Anders Björler Quits At the Gates

Anders Björler has quit At the Gates according to a statement posted on the band’s Facebook page. Nevertheless At the Gates is pressing forward with more new, lame material that nobody wants to hear as it won’t match the band’s prime period headed by Alf Svensson capped by Gardens of Grief and The Red in the Sky is Ours. Nobody was particularly fond of At War With Reality. The rest of At the Gates should join Alf Svensson and Anders Bjorler in throwing in the towel for good.

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At the Gates Members Form The Lurking Fear

Various members of the At the Gates have formed a side project known as The Lurking Fear. Former guitarist and primary songwriter of Gardens of Grief and The Red in the Sky is Ours Alf Svensson is disappointingly not among them. With At the Gates regressing to commercial speed metal after half of With Fear I Kiss the Burning Darkness, The Lurking Fear promise to play weird, evil, and twisted death metal again. We’ll see about that.

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A Playlist: Going Under

moria

Article by David Rosales

It is no secret that we believe that the best of metal has come out mostly of what we now call ‘the underground’, a tradition that has been characterized by standing outside of the wheel of commercial production in the arts. The moment a band signs a contract, lands big deals and makes a break through while effectively becoming shackled to the money-making industry, it has sold out. This is because as a commercially-oriented product, its main purpose is to be able to sell, it has to pander to the preferences of a certain audience, however whimsical they are.

It is true that music must retain a natural connection to man and its true test is how different people receive it. But this is not the same as the populist idea that the best music is that which appeals to the largest number of people, which is nothing more than a dumbing down to the least common denominator. The authentic underground stands between independence from commercial pandering and the need to communicate naturally through organized sound itself (Editor’s note: At the best of times, it furthermore isn’t simply content to dwell on its alleged authenticity; cue the endless mockery of albums that are too “kvlt” to be any good).

The following are short underground metal works released throughout the nineties. These represent specific moments and sides of metal that were, at that particular moment, true to their roots and the spirit of metal. They stand out in each particular moment as either outstanding examples in a times of superficial distraction, decadence or a complete lack of direction across the underground metal movement.

gardens of grief

1. At the Gates – Gardens of Grief (1991)

A favorite underground EP of many for the wrong reasons, this first official release by At the Gates stands squarely on the pillars of traditional old school death metal while innovating a unique approach to songwriting which built a whole platform on top of its basis, elevating the progressive art of death metal to a whole other level of refinement.

divine eve

2. Divine Eve – As The Angels Weep (1993)

This single nostalgic (inherently, not in retrospect only) release from back in the day by this Texan outfit brought together gestures from early Celtic Frost and Cathedral within a Scandinavian death metal frame, succeeding in climaxing in its own voice during certain moments in between.

trolltaar

3. Ancient – Trolltaar (1995)

A condensation and evolution of their soul-enchanting debut, this EP shows Ancient at its darkest and most minimalist state, while displaying its most potent emotional impact that reaches out as an invisible hand to clutch at the listener’s heart (Note: Infamous’ Of Solitude and Silence seems to echo the feeling of this ancient-souled EP).

absurd_-_asgardsrei

4. Absurd – Asgardsrei (1999)

Crude and rhythmic, a simple and punk-like punch to the face in the time of metal emptiness, superficiality and posturing, Absurd’s roughness disguises the poetry of the tribesman’s spirit, the man following his instincts untouched by modernist presumptions of what reading of history and human nature better fits their interests.

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Illusions Dead – Celestial Decadence (2016)

illusions dead

Article by Corey M

Illusions Dead put this descriptor on their Bandcamp page; “black/death metal with influences from bands like Gorgoroth, Anata, Insomnium, Intestine Baalism and more”, but what these Finns actually offer with Celestial Decadence is a shareware version of Slaughter of the Soul 2.0, now with even sappier melodies that won’t alienate the ex-emo kids who are looking for the next edgiest music culture from which they can leech a persona.

Generally, any given song on this album starts with two guitars playing some volleyball-style counterpoint with a relatively cool-sounding riff. The drums punctuate when necessary, and then the vocals come in and the whole experience deteriorates. Aside from the opening track (which features a more effective low-end growl), all of the vocals sound like a half-assed take on later Gorgoroth’s shrieking style, but more forced and less congruent compared to the brittle guitar tone. The vocals (and drum mixing) only deserve a minor critique though; the real problem with Celestial Decadence is the total lack of energy and motivation that bogs the entire album down.

The best riffs in the album are short-lived and are essentially half-assed plagiarisms of At the Gates melodies. Spontaneously switching between up-and-down single-string melodic patterns and chugging percussive cadences can’t save the utter lack of passion and purpose in every musical segment. When I imagine the recording process of this album I actually picture a couple of rock band guitarists being held at gunpoint and forced to jam out pointlessly “metallic” riffs that will later be organized by a randomizing program and pieced together by a computer that doesn’t know a thing about composition except for the absolute minimum level of human tolerance for illogical irregularity.

Lacking a single distinct riff (except for the particularly emo-sounding middle-and-end section of “Shadow and Flame”), this album flew right past me even after several listens. The musicians definitely have a refined sense of when a melodic pattern becomes too boring to repeat, but they seem clueless as to the efficacy of the melody itself in the first place. I can’t recommend this album to any sane person, except for maybe masochists.

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On The Music Of Timeghoul

timeghoul

Article by David Rosales

Timeghoul’s short lived existence gave us two excellent demos in 1992 and 1994. These both display very distinct facets of the project, each with their own merits and limitations. Even if we see the second as an evolution of the first, the first stands very firmly on its own ground. You could in fact argue that the second is not so much an evolution, as a different overall direction for the band.

The first release, Tumultuous Travelings, had a much more suffocating feeling to it, but already showcasing Timeghoul’s distinct personality, setting it apart from any contemporary. This distinction, however, is one of language and not one of technique; so that the casual onlooker might consider this first work to be a typical release for its time. In reality, once we acknowledge its allegiance to the traditions of death metal, the particular traits of Timeghoul’s music (even on Tumultuous Travelings) are anything but typical.

In 1994 came Panaramic Twilight (sic), which boasted of more explicitly progressive intentions, giving it automatic recognition in the mind of the same simple metalhead who passed off their first demo as standard. Seldom is it recognized that Timeghoul’s “progressive” qualities were already present on the first release, which is a trend that itself fails to stand out as few recognize these leanings in even the most developed death metal of the early 1990s. Timeghoul’s most significant development on Panaramic Twilight was that they stepped up the drama and Wagnerian soundtrack-like constructions, which required longer silences, longer notes and a wider variety of expression.

Now, when constructing music, composers have to strike a balance between intelligibility and variety (a.k.a. outer complexity). Most metal musicians, however, seem totally unaware of this, and this is why bands who, out of a humble degree of proficiency, produce simpler music have a more enduring impression on the audience in general. Aesthetic variety will not keep your interest if the music that underlies it is incoherent, muddy, and lacking in clarity. However, mere clarity is not enough; the image remains blurry if the overall picture has not been built with enough concrete purpose.

This is where Timeghoul excels; coherent and concrete purpose in songwriting is their most meaningful contribution to metal. They have opened this door to a world of possibilities within their paradigm of dramatic and obscure (rather than gory) death metal that does not require a band to clone their approach to follow in their steps. In comparison, trying to learn from Demilich or Immolation often results in blatant plagiarism, unless your efforts and results arise from a detailed technical analysis and are applied only in an abstract manner. Timeghoul compensates for the silences, rapid-fire changes in rhythms, and the use of texture to enhance different feelings in their music by using a very limited range of techniques. This is comparable to what At the Gates did on their own album. The techniques themselves aren’t numerous; nor are they extremely advanced. The band chooses a lexicon of technique, and relies on it consistently within a harmonic/modal framework that lends each song their own “harmonic feel” (arising from the interplay with the vocal’s timbre as well, I presume).

The wide range of expression is achieved through the types of arrangements and the changes in texture and rhythm, which are not selected at random like we saw in the work of Crematory. Timeghoul is very clearly telling a story and each bit of music, each switch from blast beat to silence, from frenetic power chord torrent to slow, single-note melody lines makes sense as a narrative. Timeghoul’s approach is not one of riff-salad, but rather more akin to that of an opera. In short, the music of Timeghoul provides another healthy avenue for metal musicians to explore. What you can learn from this unfortunately short-lived project on the abstract level is of far more value than what you can imitate by simply trying to emulate their sound. It is their intuitional organization that deserves praise; the powerful narrative element of Timeghoul’s music is a rare gem.

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At The Gates releases music video for “The Night Eternal”

Someone’s brain at Century Media wasn’t firing on all of its cylinders, because this music video didn’t quite make it out in time for the 20th anniversary of Slaughter of the Soul. “The Night Eternal” is the final track of At the Gates’ 2014 comeback, At War With Reality. We didn’t give the album a great deal of consideration when it released, except to say that it wasn’t quite as offensive and simplistic as the band had been in 1995. Instead, it took after the band’s mid-period for whatever reason, showcasing some efforts towards musical depth without really reaching the career and genre peak of The Red In The Sky Is Ours. The video showcases little to dispel that belief and is likely only really worth your time if you’re into the 2D graphics manipulation visuals it showcases… and if you are into that sort of thing, you should really learn 68000 assembly and write a scenedemo for the Commodore Amiga.

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Slaughter of the Soul‘s 20th Anniversary of Awfulness

"Mud cake" - delicious.
Article by Daniel Maarat

Twenty years ago to the day, At the Gates completed their descent into Fredrik Nordström-produced, commercial pop garbage with Slaughter of the Soul. Since the Death Metal Underground does not celebrate mediocre Eurotrash speed metal (Go listen to Artillery instead), we will be blowing out the candles for a more significant release for the underground featuring many of the same musicians.

Grotesque – Incantation (1989)

The "In the Embrace of Evil" compilation contains, amongst other things, the entirety of the Incantation EP.

Grotesque’s legendary Incantation 12”, 45 rpm EP turns twenty-five this year. The only studio release of the progressive black death madhouse features the twin guitar and songwriting talents of Kristian “Necrolord” Wåhlin (perhaps better known for his contributions to the visual arts) and Alf Svensson. The melodically flowing compositions and shifting time signatures present on At the Gates’ The Red in the Sky is Ours (see former editor and continuing author David Rosales’s excellent article) appear in a more bloodthirsty, thrashier form on the first three songs. Following those are two earlier compositions of simple but very well done speed metal ensure the appreciation of even the most Neanderthal headbangers.

Most probably first heard Grotesque on the Projections of a Stained Mind Swedish death metal compilation or on the remixed and rearranged In the Embrace of Evil career anthology from 1996. In the Embrace of Evil has been quietly reissued this year by Hammerheart in a limited digipack format and Candelight in the standard jewel case with the original mastering intact for the first time. There is no ridiculous overuse of dynamic range compression for the sole benefit of losers with Apple iPhones and earbuds excruciating everyone else. Buy the CD, not the hipster reverse needle drop LP; In the Embrace of Evil was only released on CD back in the mid-nineties and an LP pushing fifty minutes in length can only have poor, distorted sound. Hear Grotesque’s journey from Satanic, Sepultura -worshiping first wave maniacs to black leather trench coat-clad, death metal exceptionalism.

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Hammerheart Records re-issues At the Gates Gardens of Grief

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Hammerheart Records has re-issued the classic of Swedish death metal Gardens of Grief by pioneering progressive death metal band At the Gates. The label issued the following statement:

At the Gates are one of those Swedish bands that doesn’t really need an introduction for anybody really eager enough to dig as deep as their first EP, Gardens of Grief, which was released in 1991 on Dolores Records.

Being one of the more distinct sounding bands from the whole original Swedish death metal scene, they have managed to spit out a couple of really great albums in the 90s, the pinnacle of their career being 1995’s “Slaughter of the Soul”.

What we have here lads is a chaotic mix between great song composition, one of metal’s best vocalists (in my humble opinion) screaming his shit out and pure maniacal death metal the way its supposed to be played. Right from the start of the first track you will get nothing less than a punch in your face, to the groin and to the balls. Tempo changes along with the massive output of riffs used work perfectly to create a unique atmosphere that sends you right to hell. This is one of those birth moments of a band that further defined the typical “Swedish sound” that most of us know as being a kind of mix between crunch and white noise. Every song has a very mature approach towards composition, not sounding very melodic, but dark, vicious and awestruck. This is fierce, ruthless death metal played by people who had a spark in them and wanted to play crazy music.

This EP is a very good example of how a rough start can prophesy a band’s great career with no absolute low point whatsoever and be a marker for good things to come.

For fans of: Grotesque, Dissection, Watain

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