Live gig review by Alan Daly
© Olga Kuzmenko
Photos by Olga Kuzmenko
Old school death metal fans in Dublin had probably dismissed the notion of ever seeing melodic death metallers At The Gates performing in their home town after the band broke up in 1996. But tonight, promoters DME have brought the Swedes to the Academy for their first ever show in Ireland. Regrouping in 2007 after a hiatus of more than ten years, At The Gates eased themselves back into touring, and despite initial insistence to the contrary, back into the recording studio to work on the follow-up to their last album, Slaughter of the Soul which was released almost two decades beforehand. And the result was apparently worth the wait; as fans and critics alike praised At War With Reality, securing places on international charts and “best of” lists for 2014.
As a near-capacity crowd await the appearance of tonight’s headliners, the stage is readied for the imminent onslaught. Large bold artwork from the new album features prominently either side of the drum kit, which is closer to the fans than usual, leaving little floor space for the quintet to stretch their legs. This may have been by design, because as soon as the band hit the stage they dominate their playground like giants restricted by its boundaries, perhaps sparking memories of long-gone beginnings on tiny stages. Kicking off the night with the intro and opening track ‘Death and the Labyrinth’ from At War With Reality, the band exude confidence and enthusiasm, clearly relishing their resurgence. The crowd who are considerably mixed in age, also seem to be enjoying the new material, with mosh pits spawning from the very start.
Following the brand new opener are two songs, including the title track, from Slaughter of the Soul, prompting rapturous cheers, confirming the plentiful presence of old-school fans in the house. Vocalist Tomas Lindberg addresses the crowd, proclaiming his disbelief that they had waited 25 years to come to Ireland but promised that it wouldn’t be another 25 before they return. He also muses why it took them 19 years to release their new album, but added that seeing as the average At The Gates fan is about ten times smarter than most metal fans, then they surely saw it coming. Wearing his distinctive black and white baseball cap, Lindberg barely stays still during the performance, running from side to side and leaning into the audience, dodging his bandmates who remain in formation, tethered to the amps by their guitar cables. He regularly communicates with the fans and engages in some air guitar and air drumming when not busy screaming the lyrics.
The solid wall of perfectly engineered sound is complemented by an impressive light show, and even when the speakers and ears vibrate with blistering solos and thundering machine-gun drumming, the music maintains its integrity. The almost constant mosh pits prevent much crowd surfing, but during ‘Suicide Nation’, one renegade reveller hurdles the side barrier and makes a dash onto the stage, narrowly avoiding the clutches of the security staff before greeting the band and diving back into the sea of arms. After the song ends, Lindberg goes out of his way to shout something into the ear of one of the venue staff, presumably to exonerate his fearless fan.
A setlist of nearly twenty tracks, mostly taken from their 2014 and 1996 albums but also accompanied by a handful from their earlier and debut albums, is broken only by brief comments from Lindberg and contagious chants of “At The Gates” from the elated audience. Before taking their leave, they throw out picks, sticks and setlists and take a few moments to high-five the front row fans. Definitely an overdue first visit, but worth the wait and hopefully not the last.