March 2, 2016 At the Gates Make History Marquee Theatre Tempe, AZ 2-17-16 w/ Harm’s Way, The Haunted, & Decapitated
When Metal fans think of the pioneers of Melodic Death Metal, chances are they turn to Sweden as the sub-genre’s birthplace. With a short list of bands considered the founding fathers of the style, chances are the core four bands that come to mind would be the UK’s Carcass along with Sweden’s In Flames, Dark Tranquillity, and, of course, At the Gates. Begun in 1990, At the Gates would soon go on to develop what is affectionately known as the Gothenburg Sound, fittingly named after the city the band resided. A unique style no one had heard prior, At the Gates had all but mastered that sound by the time they released their third album, 1994’s Terminal Spirit Disease. Highly regarded by fans, it would be 1995’s Slaughter of the Soul that would become a landmark of Melodic Death Metal, and to some, considered one of the best Metal albums of all time. Unfortunately for listeners, At the Gates went their separate ways in 1996, leaving an empty place in the scene they helped create. While other projects took place after the end of At the Gates, a wave of excitement exploded when the band reunited for some shows in 2007, but little did anyone know, this reunion would become something much more permanent. In fact, At the Gates would even visit North America again in the Summer of 2008 for the Suicidal Final Tour.
Fast-forward to 2014 and what was once thought to be unlikely finally happened, At the Gates released their first studio album in nearly a decade with At War with Reality. Keeping their legacy intact, Tomas Lindberg (vocals), Anders Björler (guitars), Adrian Erlandsson (drums), Jonas Björler (bass), and Martin Larsson (guitar) topped charts with At War with Reality as the record was considered by Metal lovers as an epic return from the masters. Followed by more touring, At the Gates headlined the Decibel Magazine Tour in The States in 2015, and now in 2016, treat the country to a February of shows. Kicking off the run following 2016’s 70000 Tons Of Metal cruise, At the Gates would visit eleven cities from Florida to California along with support from Harm’s Way, The Haunted, and Decapitated. One hell of a package, the tour found its way to the city of Tempe, AZ on Wednesday, February 17th, to a crowded Marquee Theatre for a high-octane evening.
Kicking things off was Chicago, IL band Harm’s Way. While considered the newest band of the lineup, they have been cranking out music for the past decade now. Initially they started out as what was a sort of side-project; however, as time went by, they changed their style and became more involved in the Death Metal scene to become the band they are today. Releasing their third studio album, Rust, last year via indie label Deathwish, they have been busy touring since alongside others, like Twitching Tongues, to positive reactions.
With Jason Jancetic (guitars/vocals), Bohan Lueders (guitars/vocals), Christopher Mills (drums), and James Pligge (vocals), Harm’s Way made their presence known as they began with the intro to “Ease My Mind.” Intense and lively, they rattled the room with some high-energy Death Metal that was like a punch in the gut. Complemented by great stage presence, they got the night’s momentum in motion through songs such as “Law of the Land,” “Docile Bodies,” and “Among the Rust.” All in all, Harm’s Way set the table for the rest of the bands to follow and found themselves some new fans in Tempe. Be sure to check out some upcoming shows they have on their own via their social media.
Following next was Sweden’s own The Haunted. Interestingly, one of the offspring’s to spawn after At the Gates initially ended in 1996, led by Guitarist Anders Björler, Bassist Jonas Björler, Drummer Adrian Erlandsson, along with Seance’s guitarist Patrik Jensen, The Haunted have built a history of their own. Releasing their self-titled debut in 1998, it was 2000’s Made Me Do It which really saw The Haunted gain international attention, which would lead to each studio record thereafter to be charted in several countries, including the USA. Recently rejoined by original vocalist Marco Aro prior to the release of their most recent studio album, Exit Wounds (2014), The Haunted also brought on Lead Guitarist Ola Englund for their strongest lineup in years. Having been sometime since they visited North America, fans were pumped up for a chance to see The Haunted once more.
Right off the bat, they came out guns blazing as they got the crowd going with 2004’s rEVOLVEr cuts, “No Compromise” and “99.” Right in the face of each and every spectator on hand, The Haunted filled the air with thick guitars and harsh vocals from Aro. Aro, very engaging to the audience both during and between songs, cracked jokes and rightfully praised the other bands on the bill. Getting everyone riled up to start a pit, they played on with “Trespass” from 2000’s The Haunted Made Me Do It. Pressing on, they did not miss a beat as they went into a mix of tracks from their history including “The Flood,” “The Medication,” and favorite, “D.O.A.”
Tight, razor-sharp, and going full-throttle, The Haunted kept bodies moving all set long as they went into “Trespass,” “No Compromise,” and “Bury Your Dead,” just to name a few more. Then, as the set came to a close with a jolt on “The Hate Song,” the audience roared in appreciation. To say The Haunted’s return to American soil was well-received would be an understatement. Now returning to Europe for more shows in April, as well as recently announcing plans for a new album, hopes are they will be back in North America for more shows sometime later in 2016.
Charging forward with little time to breath, the audience was thrust into Polish Death Metal titans Decapitated. From Krosno, Poland, Decapitated has earned worldwide respect for their innovative style and technical skills since their formation in 1996. Debuting with Winds of Creation, they have since released five more albums, including their most successful to date, 2014’s Blood Mantra. No stranger to touring the USA, Decapitated recently came off a headlining run just a week prior to joining At the Gates and company. With that in mind, Tempe themselves had not seen the band for a few years, and they anticipated their return.
With Wacław “Vogg” Kiełtyka on guitar, Michał Łysejko on drums, touring member Sean Martinez on bass, and Rafał “Rasta” Piotrowski on vocals, the band turned up the aggression as they lifted off with “Exiled in Flesh.” With the mosh pits in full force, they continued on with tracks from Blood Mantra including “The Blasphemous Psalm to the Dummy God Creation”and the album title track. Feeding off the crowd’s energy, Vogg cut loose and unleashed some amazing technical skills on guitar while Łysejko pummeled the drum kit.
The band’s intensity was a force to be reckoned with and Rasta’s voice-over was the final touch needed on songs like “404,” “Post(?) Organic,” and favorite “Nest.” Gracious to the audience, Rasta made it known at a variety of points during the set and, just like that, it seemed Decapitated was gone too soon as they concluded with “Veins,” 2002’s “Spheres of Madness,” and “Instinct.” While most of the set revolved around Blood Mantra, Decapitated did a fine job of offering older tracks as well. They now set their sights on a tour of the UK with Nuclear Blast labelmates Sylosis followed by shows throughout European through June, so the rest of the world better look out.
After three excellent, extreme Metal acts, one would think this crowd would be drained of all their energy and ready to call it a night. That simply was not the case as the large group of Metalheads surged forward, awaiting At the Gates arrival on stage. This was a performance that no one wanted to miss, and they were going to get to it hell or highwater. Having not visited the state of Arizona in nearly two decades, history was about to be made at Marquee Theatre with At the Gates and their fans.
The final act of the evening, At the Gates came out ready to match the ferocity of their friends in Harm’s Way, The Haunted, and Decapitated as they raced into “At War With Reality.” Immediately provoking a response, At the Gates kept their foot on the gas as they took the audience back to 1995 with “Suicide Nation” and “Slaughter of the Soul.” A rush of excitement for all, Lindberg shared in the mood as he spoke with the audience in between songs, making everyone feel like one big family. Mixing new and classic At the Gates songs throughout their performance, soon came “The Circular Ruins” before hands flew into the air for “Unto Others” and “World of Lies.” Engaged in his performance, Lindberg continued to look directly out into the eyes of spectators as he enticed them to get more involved.
Keeping their enthusiasm even through each song, “Heroes and Tombs” and “Death and the Labyrinth” fit in nicely before more Slaughter of the Soul favorites such as the epic “Cold” where the unforgettable guitar riff had everyone’s bodies moving without control. With Metal horns in the air, many fans screamed along lyrics such as, “I feel my soul go cold. Only the dead are smiling” and “Twenty two years of pain. And I can feel it closing in. The will to rise above. Tearing my insides out.” This was only to be followed by a brief moment of feedback before seguing into “Under a Serpent Sun,” which resulted in more madness once the main guitar riff kicked in.
After this swift kick, it seemed as if nothing could top it, but the band shattered that thought when they followed up with At War with Reality’s “Oder From Chaos,” “Eater of Gods,” and “The Book of Sand (The Abomination).” Lindberg, a consummate performer, was all over the stage, drawing the crowd in and continuing to have an overall blast. Sprinkling in more Slaughter of the Soul tracks in between, including “Nausea” and “Need,” the finale would be a battle of the past and present with two equally powerful pieces, “Blinded by Fear” and “The Night Eternal.” Fast, relentless, and heart-stopping at points, At the Gates also knew exactly how to mellow it out with dark, ambient tones as well, a signature of their style.
It took twenty years for At the Gates to get back to Arizona, but they finally did so, and those who came out to Marquee Theatre could not have been more satisfied. The entire 2016 run was filled with firsts for At the Gates, including their first show ever in Las Vegas, NV and Austin, TX. It is difficult to believe that a band with such a storied history could have firsts all these years later, but that is what makes their resurgence that much more exhilarating. With that said, take nothing for granted, and when At the Gates visit North America, do them diligence and get out there and see them.