Just when we thought that At The Gates will never return to Croatia, Zagreb has been confirmed as one of the top destinations for their European part of To Drink From The Night Itself Tour. To make things even better, they went on tour with their fellow countrymen Nifelheim as well as label mates Deserted Fear. Our expectations were almost shattered but since that confirmation, we reorganized our schedules for the gig of the year!
Also, I haven’t been to a big-ticket metal show in a while especially since I almost went blind. After a number of surgeries, I have returned and I’m now much like Kara Zor-El, for I feel enough lasers have been pointed at me, I’m able to shoot them back with my eyes. But Supergirl didn’t charge her bio-electric aura yet so, much like Superlady, watched this concert from the top of the hall. I know, I know, not really the best choice to be all lady like!
My newly acquired x-ray vision was first tested by Deserted Fear and I have to admit that they were visually very pleasant. I’m sorry that many missed them as my beloved photographer because they are definitely worth the attention. This wasn’t my first time watching them, so I knew what to expect from the show. I already saw their festival performance at Brutal Assault two years ago when they were in support of their 2017’s album “Dead Shores Rising”. It was actually their third studio album, but the first one that intrigued me. When Century Media volleyed a shot over their headquarters, the curse of the first three albums is sent to the death!
The band was formed in 2007 as a quiet but deadly campaign to define their sound. After three years of re-configuring and arming their war machine, they released “Demo” in 2010. Maybe that would be the beginning of their end if they hadn’t met death metal legend Dan Swanö. He produced the band’s debut album “My Empire” in 2012 and the rocket-like rise to the top was nearly complete on 2014’s follow-up album “Kingdom of Worms”. With Swanö again at the helm, band’s road to victory was ensured. They wrote new groove-bruiser “Drowned By Humanity” to continue the onslaught. The Germans decided on that behalf to not just take over their home country and to expand their brand of groove-laden energetic death metal around the globe. So in the first half of the year I already received news that they will join At The Gates and Nifelheim tour through December.
Finally that time came and they honored us with a setlist consisting mostly of tracks from the last two albums. One of those songs was “Face Our Destiny”, released at the end of 2016 as announcement video for their 2017’s upcoming album “Dead Shores Rising”. It was their first video that really got me. And just when the story became interesting, they sent me to wait two years for a new episode symbolically entitled “The Final Chapter”. In addition to their latest album “Drowned By Humanity”, that song was also served as an announcement for the tour rehearsal which was a follow-up to “All Will Fall”. It seems that the last chapter became just the beginning. Moored by tracks such as “Face Our Destiny” and “The Carnage” but blasted forward by tracks such as “Welcome To Reality”, “All Will Fall” and “The Final Chapter” was the pinnacle of uncommonly catchy yet massively death metal show.
There are quite a few bands out there that have made a name for themselves by picking a style and sticking to it. With these bands, you basically know what you’re going to get. Nifelheim is a band that, seemingly, values playing live more than spending time in the studio. Thus, fans are tortured between releases, as they become more and more rare. The wait from “Servants Of Darkness” until “Envoy Of Lucifer” was hardly bearable, but ultimately rewarding. Since then, another seven years has passed and still no full-length. However, they released a special EP entitled “Satanatas” in December 2014. Since then, they’ve left us waiting exactly five years for “The Burning Warpath To Hell”. The latest EP was out as vinyl record on the 8th of December to mark their first live performance on this tour. And the title track can be only listened in its entirety at live shows where you can grab this EP. The rise of the internet culture did nothing to change them, they are still loyal to their roots and their fan base as well.
It is obvious that they have a loyal fan base in Croatia as well. They were the main reason for many to come. The hall was immediately filled with vicious tremolo picked riffs and frantic soloing during their performance. Accompanied by Per “Hellbutcher” Gustafsson’s aggressive snarl and darkly bass technique by his twin brother Erik “Tyrant” Gustafsson, they sounded exactly as good as on their studio releases. The band has a raw feel, which makes them straightforward with thrashy affair and reminiscent of their ancient Swedish ancestor Bathory. They push this style quite well by providing the guitar tone with some sharp bite and making sure that every instrument was clearly heard. It is amazing how the band is able to sound so old school and so unique, both at the same time, never falling into the trap.
These guys are truly remarkable in their ability to craft excellent songs, never sacrificing the purity of the music and still being able to make every song stand on its own and sound distinct and original. Though many false bands claim that the black flame burns within them, Nifelheim need claim nothing. Their music proves that they are, and always have been, among the few that are actually toiling away in an effort to keep hell’s fires burning!
When I found out that drummer Adrian Erlandsson is leaving Paradise Lost due to new obligations with At The Gates, I was shocked that Sweden really had no other available musician. When you think back upon the history that acts born out of the Swedish metal scene, there are probably too many to count. My worries eventually turned out to be pointless as both bands showed that they knew what they were doing.
They convinced me of that once again live with the first sounds of the haunting melody “Der Widerstand” from the magnificent “To Drink From The Night Itself”. At The Gates immediately jumped into the title song. From the faces of the crowd could be seen that most of them shared the enthusiasm which intensified by songs.
This sets the tone for the evening. Another title song from their comeback album “At War With Reality” kicked off at a breakneck pace that didn’t give the crowd pause for respite. The spiraling spotlights create a hypnotic effect, enveloping you in band’s material fully. Amidst the onslaught, songs including “A Stare Bound In Stone”, “Cold” and “The Colours Of The Beast” kept the hall alive with appropriate physical reaction as the band unceasingly dished out the crushing riffs and inescapable grooves. It tackled assaulting rhythms, lengths of hair on-stage and in the crowd were swinging in tandem and frontman Tomas Lindberg with his signature cap-look moved around the stage almost as a caricature of a rock star. This raises the question of what’s about this ridiculous cap? Is the secret of the Swedish melodeath hidden under?
The show has dominated by material from the last two albums even though we got 90’s classics from “Slaughter Of The Soul” and ”Under A Serpent Sun” over the “Raped By The Light Of Christ” to “Suicide Nation” and “Blinded By Fear”. We get a killer setlist which shows that band isn’t stuck in the past. The new sound of the band has been upgraded with some progressive elements, but it fits perfectly with the band’s roots. New member Jonas Stålhammar is a great addition. He decently replaced the co-founder Anders Björler who recently left the band. The crowd responded to Jonas Björler playing with roars of approval and a pant load of furious headbanging. Even the bad sound on one side of the hall didn’t stop fans from enjoying his full bore with Martin Larsson. The songs were thick and fast it seemed surreal once the band rang out its final note.
For sure, they delivered a world-class death metal knockout which will be talked about for a long time. I hope not yet twenty-three years. It’s a pinky promise, right Tomas?