At The Gates in Seoul: Live Review

By on 20 August 2013

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At the Gates, during a leg of their fourth reunion tour, came to South Korea on August 3, 2013. They played a rock club called Prism near Hongik University along with Korean thrash metal act Method, Japanese thrash/death metal dudes Survive, and Korea’s most active black metal band, Oathean.

The turnout to the show was shameful—somewhere in between 50 to 70 (including band members and employees). Most English speakers sat outside and drank while a few younger attendees stood towards the back of the venue and kind of head banged for Survive and Method, who turned out to have more untimely “metalcore” riffs in their bag than one might have thought.  A few Koreans showed up to pay homage to Oathean, who put on a very dramatic, thematic show, not very tightly, standing still at points with hands clenched to their sides and hair in their eyes during multiple instrumental interludes. Oathean fans booked after their set while mostly foreign English teachers regrouped and stepped forward to the front of the stage for At the Gates.

Korea’s metal scene is not the strongest so the atmosphere wasn’t quite the same as the ones in the states (not even close), but when the band came out on stage and started their set with “Slaughter of the Soul”, those in attendance were reminded what a metal show was.

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Tomas Lindberg moved around the stage with as much velocity as he had in the videos of them performing in their youth (learning of them after their disbandment, I was never able to see them before). His pitch, tone, and intensity had not diminished in any manner; each line was delivered with the enthusiasm, honesty, and shrieking style with which it was delivered on their records. The Björler brothers, Jonas and Anders, showcasing their trademark straight-faced concentration, slipped in some ostensible and unexpected indulgences during crowd reactions to solos, especially ‘Slaughter of the Soul’ era tracks in which the well arranged melodies pummel the listener into a climatic lead guitar playing over a militant procession of notes that end on an even more climatic, spine-tingling riff dropping you off back into the main drive of the song. Adrian Erlandsson maintained every galloping beat that appeared on the tracks they played— demonstrating at least a song from every release—and excited fans with the memorable butterfly kisses during the pause in the intro of ‘Cold’. There were even additives, such as a few minor melodic harmonies played slightly different for those familiar with their records to feel a breath of fresh air and harmonic pinches here and there to liven up the set for the band. Lindberg even changed the pivotal interlude lyric of ‘Cold’ from “twenty two years of pain” to “twenty five years”. They played for nearly two hours, never faltering except for the moment Erlandsson actually broke a bass pedal, and even enjoyed beers with fans after the show.

As a footnote, a fan of At the Gates since I was 12 years old and living in a trailer in Northern Indiana, I was able to save up some money for a few guitar lessons, luckily, from a metal head who introduced me to ‘Blinded by Fear’ and facilitated my taste in music ever since. During the reunion tours At the Gates has been conducting, seeing them play massive stages in Europe by way of YouTube and ‘The Flames of the End’, never did I imagine I’d see them at all, let alone on a tiny stage in South Korea during my stint as an English teacher. The minimal attendance of the show and the size of the stage, being directly in front, reminded me more of house show of a mid-west American hardcore act, the band and fans close enough to punch each other in the face.

WORDS: Clint Stamatovich

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About Kez Whelan

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