Review Summary: A complete documentation of one of the most influential bands in the history of metal.
Coming out of Gothenburg Sweden, At the Gates was one of the pioneers of melodic death metal along with Dark Tranquillity and In Flames. After releasing their incredibly influential album Slaughter of the Soul,
At the Gates decided to call it a career; an unusual move for a band that was just starting to gain notoriety and had released their best album. Most bands that “retire” are soon back in the mix of things because they can’t stay away or because they now that there is money to be made, not so with At the Gates, when they retired they stayed retired only reuniting twelve yeas later to do a few live shows and festivals. The Flames of the End
chronicles the band’s history from their formative days all the way to their reunion shows and has everything a fan could want from this great band.
The first of the three disc set is a documentary called ‘Under a Serpent Sun’ shot by guitarist Anders Björler. This documentary gives us the story on each and every person that was part of the band, from the time that they were known as Grotesque to their final album Slaughter of the Soul.
The recording of each and every album is talked about in painstaking detail, from the Gardens of Grief
EP that they recorded as Grotesque and going through the process of working with almost no budget to working with Fredrik Nordström in the infant stages of the now legendary Studio Fredman.
The members of At the Gates take the viewer on a tour of Gothenburg to the places were they practiced to club Valvet were they played their first show. Club Valvet was an important place for aspiring metal bands and acts such as Dark Tranquillity and Dissection would play there. This documentary includes old footage and pictures of the band members’ elementary school days! No stone is left unturned in this documentary that not only includes interviews with members of At the Gates (Tomas Lindberg getting most of the camera time) but also members of other bands they toured with that share interesting anecdotes about At the Gates. Shane Embury of Napalm Death shares a story about meeting Lindberg and getting a Grotesque demo tape which was thrown out of the van by drummer Mick Harris.
Some of these details may seem a bit unnecessary but you can tell how much the band members enjoyed doing it. A memorable moment is drummer Adrian Erlandsson reliving the feelings he had when he held the first Grotesque record in his hands, you can still see how important it was to him almost twenty years later. An interesting tidbit Lindberg receiving the artwork for Terminal Spirit Disease
via fax, he thought it looked good but it was in black and white, when he saw the colors on the cover he immediately regretted approving it but it was too late.
The second disc ‘Purgatory Unleashed’ is a full length set they did at Wacken 2008 consisting of 18 tracks shot in front of 60,000+ fans, a truly unforgettable performance. The third disc ‘Only the Dead are Smiling’ is comprised of short clips that were filmed all over the world from the US to Finland to Greece, sets of one to five songs that they played in their early days and in their reunion shows.
The final chapter in the story of At the Gates, The Flames of the End
is a comprehensive documentary of one of the most important bands in metal. Along with In Flames and Dark Tranquillity, At the Gates inspired many bands including the entire NWOAM movement and their influence continues to be felt. Their choice to disband was very odd but maybe in hindsight it was a good thing, they went out on top with one of the best, most important albums in the history of metal and they didn’t stick around long enough to tarnish their legacy.