to punch out a set list of 19 tracks! Obviously with a new album out (At War With Reality from Century Media) I expected quite a bit of new tracks. In total, the Boston fans got seven from the new album, 7 from Slaughter of the Soul and a few others sprinkled in. Some favorites/sing-a-longs played were: ‘Death and the Labyrinth’, ‘Terminal Spirit Disease’, ‘Raped by the Light of Christ’, ‘Suicide Nation’, and of course, ‘Blinded by Fear’. Even after being apart for all of those years, At The Gates can still bring it and boy do they bring it all. Easily one of the better shows that will hit the Boston market in 2015!At The Gates, by Hillarie Jason Photography.
WORDS BY TIM LEDIN
Having graciously postponed his pre-gig meal to conduct this interview Tomas Lindberg is remarkably warm throughout. Guitarist Anders Björler mentioned to GC downstairs that it was important to retain the essence of At The Gates. A statement the singer echoes. “The five of us have an identity together which has remained untouched. We love a lot of different music but we want to create within the framework of what At The Gates is so we are able to stay true but also move forward.”
At the top of the interview Tomas touched upon the benefit of playing in other bands in helping the members think about team work. Considering all the other outfits he and his colleagues are involved with (Disfear, Paradise Lost and The Haunted to name just a few) can we expect much in terms of touring?
“Logistically it is tricky but we have great agents. Vallenfyre have another drummer who can step in for them and I am no longer in Lock Up, there is no bad blood! Only good stuff. We all have our other jobs too. We all have Google calendar and book well in advance. Even if Martin has an Agrimonia gig in a squat somewhere in Germany we will work around that! We are still all very normal people and we don’t want to lose that grounded feeling. We don’t have to do this (At The Gates) to pay the rent. I think that has always helped and meant we have never had to water down our music.”
A teacher at Gothenburg University, Lindberg’s lyrical output is theoretically grounded and highly conceptual. Certainly far more highbrow than the standard death metal lyrics. “I enjoy delving into concepts and became more reflective when I started teaching. I have become more reflective as a person which I think also benefits how I work within the band.”
These comments will come as a pleasant surprise too many fans who (often wrongly) assume that musicians will earn oodles of cash from package tours and possess bank balances which are only matched by the size of the musicians’ egos. Lindberg charmingly recalls a recording Lock Up material with producer Russ Russell. “When I was recording with that band we used the beer metronome! I was singing ahead of the beat and a couple of beers helped me relax and record the vocals. That works well for punk and grind stuff but for At The Gates it requires a lot of focus! These days before gigs I have one glass of wine and just the alcohol free beer. I sing from the belly and the chest so I have to pace myself now over an eighteen song set!”
The much imitated and ballyhooed Slaughter Of The Soul (Earache) is an album dear to fans of the Gothenburg scene and American Metalcore scene alike, while proud of what his group have achieved Lindberg is keen to move on and progress with his music. “People talk about Slaughter… in those terms but it was a bit of a one dimensional, only aggressive record with similar songs stylistically. ‘Terminal Spirit Disease’ was moving in a different direction until things happened in our lives and we made a more pissed off record. This album is almost picking up from where ‘Terminal…’ was going. A darker more melancholic place.”
WORDS BY ROSS BAKER
Nearly two decades on from revolutionary opus Slaughter Of The Soul (Earache) Gothenburg pioneers At The Gates are back with a new album At War With Reality (Century Media), a blistering release featuring all the hallmarks of their sound. Arguably the band who helped inspire the Metalcore movement, a scene the band are quick to disown, anticipation for the new record and subsequent tour has reached fever pitch. Lounging on the couch backstage at Manchester’s Academy, Tomas Lindberg takes a sip of Rioja as he explains what led to the genesis of the new album. “We are better listeners than we were in our early twenties. It was probably a big factor in our breakup. Everyone has a veto on decisions made concerning recording or touring. Working with other people, in other bands has helped us learn how to communicate more effectively. The idea of writing together came through Anders. He is the main songwriter and everything goes through him. Working with him again has been very fruitful.”
Considering the immense pressure and level of expectation which would preceed such a record after such a long time apart it was perhaps no surprise the group elected to begin writing and recording sessions in secret. “It could have been negative if we announced it to early. That way we only had to please ourselves.” The frontman pondered. “If we had got to seven or eight songs into the project and did not like what we heard we could have disbanded without anyone ever knowing. When we put the teaser video on YouTube back in February the album was more or less written. We had to be honest to ourselves and our fans and not second guess what we felt was right. That would be selling out.”
A teacher by trade, Lindberg does not rely solely on income from At The Gates to survive. An articulate and composed gentleman, he is happy to wax lyrical upon the concept behind At War With Reality which hinges on the works of a group of philosophers and writers who comprise a largely South American literary movement known as ‘Magic Realism’:
“I was inspired by the way these intertextual post-modern writers. I delved into post structuralism views about the perception of reality and how different people perceive it. These writers are often self-referential. A lot of the songs are influenced by their novels. The line from ‘Spanish song..’ is from a chapter in the book ‘From Heroes and Tombs’ of a nightmarish dream one of the main characters has about the concept of God. I felt it had to be read in this manic Spanish voice which Anton (Resseingger) delivered with such style. It takes you to a nightmare world!”
Indeed a couple of the song titles are derived directly from these tomes, ‘The Circular Ruin’ and ‘The Book of Sand’ both come from the works of Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges. “I have been reading these authors for a while and found the concept (of Magic Realism) very inspiring. The French philosopher Michel Foucault wrote a lot of essays about structures of power but he wrote one book which was about how language could be used to alter people’s concept of reality which is ‘Death In The Labyrinth’ that song essentially explains what the concept of the record is about is in that song. There is not only one reality or truth but many.”
“The magic realism movement was one born out of oppression and frustration. The ideas of these Latin authors were presented in such a multilayered way as they wrote to criticise the oppressive states in which they lived in places like Chile, Paraguay and Argentina. In ‘Heroes In Tombs’ (the movement) was already questioning how the establishment was “perverting the hearts of men. At War With Reality is somewhat a cautionary tale, a warning against globalisation. They could not explain their ideas openly so they did it through their work. We are not a political band but we are criticising the materialistic, superficial culture of today.”
WORDS BY ROSS BAKER
When metalcore came along at the turn of the century to wash away the juvenile dross of nu-metal there was much rejoicing. After all, what could go wrong with bands delivering their own interpretation of Slaughter of the Soul’s legacy? Quite a lot in fact as the scene quickly reached saturation point with a seemingly endless parade of silly-haired whippersnappers recycling the same old riffs and same tired themes.
Orange County quintet Scars of Tomorrow never ascended above the D-grade despite releasing five albums in as many years on Victory Records between 2002 and 2006. After originally disbanding in 2007, they have reformed and recorded a new album, Failed Transmissions (Artery). The question is, if they weren’t good enough when the scene was in full swing what relevance do they have now?
The answer is none.
Absence has not made the heart grow fonder and Scars of Tomorrow have not learnt any lessons in their time off. They are still ploughing the exact same furrow they had exhausted of all resources back in 2006, offering up a thoroughly generic and uninspiring selection of Norma Jean-aping riffs combined with the odd It Dies Today-esque melodic flourish and of course, breakdown after goddamn breakdown in case you had forgotten that metalcore bands of this ilk wish they were tough enough to be part of the hardcore scene.
Featuring no memorable, heartstring-tugging choruses, riffs of any power, presence or anything approaching their own identity, the existence of this record is a mystery, for it serves no purpose. Metalcore is dead and buried, the kids have moved on to new and fresher things, and the members of Scars of Tomorrow should be devoting their time into producing music with half an ounce of relevance to today and not just assuming that a half-hour rehash of their old sound will be enough after so long away.
Utterly pointless and shockingly complacent.