GIG REVIEW: At The Gates, The Haunted & Witchery Live at Triffid, Brisbane
When you think back upon the storied history that acts born out of the Swedish metal scene, there are probably too many to count. Acting as the forebears for many of the genres that fans hold near and dear these days, the storied history of the Swedish – and in particular, the Gothenburg scene – is one that will carry a long-lasting impact for several years to come. Many years ago, a tour of Australia of this calibre seemed like a very imaginative pipe-dream, something that we always wished for, but would never likely see. Expectations were shattered, however, when due to a masterful stroke of luck and strategic booking, Brisbane was able to witness three of Sweden’s finest acts in Witchery, The Haunted, and At The Gates as part of the Triple Bill Kill tour on 25th April 2019, in an evening that will not soon be forgotten.
Local act LaceratIon Mantra were the first band off the blocks, and I don’t know if it was a combination of people tired from being up early for the ANZAC Day Dawn Service, or if the crowd was easing themselves into it, but I don’t feel like the band received the recognition that they deserved. The tight Death Metal, combined with the gutturally savage vocals created an amazing wall of sound that is akin to a band like Bolzer, but somewhat less ambient. Laceration Mantra served as a great warm-up for the evening, and it was great to see that they had some fans gathered up the front, and a large cadre of viewers watching them, but I feel like the band should have had a much larger reception than what they got.
Witchery was next and ensured for their fans that have waited for their arrival in Australia for such a long time that the wait was well worth it, inciting a frenzy as soon as they began playing. As a band that could be considered a supergroup, expectations were obviously high for Witchery, but judging by the crowd’s reaction the band far exceeded what anybody could have hoped for. Vocalist Angus Norder, who was flanked by guitarists Patrik Jensen, Rickard Rimfalt and bassist Victor Brandt was mesmerizing to watch. The way in which he orchestrated the crowds’ motions while weaving amongst the ever-moving guitarists was truly masterful. Jensen and Rimfalt were quite good on guitar, but it was bassist Brandt with his backup vocals and impressive demeanor that really stole the show.
Their set covered the full length of their career to date which was a refreshing surprise, but it was the enormous crowd response that was most impressive, and something which I think took not only a majority of the crowd but also the band by surprise. Feeling humbled by the response to the band’s performance, Norder did take some time out during the set to thank the crowd before inviting them to continue causing chaos, which the fans promptly did.
Following Witchery was going to be a hard task for any band, but if any band was up to the task it would be none other than The Haunted. However, there was something notably missing when The Haunted took to the stage. Namely, they were short one bass player in Jonas Bjorler, who the crowd were later informed had to sit this tour out at the last moment. Missing a key element of the band is normally something that might falter some acts, or cause others to cancel entirely, but not The Haunted. Their set was performed mostly with the absence of a bass player on stage (the pre-recorded bass tracks were still audible in the mix), but in a display to showcase how diverse this group of musicians are with the many hats they wear Brandt made an appearance on bass for a few songs at the beginning of the set, before Martin Larsson from At The Gates donned the bass for a few towards the end.
But what about their performance? Well, what can we say about The Haunted? Marco Aro is the vocalist that all vocalists should aspire to be. As the master of ceremonies during The Haunted’s performances, Aro ensures that everyone in the audience is involved in the show, and his display in Brisbane was an exemplar of this. Whether he was eliciting crowd responses through his stage gestures or jumping down to the barrier to sing amidst the fans in the front row, there was never a dull moment when Aro was on stage.
As for the remainder of the band, Jensen (serving his evening’s dual duties) and Ola Englund could quite easily be considered the epitome of a golden guitar duo, each working seamlessly off the other and never faltering in their delivery. I’m certain that anyone inside the venue with a penchant for well-performed guitar work had their eyes squarely glued on this duo, but their performance and crowd engagement were remarkable. Being blessed with a great live mix helped accentuate their performance, and made every minute that they were on stage instantly memorable. Equally as impressive was Adrian Erlandsson on drums, whose slick skin beats provided the perfect platform for the guitarists to work from.
The band performed a set of mixed classics from throughout their career, with the older tracks garnering a greater response than their newer ones, but everyone seemed like they were having an absolute blast which made the set absolutely fly, and left a bittersweet feeling after the band departed following ‘Hate Song’.
Following a brief changeover, the legendary At The Gates took to the stage to close out the night. Launching straight into the title track from their latest album ‘To Drink from the Night Itself’ the band looked jubilant and full of energy, ready to tackle to set before them.
I’m not sure if it was a case of people just enjoying the music more, or if they had run out of steam that late into the evening, but the atmosphere for At The Gates was very relaxed. Sure, there was still a mosh pit, but the intensity of the crowd had died down compared to the earlier acts. Although the vibe of the room hadn’t changed, the energy seemed more relaxed, which leads me to believe that people were simply admiring the performance of the legendary band, rather than participating in it.
The same sentiment about energy couldn’t be said for what was happening on stage however, with Tomas Lindberg trying to corral the audience at every chance he could. It’s always great to watch a front man with charisma working their magic on stage, and Lindberg didn’t disappoint. Vocally his performance was as expected — strong and adequate — but it was his energy on stage which elevated his performance to another level entirely.
Musically, At the Gates performed really well. Guitarists Larsson and Jonas Stalhammer performed well, and Erlandsson on drums (performing his second set for the evening) looked to be in a much better rhythm playing the At The Gates tracks over The Haunted’s. In saying that he also looked a bit pained while performing, which is possibly due to running a marathon for two sets, but it didn’t impact on his sound though. Erlandsson’s ability to endure back to back drum performances on such a physically challenging instrument is to be commended.
In line with The Haunted’s set, the absence of a bass player provided At The Gates the opportunity to welcome some of their touring companions on stage to don the instrument. Again, Brandt guested on a couple of tracks, but it was a surprise appearance from The Haunted’s Englund to perform a few of the bands older hits that was warmly welcomed by the fans.
At The Gates’ setlist seemed tailored like a greatest hits album. Sure it might have only featured tracks off ‘Slaughter of the Soul’, ‘At War with Reality’ and ‘To Drink From The Night Itself’, but it was structured in such a way that you were always wondering what was coming next, and kept the crowd engaged as a result. With the songs coming thick and fast it seemed surreal once the band rang out their final note.
When all was said and done, it is very difficult to be displeased with an evening like this. Considering that amongst these bands is over sixty combined years of touring experience there was never any doubt that this wasn’t going to be a great evening. Events like this come once in a lifetime, and although Brisbane might be on the other side of the world to Sweden, the crowd turnout coupled with the big reaction for the night shows that Swedish metal will always have a home here in Australia.