Have th­ese Swedes de­liv­ered the metal al­bum of the year?

Blunt - - News - By Bren­dan Crabb. Pho­tos by Kane Hib­berd AT WAR WITH RE­AL­ITY IS OUT NOW ON CEN­TURY ME­DIA.

It’s early Au­gust and is in the press area at Ger­many’s Wacken Open Air fes­ti­val. Along­side a few other jour­nal­ists, we’re privy to At The Gates’ new plat­ter, At War With Re­al­ity; re­port­edly the first “out­side of the band cir­cle” to hear nearly- com­pleted mixes of sev­eral tracks.

Af­ter­wards, front­man To­mas “Tompa” Lind­berg ad­mits be­ing anx­ious about the gath­ered me­dia’s thoughts. He’s thus ev­i­dently sated by sug­ges­tions the cuts en­cap­su­late el­e­ments of all the Swedes’ pre­vi­ous re­leases – such as the dark­ness of 1994’ s Ter­mi­nal Spirit Dis­ease and 1995 swan­song Slaugh­ter Of The Soul’s fury – with­out be­ing a mere re­tread.

“We first talked a lot about what we wanted, and maybe even what fans ex­pected,” he com­ments. “But dropped that after a month of writ­ing, and said we have to write only from the heart. If you are an artist and ex­press your­self ar­tis­ti­cally, you do that for peo­ple to hear it. Of course you an­tic­i­pate what they will think about it, but we were hon­est about how we wrote the record, that we wrote it for our­selves.”

Fast- for­ward a cou­ple of months and via phone the ar­tic­u­late growler seems more re­laxed, hav­ing since been af­forded pos­i­tive feed­back re­gard­ing the fi­nalised At War With Re­al­ity. It was surreal hear­ing Lind­berg re­fer­ring to its pre­de­ces­sor, the stone- cold clas­sic Slaugh­ter… as some­what oned­i­men­sional dur­ing our con­ver­sa­tion in Ger­many. Al­ready pro­gen­i­tors of Gothen­burg melodic death metal, it helped es­tab­lish the blue­print for ev­ery­one from Kill­switch En­gage to Amon Amarth to follow, even pil­lage.

How­ever, the front­man be­lieves the new LP is well- rounded. “When we had done Slaugh­ter… and started tour­ing on that, we re­alised… Peo­ple were telling us they liked the more melan­cholic ar­range­ments and feel­ings [ of pre­vi­ous re­leases], as it was so ag­gres­sive and hate­ful. We wanted to bring more of that in, and felt it was hold­ing us back to just look at Slaugh­ter.... We wanted to have a big­ger pic­ture, and when we started to write it came nat­u­rally that a lot of th­ese songs had a lit­tle bit of an own iden­tity. I re­ally like that with this record. I think it’ll be a longer life­span. Maybe it will take a few lis­tens to get into, but then it will last longer.”

Dur­ing their ini­tial come­back gigs circa 2008, At The Gates re­mained adamant another al­bum wouldn’t oc­cur. The Flames Of The End DVD em­pha­sised the tri­umphant re­union jaunt be­ing fi­nite; a vic­tory lap they never en­joyed the first time around. Speak­ing to prior to the band’s 2012 Aus­tralian run, Lind­berg was non- com­mit­tal on the topic.

“The more global tour­ing was def­i­nitely some­thing that helped the decision to do the new record,” he says now. “But it was not in­ten­tional; ‘ Let’s go out and see how we feel about it’. We wanted to play live to­gether, be­cause we en­joyed it so much, and were able to go to all th­ese places we hadn’t been to be­fore to­gether. So that was done for the sake of us want­ing to do that, and now we’re do­ing the record be­cause all of a sud­den this is what we want to do. That’s the only way to be hon­est to our­selves and the fans: do what we want to do. Even if it’s not what peo­ple ex­pect or if it goes against what we have said be­fore; bold state­ments about no new record or what­ever,” he chuck­les.

The new col­lec­tion of bru­tal, yet melodic gems ar­rives amidst a vastly dif­fer­ent ex­treme metal cli­mate com­pared to the mid-‘ 90s. “There’s plenty more sub- gen­res, plenty more good bands and plenty more bands al­to­gether. It wasn’t [ pos­si­ble] that any­body could pro­duce a good- sound­ing record at home and re­lease it world­wide with­out ac­tu­ally hav­ing proper dis­tri­bu­tion. That has opened a lot of doors, and I think it’s a good thing be­cause peo­ple can be cre­ative with­out eco­nomic as­pects hold­ing them back.

“This has cre­ated a larger metal land­scape, and I think the role for At The Gates in all of this is we are a cre­ative band that is hon­est to our­selves. We have changed, as every­body changes from record to record, but our main in­flu­ences, the core in­flu­ence of the band hasn’t changed so much. I think there’s still a place for us; this ag­gres­sive, melan­cholic death metal band with a lot of melody and har­monies.”

Lind­berg claims Slaugh­ter’s wide­spread rev­er­ence was largely at­trib­ut­able to tim­ing. “The death metal genre, it was a bit generic at that time and it was some­thing new and fresh.” The quin­tet al­ready blazed their trail; ex­pect­ing them to do so again seems churl­ish. “I think in one way death metal has come and gone through a lot of slow pe­ri­ods or trends, but where we are right now… I see a lot of th­ese trends ex­ist­ing at the same time, and you can be into a few of them at the same time. I think we are a lit­tle more death metal and ag­gres­sive than some of our more melodic peers,” he laughs. “But we are also more melodic than some of our death metal peers. I think there’s a bal­ance that would be to our ad­van­tage.”

Speak­ing of equi­lib­ri­ums, main­tain­ing one in life is a pri­or­ity. They’ll be more ac­tive tour­ing- wise, but Lind­berg won’t be quit­ting his teach­ing job any­time soon. “We still want to keep it a lit­tle bit like a hobby… We don’t want to burn our­selves out and go play­ing shows be­cause we have to, be­cause we have to pay our bills or the record company says we have to play cer­tain ar­eas. We want to go be­cause we want to go, and be­cause we are in­spired and fired up.”

As for the fi­nal word, it’s a re­turn to north­ern Ger­many. “Now that we are back, we are back as an ac­tive band on a dif­fer­ent level. We’re not just this re­formed band that goes around play­ing old stuff. We’re a cur­rent band.”

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