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"I listen to a lot of non-metal — you can go anywhere with this list!"
Revolver has just asked At the Gates singer Tomas Lindberg Redant to share five of his favorite non-metal albums. We know he loves a good list, but on this occasion he's struggling. There are just too many options. So, he changes the scope to focus on the non-metal records that most inspired the creation of The Nightmare of Being — At the Gates' new, and arguably most experimental, album.
"You have to exclude a lot of music styles to do five," he continues. "But I was thinking about doing five that are tied into the new record. Otherwise, I'd put on a lot of stuff, like Hüsker Dü and all of my favorite punk albums. But that doesn't make sense in the context of the record."
The context of The Nightmare of Being is, well, expansive. The Gothenburg icons stay true to their apex brand of ripping melodeath (epitomized on their 1995 opus Slaughter of the Soul) while tapping into the more adventurous, world-building aspects of prog, Krautrock and more. Add to that Lindberg Redant's lyrical concept exploring the philosophy of "pessimism" — and you've got one dark world indeed.
Below, the vocalist tells the stories behind the five non-metal albums that shaped The Nightmare of Being.
Maybe it's too obvious to start with it? But Red from King Crimson is, of course, a cornerstone for a lot of the ideas that are evident on this record. I was probably 18 when I heard the Red album. We had a few friends here in Gothenburg that were very much into Deutsche rock and prog, weird film music and stuff like that. As teenagers growing up with this underground mentality, everything that was weird, was cool. So we showed them some death-metal stuff and they showed us that weird stuff.
I think Red wasn't the first record I heard. I think I heard the second album, In the Wake of Poseidon, first. But we were very early on intrigued by King Crimson as a band — and also as an idea. Because they could change and do something completely different. Like having two drummers for a record, or whatever. I liked that idea so much. … King Crimson is one of those bands, like another favorite of mine the Swans, where there's so many different eras. One day you wake up and you're like, Oh shit I have to listen to Larks' Tongue in Aspic. That's my favorite album today. And the next day it's another record. I think Red is the one that most metal people would understand at first. It's their more heavy record, heavy bass … And I guess it's the one that's the closest to what At the Gates are doing as a band.
Lately I've been listening so much to jazz. I've listened to jazz since the early 90s, but it goes in waves for me. I go into these jazz periods, usually it lasts a month or something. But maybe it's the pandemic, I don't know ... it calms me down. [Laughs] I've read the [John] Coltrane biography and all that. I've been deep down in it. It's too obvious to mention Coltrane because he's the grandfather of this whole sound that we are looking at with At the Gates. But my favorite of the more free-jazz circle is Ornette Coleman. Of course, the classic is The Shape of Jazz to Come. It's got this desperation about it that I really someday want to be able to portray within the At the Gates spectrum. [Laughs] It's like free-form and so hard to incorporate into metal. Because metal is like the opposite of free-form.
I heard The Shape of Jazz to Come back in the day as well. We were lucky enough to have a pretty good coach with that as well. A friend of mine [Ludwig Dahlberg], who is actually the drummer of the French pop band Indochine, is a Swedish guy, an old hardcore drummer. He used to play with Dennis [Lyxzén] from Refused in his other band, the (International) Noise Conspiracy. His dad is a jazz pianist. And we were always intrigued, like, "Oh what's this. Show me something else in this style." And he was always so happy to oblige. So we got into Wayne Shorter, Sonny Rollins, Cannonball [Adderley] … As 20-year-olds we were caught up in it, and I still go back to it all the time.
I keep wanting to call it Deutsch rock all the time now, I don't like the "Kraut" thing. [Laughs] … I was thinking the one that's easiest to get into for, like, an extreme metalhead would be the first Neu! record. I have also been into them for quite some time. We didn't know all the labels back then, but pretty early on we heard stuff like Can, Tangerine Dream. We didn't understand, Oh, these are German bands. And King Crimson is an English band. It's two different styles. We didn't understand that. It was just all this weird stuff that we liked. The labels came after. I gave a Spotify list to our sound guy on the last few tours. And he just got so hooked on the first song from that record ["Hallogallo"], so every time we got our stuff offstage it was always that song. It's been in our heads subconsciously all this time. I guess you can hear that on the "Cosmic Pessimism" track: the whole idea of the driving monotony thing.
I think a lot of people would appreciate that there's a Goblin influence on the color of [The Nightmare of Being]. I know [At the Gates guitarist Jonas] Stålhammar loves the Roller record, but I think for us we always go back to the Suspiria album. We had a great time in Salt Lake City. Goblin actually played the same day we were playing on the Behemoth tour. They were there watching us and then they invited us to go over and see their show. It was a seated audience and they played to the film. That was a great moment for us. I like when an album [lets] you shut the whole world out for a second and you step into it. It could be anything, it could be a hardcore record as well. Like when you hear an old Cro-Mags record you're in the streets of Brooklyn. I love [how bands] build that atmosphere. And, of course, Goblin were the masters at that.
There's so much out there! I can do the runner-up bands: Slint, Swans, Tangerine Dream, Magma. I had the big jazz period, and I also had a period going into the very early post-punk period. I can't get away from how much I love the first Cabaret Voltaire album, Mix-Up. That's been with me this whole year. It's such a … it's like the most beautiful fucked-up thing. It's as far as you can push weird shit, but it's still beautiful. I think that has to go on here. Even if that one doesn't have so much to do, musically, with what we're doing on The Nightmare of Being. But the Cabaret Voltaire record has been in my head the whole year, so maybe it transferred somewhere. [Laughs]