At the Gates with Triptykon
@ HMV Forum, London
4th December 2014
Review by Chris Brown
Photography by Michelle Murphy
Having released their first album in 19 years, it was a surprise for many, albeit a welcome one, to see At the Gates touring again. When the band first reformed in 2007, they had released a statement that there would be no further records under the name At The Gates, evidently with their fingers crossed behind their back. The new record; ‘At War With Reality’ was both highly anticipated and widely acclaimed and this was to be the first night of a European tour, at the HMV Forum in London, to promote the album with support from Swiss black metal icons Triptykon and fellow Swedes Morbus Chron.
In this cold little dark corner of London, beards and trench coats alike arrived in droves, in a gathering that reflected none of the festive cheer that the rest of the city was emanating. This was the sort of inward fanaticism, reflected through a vacant intensity, that was like a beast awoken from hibernation, a powder keg waiting to be handed a match. Sadly, for the night’s opening band Code Orange [2.5/5], they weren’t quite the catalyst needed to pry the animal out of this lot.
But that wasn’t for the want of trying. They put it all out there with a high energy display that saw them bouncing all over the place like a man being heckled by a swarm of wasps.
There were a few genuinely awesome head-rocking moments scattered within a generally muddy sludge that never really seemed to go anywhere.
It was a kind of doomy, abrasive take on punk music that maintained a degree of attitude without really hitting the heights of their high octane performance.
Not everyone in the crowd agreed with me though as a few one-man wrecking machine pits arose, limbs flailing, in a fashion that’s a nightmare for anyone making their way from the bar to the front with drinks in hand.
Morbus Chron [3/5] might not quite be a household name in the black metal community just yet, but their momentum has been gathering pace and the success of their 2014 release of ‘Sweven’ has earnt them enough recognition for their first tour of this magnitude.
Their record was built around a concept of visions and dreams and the sound that they have crafted was as restless as it was relentless. This band stand tall above a new wave of Swedish black metal and bring a degree of originality to the genre.
Groovy drum patterns and guttural roars that echo darkness and torment compliment unorthodox and gritty song structures that both baffle and batter the senses in the way that most dreams do. While the overall feel of the music has a warm, yet haunting quality to it, they have transcended a raw and simple, almost underground sound to give a vision of a wasteland that is simultaneously bleak and vivid.
The songs had a real segmented quality to them that culminates in a turn of pace and feeling and back again. While this succeeds on the album, I’m unsure as to whether this has quite come through to their live sound just yet.
The band themselves have taken a backseat somewhat with regard to live performances, preferring instead to refine the sound they wanted to create, and sadly this shows.
The pieces were all there in nature, but you could sense a nervousness among the band members that affected the impact that the songs had. The twisting, turning complexity of the song structures certainly have more potential that what was put on display here, and unfortunately died out with a whimper.
Returning from having played their first show in their native Switzerland in over 2 years, Tom Gabriel Warrior’s Triptykon [5/5] have returned to our shores to show us what their most recent release ‘Melana Chasmata’ was all about.
Those who are familiar with the band will be no stranger to the highly impressive artwork collaboration the band have had with HR Giger, who provided the surreal album covers on their previous release as well as this one. With huge backdrops draped across the stage portraying these, you felt a shift in atmosphere from the onset.
From having listened to their material previously, the main thing you notice is what you have is not merely a black metal record, but is instead a blend of doomy influences, some of which aren’t metal at all. As Warrior took centre stage, his presence alone was haunting enough.
The chill this sent through you was emblematic of the inverted crucifix he wore around he neck, a kind of charismatic anti-christ. His style of raspy vocalisation carried its own aura and intimidation as the music accompanies him with it’s own drawn out, often paceless intensity.
This was, on the most part, not music to be thrashing around to, but that doesn’t mean that its impact was lessened in any manner or form.
The charisma from the front man was infectious and as the show went on, the rest of the band came into their own and became something greater than the sum of its parts. Rolling drum fills echoed around the arena, at odds with rhythm that was simultaneously dark, heavy and experimental, with ‘Tree of Suffocating Souls’ being a particular highlight.
It’s the heaviness that’s wrought from overtly simplistic riffs that is a real strength of the band. A blunt tenacity with an atmospheric current running throughout. The way that this comes through live even more-so than it does on the record really blew me away.
The experience was a potent one and while the band may suffer with obvious comparisons drawn from the baggage of Tom Warrior’s history with Celtic Frost, you sense that this current formation will carry enough weight for forge their own place in history.
You could tell that this was the one they were waiting for; the long awaited return of At The Gates [4.5/5].
This five piece from Gothenburg in Sweden, fronted by Tomas Lindberg, have been bringing their own brand of melodic death metal to the masses since 1990 and have now spent longer in this ‘come-back’ phase of their career than the initial part in which they rose to fame in the first place.
The band’s initial break-up was an abrupt one and there was talk of a bad vibe between the members which took a long time to get over.
When At The Gates reformed, some 11 years later in 2007, the legacy of the band remained intact but they revealed in a statement that there would be no new material being recorded.
However, repeated bookings amongst Europe’s top metal festivals must have given rise to a resurgence as 2014 saw the release of one of the year’s most highly anticipated metal albums, and their fifth record: ‘At War with Reality’.
With the band being fully aware of broken promises they had made previously, it remained to be seen as to whether the modern era would embrace a throwback to a style which has perhaps seen its day.
There was no hint of uncertainty on the night though. There was an unrelenting anticipation for a band that has rarely failed to deliver, and this was no exception.
The roar from the crowd when Lindberg took to the stage was parallel only to the sound these guys make live. The power behind each riff was unreal, yet remained laced with intricacy.
While the new material retained the essence of what made them so popular to begin with, this was no mere replication of their ‘Slaughter of the Soul’ record and it was refreshing to be able to see visibly how the band had evolved.
While the ‘melodic’ mantle might sit nicely at the forefront, its the heavy doses of stomping aggression that really breathes life into the music and brings it all together.
The vocals were largely unintelligible but Lindberg’s stage presence was great as he frantically paced about the stage, clearly lapping up every minute of it without pretension.
While they never pretended to be re-inventing the wheel here, it’s clear that this retrospective offering is a throwback to former glories and they were playing to a crowd who remembered one of the bands that started in all in a sub-genre that has arguably gone so horribly wrong since.
Fair play to them for setting the record straight.