Revolver has teamed with At the Gates for an exclusive Ultra Clear vinyl variant of their new album The Nightmare of Being. Quantities are extremely limited — order your copy now before they're gone!
In the fall of 1995 At the Gates released their fourth album Slaughter of the Soul — a genre-defining melodic death masterpiece. The record, which merged NWOBHM harmonies with a vicious Floridian death-metal assault, didn't just epitomize what would become known as the "Gothenburg sound" — it was also responsible for helping to inspire countless metalcore and deathcore bands that would rise to prominence over the next two decades.
The band — singer Tomas Lindberg Redant, guitarists Anders Björler and Martin Larsson, bassist Jonas Björler and drummer Adrian Erlandsson — broke up shortly after its release. But At the Gates' legacy, and the stature of Slaughter of the Soul, kept growing. The crew went their separate ways, and its members spent time performing in the Haunted, Disfear, the Crown, Cradle of Filth and more. At the Gates reunited in the mid-Aughts for some one-off shows, before dropping their 2014 comeback record At War With Reality, which was followed by 2018's To Drink From the Night Itself.
2021 brings with it another chapter to the At the Gates story with the recent announcement of their seventh full-length, The Nightmare of Being — a genre-pushing album that finds the band adding some seriously progressive elements to their mix of grinding, pit-starting riffs and Lindberg's seething vocals exploring the dark existential corners of the human experience.
To celebrate At the Gates' forthcoming album, we reached out to some of our favorite contemporary musicians to get their take on the band's influence. Below, John Henry — vocalist for Washington, D.C. crew Darkest Hour — talks about the life-changing experience of first hearing Slaughter of the Soul, what it was like to join At the Gates on their 2008 reunion tour, why he's a "fan for life" and more.
DO YOU REMEMBER THE FIRST TIME YOU HEARD SWEDISH MELODIC DEATH METAL?
JOHN HENRY The first Swedish melodic death-metal album I ever heard is still to this day my all-time favorite metal album: Slaughter of the Soul by At the Gates. When I heard this album, it opened an entire universe of music to me that would end up changing my life. After that I really got into In Flames, Dismember, Entombed, Sacrilege, anything Swedish melodeath I could get my hands and ears on.
TELL US THE STORY ABOUT HOW YOU FIRST DISCOVERED SLAUGHTER OF THE SOUL.
I had a friend who was getting into hardcore who had already been listening to a lot of traditional metal/death metal, and he hipped me to a lot of great music from that era. I was already really into the Nineties metallic hardcore bands like Integrity, Deadguy, Damnation A.D., Bloodlet and Earth Crisis. While I still love all that music my tastes quickly shifted. First it was Heartwork by Carcass, which is still a top album for me.
But when I heard Slaughter of the Soul something changed in me. It had elements of music I was already really into, mostly hardcore and punk rock, but the melody in the riffs, Tomas' vocals, and the overall catchiness of it made it really stand out from other death metal I had heard. I was hooked from the first listen. I really love [1994's] Terminal Spirit Disease and have a lot of history with that album as well. [But] Slaughter of the Soul is an absolute masterpiece, in my opinion, and I don't know if it can ever be topped for me.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE AT THE GATES SONG, AND WHY?
That's really tough. At first I want to say "Blinded by Fear" because I was blown away from first listen and the opening riff is god-tier in my eyes. But I think I have to go with "Cold." From the refrain of "I feel my soul grow cold, only the dead are smiling" to the hauntingly beautiful clean guitar part that builds into one of the sickest guitar solos of all time that I sing along to like it were lyrics — that song is pure bliss and agony at the same time and gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.
HOW, IF AT ALL, DID AT THE GATES INFLUENCE YOUR OWN CREATIVE DEVELOPMENT?
At the Gates massively inspired the shift in sounds for Darkest Hour. When [guitarist] Mike [Schleibaum] and I started the band, we were all about the metallic hardcore bands that inspired the birth of the band. When we heard Slaughter of the Soul it was so profound for both of us — we knew we wanted to steer the band in that musical direction. Our two biggest influences in my opinion are Damnation A.D. for the early days and At the Gates from about '97 on.
DID YOU GET TO SEE AT THE GATES ON THEIR INITIAL TOURING RUN FOR SLAUGHTER OF THE SOUL?
Missing them on their tour for Slaughter of the Soul is up there with missing seeing Nirvana for me as far as all-time biggest show regrets. Luckily, we were able to make up for it by getting to join them for their 2008 reunion tour. The first show is permanently etched into my soul and was a truly magical experience. It was at Irving Plaza in New York City and I'll never forget being up around the lighting board when they started with our tour manager Tito, who was doing lights for them. The entire room was screaming along to every word so loud it was drowning out the band. You could feel that they had built up this energy for so long — and touched and inspired so many people while being broken up — and everybody was making up for the lost time. I ran downstairs and joined the crowd and did so pretty much every night of that tour. It will always be up there with the most incredible tour experiences of my life.
DO ANY MEMORIES STAND OUT FROM YOUR TIME HANGING WITH THE AT THE GATES GUYS?
We had the pleasure of touring with the Crown when they did the album Crowned in Terror with Tomas on vocals in 2002. This was when we first met him and we were surprised and happy to discover he was so down to earth and pretty much a punk dude like us.
We hit it off and made some great memories touring and partying around the U.S.A. He was responsible for getting us together with [producer] Fredrik Nordström in Gothenburg, where we recorded our album — Hidden Hands of a Sadist Nation in 2003 — that Tomas and [At the Gates guitarist] Anders [Björler] did a guest spot on. When we heard the rumors of the reunion Mike was all over it. Tomas told us later when he asked the twins [Anders and his brother Jonas Björler] about us doing the tour, he got a literal thumbs up — and we were set to embark on the tour of a lifetime. We all got matching tattoos with Tomas from that tour to mark the experience, a simple yet highly appropriate "GO!"
DO YOU REGULARLY GO BACK AND LISTEN TO AT THE GATES? OR DO THEY REPRESENT A CERTAIN PERIOD OF TIME IN YOUR HISTORY?
I am a fan for life. No other band has shaped my musical career the way they did. I still listen to them to this day, and it still gives me the same feelings as when I first discovered them. They're my all-time favorite metal band and I don't see that changing anytime soon.