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At The Gates – Live in Perth – 3rd November 2012

| 30 November 2012 | Reply

The Amplifier Bar, Perth, Western Australia
By Dani Deville

It’s 6.00pm on a Saturday and I’m standing at the Amplifier Bar in Perth with a handful of others. I’m wondering if I have ever seen Amps in the daylight before. It’s decidedly weird. It’s the afternoon, if I have any buzz at all it’s from my 4 o’clock cup of tea, it’s broad daylight and I’m about to listen to something brutal and awesome. Yet the vibe isn’t quite right. The mood is slightly off. I can’t put my finger on it, but it might simply be to do with the fact that everyone around me is so… Sober!
Stuffing my lack of party spirit in my oversize handbag somewhere between my geeky notepad and my spare packet of Kleenex, I erase all thought from my mind (which doesn’t take long) and head inside for the first act of the day, Befallen.

Despite Befallen being reasonably new to the scene (their debut LP, Degeneration, having been released in October of this year) there is little to no evidence of their relative novelty in their presentation. Their music is carefully constructed, intricate, moving and powerful. They have great stage presence and, ladies, I have to say, there is some sweet eye candy there for the women-folk.

With all of those key arse-kicking characteristics in place, I am baffled as to why something about this set feels so wrong when everything on the stage is going so very right. Aaron, the band’s vocalist, is repeatedly urging the audience forward to fill the chasm at the front of the stage… and nothing happens. Looking around it becomes pretty clear why: There are about a dozen people in the room, none of whom seem to have gotten their first glass of fun in them yet. Even if we, collectively, gathered at front of the stage, there wouldn’t be enough of us to come remotely close to filling the area, even if we all held hands and danced the can-can. The band’s frustration over the lack of audience participation is palpable. As they finish the set, they let the last chord resonate on and on. It bounces off the walls and echoes around this huge void of a room. Far from receiving the eruption of applause you might expect from such an epic finish and that they certainly DESERVED, Befallen are rewarded with a mere ripple of clapped hands and one bloke close to the door saying “that was really good”, which is painfully audible in the silence of the near empty space. It was upsetting.

The only thing that has let Befallen down is the ridiculous time slot. It’s 6.30pm when they take the stage, which in my language is barely pre-drink o’clock. Only a small fraction of the punters have turned up and the ones that are there haven’t got their game face on yet. If the band had played the same set two hours later, the result would have been entirely different. I don’t understand the reasoning behind scheduling a set that early on a Saturday night, and I probably still wouldn’t if you wrote the reason in large friendly letters on a brick, nailed it to a cricket bat of logic, and beat me repeatedly round the head with it. I sincerely hope that when Befallen get a chance to unleash themselves on Perth again, it will be at a more reasonable time and people go out of their way to watch them, as anyone who loves GOOD metal dingdongdiddly well should!

Next to the stage is I Am Eternal.  With t-shirts fitted snugly, trendy haircuts and deck shoes cast carelessly asunder, these young blokes in board shorts are clearly the new breed of metal heads. I’m not going to lie here, I find it hard to embrace the new-wave image.  When I think “metal” I think “unkempt, long-haired, beardy, blokey dudes”… You know, dudes your mum might cross the street to avoid. Not dudes your mum might try to set you up with because they’re such nice looking, responsible young men who call their mum regularly, unlike me, and when am I going to settle down and get a proper job… But I digress!  As I lean on the bar,  gazing at the potential new line-up for next season’s City Beach catalogue, what I anticipate is the musical stylings of some disgruntled, teenage surfers having a tantrum about not being allowed to go to Bali for leavers. They assume their first “crab-stance” (made infamous by “Attack Attack” in their Stick Stickly video… Seriously, Youtube that shit!) and it’s giving me a sudden hankering for a seafood basket.  Yet, it takes virtually no time at all before I am forced to get over my cravings, stop being a prejudiced, unmovable, old git and admit that I Am Eternal are… well… bloody good!  Harmonic, melodic and brooding, these boys break it down as vocalist TJ hits the high and low end of the vocal spectrum superbly with tireless and uncompromising rhythm. Their music produces a dense, multilayered sound and they attack their set with boundless energy. They are a quality act! I Am Eternal have taught me a valuable lesson: Not to judge a book by its pants.

By the time I Am Eternal leave the stage, a decent sized crowd has amassed and I can smell the excitement in the air… Or maybe it’s beer. Either way, it’s sweet, frothy and making my mouth water.

For those of you who have been sleeping under a rock for the past twenty-odd years, At The Gates are a Melodic Death Metal band from Gothenberg, Sweden. Formed in 1990 and best known for their 1995 album Slaughter of the Soul, At The Gates have been deeply influential in the Swedish Death Metal scene, and one of the major progenitors of the Melodic Death genre. After a lengthy break-up in 1996 and a brief reunion tour in 2007-2008, At The Gates announced their official reformation in 2010 and have been touring since.

The anticipation reaches its pant-fizzing climax as the intro drones over the speakers and At The Gates finally appear. Lead vocalist, Tomas Lindberg, saunters to the front of the stage wearing a baseball cap, all smiles and waves. The band’s casual appearance belies the masterful explosion of music which ensues: At The Gates own this stage. It is their birthright, their home and they have come to claim it.

They open the show with Slaughter of the Soul before smashing their way through Cold and Terminal Spirit Disease.  Their seamless alternation between binary and ternary rhythm, so precise on their studio recordings, is clearly and deftly executed on stage.  As they attack Raped by the Light of Christ, Tomas raises his finger skywards, like a vigilante preacher, pummelling us with his message. Under a Serpent Sun and Windows come next. It is a complex carnival of rhythms and beats, a multi-textured fabric of colourful musical textures. With his fist over his heart, Tomas blasts out World of Lies as the audience surges forward and the mosh pit grows exponentially. He beats his chest earnestly as he hammers The Burning Darkness and The Swarm into us.

Although Tomas is slightly breathless between songs as he expresses his gratitude to the crowd for their enthusiasm and support, he shows no sign of tiring during his performance. Moving from Forever Blind to Into the Sky and Suicide Nation, creates a pleasing juxtaposition of acoustic guitar and fat, emotionally charged chords. Tomas’ energy is unfailing, his smile is warm, his passion and enthusiasm tangible.

Tomas grins and waves, briefly pausing to take a breath. As he asks “are we ready?” there is no doubt as to the answer. With the first notes of Nausea the pit erupts once more. It’s mosh or die!  Like a delinquent rhinoceros with a jackhammer, At The Gates are unstoppable and earth shattering.
The amount of times the audience is told that we are going to “take a trip back in time” is a testament to how much history the band has behind them. They have included songs from their entire back catalogue, dating back to 1992.

As they wind up their set with The Beautiful Wound, Unto Others, All Life Ends and Need, it strikes me that Tomas could be described as the “anti-Blythe”. A string of fans clamber on stage during the gig to undertake the ritual stage dive, each pausing to shake hands or hug the singer. Rather than belting them in the face and sending them off on a stretcher, Tomas beams and takes time to greet each and every one of them.

The audience, demanding an encore, is finally treated to Blinded by Fear and Kingdom Gone, a tremendous end to a titanic set.

Seeing At The Gates was an absolute privilege, one that I wasn’t sure I’d ever be afforded. It’s such an immeasurable pleasure to see a band with that much longevity getting as much enjoyment from their performance as Tomas and the boys seem to do. It is all too rare to witness a group of musicians who recognise the importance of their audience’s support, and At The Gates evidently demonstrate this by coming out later in the evening to meet people, shake hands and share drinks. Other bands could learn a lot from At The Gates, not only from their skill and professionalism, but from their attitude and gratitude.

A top notch evening with exceptional acts. If anyone left disappointed after that, I will eat Randy Blyth’s sweaty jockstrap!

Category: Live Reviews

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