What started as a series DIY laptop recording sessions in a busy London share house …
AT THE GATES w/ Spire, Earth Rot & Zeolite
Odeon Theatre, Hobart
Sunday 28th April, 2019
In a special feature of their Australian Triple Bill Kill Tour, legendary Swedish melodic death metal band At The Gates played their first ever show in Tasmania, at the Odeon Theatre in Hobart. And what a privilege it was, to witness one of the most influential bands of the 1990’s Gothenburg sound demonstrate why they are still amongst the mightiest in a genre they were instrumental in forming. The supporting acts for this unique At The Gates show were a well-selected mixture of Australian bands that seemed to each speak to some aspect of At The Gates’ mighty influence upon the broad genres of melodic death metal.
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Melbourne-based death metal band Zeolite opened the night, and although generally had considered their sound to be more technical death metal, the style they brought to their set at the Odeon seemed closer to a blackened melodeath sound. This was very apparent by the third, much fuller, darker song, that opened with a harrowing screech and moved through unnervingly drawn back interludes to ferociously heavy onslaughts. Zeolite’s vocalist Fraser Mainwaring incited the audience into action during their opening songs, which were some of the most immersive Zeolite songs I have heard, yet still infused with heavy grooves and some tough breakdowns that injected the show with energy. Closing with a thundering song to the chant of ‘its not who we are, it’s what we leave behind’ seemed to sum up the magnitude of opening for At The Gates.
Blackened death metal of its grimiest form took over the next set in the form of Perth-based outfit Earth Rot. Vocalist J.P. Bridgeman had a deep, grizzled vocal style that melded in a perfect cesspit of sonic dirt that was for the most part fast, chaotic and violent, enhanced by the flickering light show. At some moments, however Earth Rot were almost playfully dark, as curiously swinging rhythms and every so slightly death n’ roll aspects could be made out beneath their relentless blackened death metal. The song Terraform epitomised the interesting juxtapositions that Earth Rot toy with, as outright abrasive riffs and drums and ghoulish vocals carried the weight of the song while a strangely mellow solo added quirky texture. Introducing a new song from their forthcoming album, Earth Rot is clearly dialling up the intensity.
If one ever wants to feel the sternum-rattling immersion of a chess game with the void itself, then a set from Melbourne atmospheric black metal band Spire will get you there. Cloaked in monks’ habits and mysteriously incognito, Spire’s approach to brooding, unsettling, crushingly dense yet hypnotically pared-back-with-precision post-black performance is quite an experience. Fluctuating between solemn, stately drawn-out sequences with a cavernous sense of bleak emptiness and swelling surges of all-consuming fury, Spire kept the audience entranced. Awash in sickly neon shades of purple and blue haze, under domineering columns of light, the stage at the Odeon was transformed into something of a cathedral crypt as the grim silhouettes of Spire courted musical oblivion, in a sinister, mathematically cosmic way. And then, like a candle snuffed in the crypt, they were gone, leaving the audience with the haunting echoes of having been sonically disrupted on so many levels. That was intense.
At The Gates are masters of their craft and this manifested in a powerful, perfectly executed set even with the absence in person of bassist Jonas Björler, who was there in spirit, and pre-recorded backing. The title track from their most recent album, At The Gates announced their presence with a huge, robust sound supporting Tomas Lindberg’s iconic raspy, grit-laden yet ferociously powerful vocals. To Drink From the Night Itself has to be one of the catchiest melodeath songs of recent years and it took on an anthem-like dimension performed live. Keeping with their more recent work, At War With Reality had the audience reverentially shouting out the words as our first live experience of new guitarist Jonas Stålhammar showcased one of the numerous exquisite solos of the set. Next, however, came the real treat in the form of At The Gates’ classic song Slaughter of the Soul, perhaps the perfect blend of melodic and hands-down tough, which was performed with an inspiring amount of passion to a grateful audience. The set was primarily comprised of relatively recent material giving the show a very refreshing forward-looking feel. That said, At The Gates’ monumental 1995 song Under A Serpent Sun raised hell with the audience and genuinely sounded as fresh as their new material despite being over twenty years old. Closing with the majestic realms of The Night Eternal, At The Gates left the stage one by one until only Stålhammar remained, delivering a beautiful cameo as we came to understand that we just witnessed one of the greatest, and close to original, melodic death metal acts that is still at the forefront of the genre.