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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.
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.”
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.”
The Crown is streaming “Speed Kills” off their new album Death is Not Dead, out January 12, 2015 in Europe and January 13, 2015 in North America via Century Media Records, here. Check out “Headhunter” here.
The Crown has announced a Japanese tour with Rotted Sound and Aborted in April, amongst other confirmed live dates.
Jan 10: Sticky Fingers – Gotenborg, SWE
Mar 05: Close Up Baten – Stockholm, SWE
Apr 16: Namba Rockets – Osaka, Japan
Apr 17: Duo Music Exchange – Tokyo, Japan
Jun 21: Hellfest – Clisson, FRA
Death Is Not Dead track-listing
3. Iblis Bane
5. Struck By Lightning
6. Speed Kills (Full Moon Ahead)
7. Herd Of Swine
8. Horrid Ways
9. Ride To Ruin
12. We Come In Peace (Piece By Piece) *
13. Agent Orange (SODOM cover) *
*=digipak CD bonus tracks only
Death Is Not Dead marks the first full-length to feature original front-man Johan Lindstrand since 2003’s Possessed 13. Formed as a primitive garage act in 1990, THE CROWN has come a long way since their humble beginnings 25 years ago, having toured the world with the likes of CANNIBAL CORPSE, NILE, ENSLAVED, and many others over the last two decades. The band parted ways with drummer Janne Saarenpää and a statement is issued here about his departure. No replacement has been named yet.
THE CROWN line-up:
Johan Lindstrand – vocals
Marko Tervonen – guitars
Magnus Olsfeld – bass
Robin Sörqvist – guitars
Not content with plying his trade with one major label band, guitarist Niclas Engelin, who stepped into the Jesper Strömblad sized hole in the In Flames line up on a permanent basis in 2011, teams up with long-standing partner in crime Marcus Sunesson (ex-The Crown) for Raven Kings (Gain/Sony), the fourth installment of his near-eponymous band Engel, and his stamp, and that of his day job, is all over this new release.
Engel are keen to show that the metal does indeed flow in their veins, and the decision to kick the album off with two ragers works from a dynamic point of view, particularly considering the exemplary production job undertaken by Jacob Hansen (Volbeat), although the decision to utilize new vocalist Mikael Sehlin’s harsher tones at the onset of the album instantly draw comparisons with Anders Friden, which for a side project that are not a million miles away from the furrows being ploughed by his other band, is potentially too thin an ice to be stomping army boots on.
Where they do come into their own, though, is as the album progresses and the bands’ keen ear for a hook is accentuated and highlighted, be it riff, groove, vocal melody or chorus that provides it, this is an album full of catchy moments and Soilwork-ed passages, with Sehlin operating much more effectively in the melodic ranges, sounding not too dissimilar to Sebastian Bach’s more Slave-ish moments, and with a power and tone reminiscent of Chris Jericho.
While the band have termed themselves Melodic Death Metal there is no escaping that the core sound of Engel is intrinsically close to that of In Flames, particularly as electronic and “industrial” nuances fleck both the Jester’s and this ancillary outfits’ sound these days, or that the term “Death” in that descriptor is a bit of a red herring. Yes, their hooky song-based modern metal (I’m loathe to add the word core on the end as it almost by default detracts from what they produce) is heavy without resorting to ultra beatdowns to bring the weight, but it is in the melodic and the catchy where they thrive, as, ultimately, Raven Kings is a worthy release of contemporary, commercial metal.
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