21 years ago today, Swedish melodic death metal legends At The Gates released their iconic fourth album Slaughter of the Soul. On November 14, 1995, the 11-track, 34 minute effort was unapologetically put out on Earache Records for the world to hear. Vocalist Tomas Lindberg, Guitarists Anders Bjorler and Martin Larsson, bassist Jonas Bjorler, and drummer Adrian Erlandsson successfully created a masterpiece for the ages. It instantly became a classic and has influenced a whole new generation of musicians.
Before Slaughter of the Soul, At The Gates was already a heavyweight in the international extreme metal community. Their first three records were critically and publicly well received. At The Gates’ first two full-lengths The Red in The Sky Is Ours (1992) and With Fear I Kiss The Burning Darkness (1993) featured a straight forward death metal sound, with occasional black metal and grindcore influences. While both are classics in their own right, the five-piece band didn’t showcase their signature sound until the release of their third record Terminal Spirit Disease (1994).
Terminal Spirit Disease marked ATG’s transition to melodic death metal. Melodic Death Metal was an blossoming sub-genre in the early and mid 90s. It is often referred to as “The Gothenburg Sound” due to fact that most of the pioneering bands, such as In Flames and Dark Tranquility, were from the city of Gothenburg, Sweden. At the time, melodic death metal bands’ (including At The Gates) lyrical content usually covered topics such as religion, philosophy, politics, and existentialism, as opposed to bloodshed, violence, and horror.
One year after At The Gates’ permanently changed their sound, Slaughter of the Soul became the most successful melodic death metal release ever. Tomas Lindberg continued his distinct growls that made him one of the most recognizable frontman in extreme metal. The thrashy guitar duo of Anders and Martin is nothing short of orgasmic throughout the record. It set them apart from many Gothenburg bands who preferred to play mid-tempo. Jonas’ plays the bass to perfection and Adrian’s rhythm on the drums anchors the group. The musicianship is top-notch and every single track on the album is a classic. Of the 11, my personal favorites are the title-track, “Under A Serpent Sun,” “World of Lies,” and “Unto Others.”
Slaughter of the Soul brought even more worldwide attention to the group. The buzz they gathered allowed them to tour the U.S. multiple times. The music video for the album’s opening track “Blinded By Fear” received heavy MTV airplay back in a time when MTV actually played music. The band also got Nominated for a Swedish Grammy in 1996, although they didn’t win. In 2005, the album was ranked number 300 in Rock Hard magazine’s book of The 500 Greatest Rock & Metal Albums of All Time. Recently, Metal Injection.com ranked Slaughter of the Soul No. 8 on their list “Top 10 Influential Heavy Metal Albums.” I would personally put it at #1, but that’s just my opinion.
Despite the success that At The Gates had developed in such a short period of time, the group disbanded in 1996, due to the departure of the Bjorler brothers. The Bjorler brothers and drummer would Adrian Erlandsson go on to form the melodic death band The Haunted. Tomas Lindberg would go on to front many other bands including The Crown, Lock Up and Skitsystem.
At The Gates reunited in late 2007, and played many festivals such as Wacken Open Air, Bloodstock Open Air. They also toured Japan with Dillinger Escape Plan, Pig Destroyer, Mayhem and Into Eternity in May 2008. After splitting again in late 2008, they reunited for a third time in 2010. In 2014, they released their fifth album At War With Reality. They continue to tour to this day, and I was fortunate enough to see them play at the Bourbon Theatre in Lincoln, Nebraska on April 4, 2015 during The Decibel Magazine Tour with Converge. It was the greatest show I have ever been to this day, and they played Slaughter of the Soul in its entirety. At The Gates currently shows no signs of stopping anytime soon, and I can’t wait for their next record, whenever that may be. Thank you for everything, At The Gates.