Wading through a sold out Fillmore New York at Irving Plaza last night, every conversation sounded the same: endless variations on “I can’t believe I’m actually seeing At the Gates.” After twelve years of inactivity, a time during which the band’s stature has soared stratospherically in the metal world, the Swedish melodic death metal pioneers reformed this summer for a tour, supposedly the band’s last. Among metal fans, it is the equivalent of Pavement getting back together.
At the Gates went out at the top of its game in 1996, a year after releasing Slaughter of the Soul, an album now seen as one of the best of its kind, and almost single-handedly inspired a modern day melodic metal movement that continues to thrive; any given Ozzfest over the last decade has featured numerous At the Gates knockoffs.
When the band came onstage and ripped into the album’s title track, shit predictably went nuts. For 65 furious minutes, the band performed nearly all of its landmark album interspersed with songs from its previous releases. Guitarists Anders Björler and Martin Larsson riffed together on “Suicide Nation” with a sharp fluidity, and vocalist Tomas Lindberg barked through “Blinded by Fear” in a forceful tone he wasn’t quite capable of in the band’s heyday, when he was a mere 23 years old.
Despite a suffocating mosh pit, it was a remarkably jubilant show: a sea of pumped fists, sweaty, smiling faces, and an audience screaming along with every word. As far as reunions go, it was damn near flawless — especially for music this intense. The gauntlet has been thrown down for Carcass’ return from hibernation this fall, but that’s a metal history lesson for another time.