After nearly two decades of silence and side projects, Sweden’s melodic death metal maestros At the Gates dropped 2014’s seamless At War With Reality and have been assaulting the entire globe with a touring schedule as relentless as the riffs ever since. With a confidence and chemistry most full-time bands would kill for year after years of relentless practice, At the Gates really do seem like one of the most proficiently savage and insanely-catchy bands to ever emerge (and then re-emerge) from this subgenre. I had a chance to speak with vocalist Tomas Lindberg this past week about their 2015 world tour, living in the moment, creepy alternative bands, and a whole lot more! Check it out below:
You guys have been touring your asses off lately! How was 2015 for you guys? Were there any standout shows, festivals, or tour runs that you did? What was the highlight for the band last year?
There’s so much stuff, it’s almost impossible to talk about. We had an amazing European tour together with Triptykon and Morbus Chron, which was fantastic. Packed and sold out shows in mainland Europe for three weeks! We had a sold out tour in Sweden and Finland which was awesome…we won a Swedish Grammy. We played the biggest music venue in our hometown, we played Wacken, Hellfest, Graspop; it was a crazy time! We went to Japan, Australia, and then the US with Converge. It’s been a crazy year and there are so many great shows and people that came out. It’s just been a great reception. I’m overwhelmed.
Would you say that morale for the band is at a high level right now, or are you guys tired? It sounds like you guys have been literally everywhere, so are you weathered by touring?
No, the way we tour is fine. We’re so close and we all kind of know what we want out of it. There’s so much stuff that we don’t need to do laughs. We don’t do stuff that a record label or booking agent tells us we have to do to pay the bills. We just do the stuff we want to do because we like it. I think that’s very fortunate of course that we can do that, but also how we survive as a band.
So speaking of doing the things that you want to do, you’ve got that tour that’s about to happen with Decapitated, The Haunted and Harm’s Way. Did you guys have any hand in picking that lineup, or was that brought to you by different managements?
It was our idea from the get-go. The thing is, we always try to choose who we play with. Of course, if you’re a support band you can’t, but if you’re headlining we try to put together a package that we want to see. When we were on the Converge tour we saw them and Pallbearer every night and Vallenfyre as much as we could. The same thing with the Triptykon tour; we saw every Morbus Chron show and Triptykon as well. We want the show to be a good package for the fans but you want to have a good night yourself as well. Decapitated is one of those bands that have such an influence on a lot of people and a strong band with their own sound. We’ve wanted to play with them for a long time and were finally able to do it. The Haunted are of course friends of ours since we share members with them. They’re very easy to tour with and their new record is amazing! With Harm’s Way, Jake from Converge really played a role in that. It works well, you know?
After that, are you guys going to do another huge year of travelling? Are there any plans for new material in the works right now?
With what we’re doing now, we are really focusing on touring for 2016. We really want to concentrate for at least another year or eight months. We have stuff booked up until the end of the summer right now, and we still feel excited about that because we can pick and choose whatever we want. So that still feels really exciting. We have a lot of summer festivals lined up right now, for example. After that we have to look at each other and see if we want to continue touring this [At War With Reality] or a new record. What comes first? Do we need a creative break to start writing? That’s in the future though; we don’t really want to think about it too much right now. We just want to live in the moment, because it’s such a great moment. It’s almost unbelievable, you know?
Like you mentioned with that creative break, is that typically what you guys need to do in order to make new music? Or do you ever spontaneously jam during a soundcheck, or do you have to be home alone working on things? What works best for At the Gates?
The thing is, we never really did that! laughs When we were a young band, we wrote all the time when were in our early twenties. But after Slaughter of the Soul, we should have taken a creative break, you know? We didn’t, and look what happened! laughs Nowadays, we can’t stress anything.
So there are no new demos or anything floating around right now? Or are there?
Well, there are always ideas and I have some ideas of concepts on where to take things lyrically. It’s too early to talk about really, because me and Anders [Bjorler, guitarist] really need to be in the writing mode at the same time to really fire up each other. As I said, we’re doing this now and enjoying it so much, it’s hard to say. It’s a stress thing, you know?
My next question is more about the Gothenburg scene/sound, whatever you want to call it. Did you ever feel like it was more than just a fan definition? Did it really feel like a group of bands were doing something at the same time, or was it just musical similarities? Did it feel like a collective?
Well, we were all friends hanging out together. We all played death metal in different styles, and we all listened to each other’s demos and hung out talking about music all the time. I don’t see that Dark Tranquillity borrowed from our sound or the other way around…or with In Flames or whatever. You could argue that The Jester Race is somewhat similar to Slaughter of the Soul, but it’s still just a group of friends hanging out. Maybe there’s some subconscious influence in one way or another. But it was more like “well that album was great, let’s make a better one!” laughs
It was more like friendly competition, I guess?
Speaking of other melodic death metal bands, there’s still plenty of that going on. Do you still keep an ear out for new things in that subgenre, or do you stick to what you already like?
I’m definitely still a searcher. I always consider myself more of a fan of music than actually a musician. I’m dependent off the good songwriters. I still search for stuff, and I love all the old stuff still. There’s nothing better than sitting down and listening to old school death metal or hardcore punk. That still fires me up, but I search for new stuff as well. And I have a pretty good network of people and blogs and magazines and stuff like that I check regularly to keep myself up to date on new stuff. It doesn’t have to be extreme either. I’m interested in alternative music, actually; something with an edge. It doesn’t have to be hard and heavy, but a lot of it is!
I remember seeing some interview with you where you were really plugging Swans, and I think that makes complete sense for a metal fan to get into. I saw them last March and it was hands down the loudest and most intense thing I’ve ever seen!
Like I said, I love the metal thing where it comes with a pose and an image in a way, you know? But some of these more alternative bands are just more real. The darkness that the Swans portray is scarier because it’s without a pose, so to say.
Have there been any other bands like that you’ve been into lately?
Oh there’s so much stuff! I mean, there’s a lot of darkness out there. I listen to a lot of electronic music to death metal, post rock, whatever you want to call it. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Burial Hex at all?
Nope. I’ve just heard the name, but have never listened to them before.
It’s a fantastic band, and they’re really eclectic as well. A lot of their stuff sounds really different from each other. I’m very much into the new Chelsea Wolfe album as well.
Yeah! Abyss is awesome! It’s super dark, too.
There’s this Finnish band called Circle. They have done, like, 25 different records and they’re all different. It’s more like an art project. The band is fantastic as well. You’ve got to check them out. Hmm, I’m just thinking…from the heavier stuff, a band that I really think deserves more praise is Atriarch. Their stuff is so amazing; I can’t believe they haven’t gotten bigger than they have. There’s so much great stuff. Ben Frost, have you heard him at all?
No, I can’t say that I have.
You’ve got to check that out. It’s very film-like. At the same time, there are a lot of great new heavier albums. The new Autopsy is fantastic…oh, there’s so much stuff! laughs
So you said you know about the first half or two-thirds of the year is going to be a bunch of touring. Is that going to be all over, or is it more just the US?
We’re going to do that tour, and then I think there’s more fly-out gigs in Europe on weekends. More or less we’re gearing up for the summer festivals, which are going to be crazy. Like twelve festivals or whatever like that. We really look forward to it. We get to meet up with a lot of friends, check out a lot of great bands, and just hang out in the summer. It’s a great thing.
Well, sweet! It sounds like things are looking to be pretty good for At the Gates in 2016.
Yeah, as I said before we’re really excited about going back again to a lot of these places that we didn’t go to on the Decibel tour with Converge. There are a lot of cities that never got the attention they deserved, there’s probably even more cities that we need to go to. I’m very much looking forward to this package and these cities that we haven’t been to in a while, so I hope people are going to come out!