At the Gates is a Swedish metal band from Gothenburg, and a major progenitor of the melodic death metal (or Gothenburg death metal) sound.
Initially active from 1990 to 1996, the band reformed in 2007 for a reunion tour before breaking up once again in 2008. However, they reformed for a second time in December 2010, and have since continued to perform live. The band will release At War with Reality, their first album in 19 years, in late 2014.
Early career (1990–1994)
At the Gates were formed in 1990 by former members of the death/black metal band Grotesque. They recorded a debut EP, Gardens of Grief, for the Dolores record label, and sold cassettes, vinyl, and XL t-shirts to promote the recording. The EP led seminal metal label Peaceville Records to sign the band, and they released their debut full-length album, The Red in the Sky Is Ours.
After the recording of their second studio album, With Fear I Kiss the Burning Darkness, founding member and guitarist Alf Svensson left the band in 1993 to pursue tattoo artistry, comic illustration and his solo electronic-opera-black metal project Oxiplegatz. He was soon replaced by former House of Usher guitarist Martin Larsson, who the band knew from their early tours. The band continued touring Europe, and were filmed for a Headbangers Ball special featuring a tour date in the United Kingdom in July 1994.
Success and breakthrough (1994–1996)
In 1994, At the Gates released their third album, Terminal Spirit Disease, which was hailed as a breakthrough album.
The band continued touring and in 1995 released their most commercially and critically successful album: Slaughter of the Soul, on Earache Records. The album is known as their most melodic death metal sound, compared to previous albums. This album firmly rooted the band as one of the leaders of the Swedish metal scene and was labelled as a benchmark album in the Gothenburg sound by AMG. Decibel Magazine hailed it as "the most influential death metal album of the next decade".
The band received international attention for the album, gaining them a U.S. tour and heavy rotation of the music video for Blinded by Fear on MTV in America, but despite this international success, the Björler brothers departed in 1996. The remaining members decided it would be impossible to continue without them, so the band broke up.
When At the Gates broke up in 1996, drummer Adrian Erlandsson, bassist Jonas Björler, and guitarist Anders Björler formed The Haunted. Tomas Lindberg has worked with many bands including Skitsystem, The Crown, Lock Up, and Nightrage and is currently in The Great Deceiver and Disfear. Erlandsson left The Haunted to join Cradle of Filth. In 2001, Peaceville Records released an At the Gates retrospective called Suicidal Final Art.
On October 18, 2007, At the Gates announced several reunion shows for mid-2008, including Getafe Electric Festival, Roskilde Festival, Ruisrock, Wacken Open Air, Graspop Metal Meeting, Sweden Rock Festival, Gods of Metal, Hellfest Summer Open Air, Castle Festival, and Bloodstock Open Air, as well as a tour of Japan with The Dillinger Escape Plan, Into Eternity, Pig Destroyer, and Mayhem in May 2008.
Anders Björler commented on the reunion:
On the band's official website, Björler declared that "it would be pointless to release something more than ten years after Slaughter of the Soul" and "would just disappoint people."
When asked in October 2007 if the band was planning on writing a new album, Lindberg replied:
Throughout July 2008, they toured the US and Canada on what was dubbed the "Suicidal Final Tour", and played their final UK show at Bloodstock Open Air on Sunday on 17 August 2008. They finished their last show in Athens, Greece, with guest The Ocean on 21 September 2008.
The band's performance at Wacken Open Air in 2008 is available on The Flames of the End, which also includes clips of songs from other venues and a documentary that covers the reunion in its entirety.
In December 2010, the band announced a second reunion in their hometown (Gothenburg, Sweden), with plans to perform at Metaltown 2011. Later that month, they announced that they would perform at Bloodstock Open Air in Derbyshire, England.
On January 29, 2012, At the Gates announced on their official Facebook page that they would be doing more reunion shows in 2012. They will also appear at the Brutal Assault festival in August, at Vagos Open Air in the same month and also Resurrection Fest in Spain. They will also be on appearing board Barge to Hell which sails out of Miami in December.
In October 2012, Tomas Lindberg stated that he would not say "never" to the possibility of At the Gates recording again.
The band has also confirmed some reunion appearances in 2013, including Sweden Rock Festival in Solvesborg, Eistnaflug at Neskaupsstaður(Iceland) and Heavy MTL in Montreal.
At War with Reality (2014–present)
On January 21, 2014, At the Gates released a video on YouTube showing a distorted video with lines of text on it, followed by text saying "2014", possibly hinting toward possible lyrics for an upcoming album. On January 27, the band revealed on Facebook via a new cover photo and profile picture, that their confirmed fifth record would be titled, At War with Reality and would be released in the fall of 2014 through Century Media.
Musical style and lyrics
According to Eduardo Rivadavia, At the Gates started as "a pretty standard and uninventive death metal combo" but were "slowly becoming a true contender in the scene". The band's debut album had an eclectic sound, featuring neo-classical arrangements including a string solo. In 1993, Metal Hammer journalist Robert Müller called At the Gates a band that combined "intelligent-Satanic lyrics with avantgarde black/death metal". Their third album Terminal Spirit Disease contained only six new songs, but showed that the band's sound had progressed noticeably in only one year, in terms of playing and production. The band's melodic and melancholic death metal style "would inspire the whole Gothenburg region". According to Steve Huey, Slaughter of the Soul "lacked the intricate twin-guitar leads of In Flames, the complex song structures of Dark Tranquillity, the progressive artistry of Edge of Sanity, or even the rock & roll underpinnings of latter-day Entombed. Slaughter of the Soul was more rooted in American thrash (especially Slayer) than its peers, and didn't seem to be consciously trying to break new ground. It was simply a stripped-down, no-frills melodic death album that hit all the basic points of the style. [...] It's also important to note that in place of the usual guttural death grunts, vocalist Tomas Lindberg here adopts a strangled shriek that keeps the lyrics somewhat intelligible."
At the Gates were nominated for a Grammis for Slaughter of the Soul in 1995 along with Fireside's Do Not Tailgate, Meshuggah's Destroy Erase Improve and Yngwie Malmsteen's Magnum Opus.