At The Gates
Suicidal Final Art

Just as At The Gates approached the zenith of their career, internal strife within the band caused one of metal’s brightest hopefuls to supernova in a spectacular event that shocked the band’s growing legion of fans and proponents. Slaughter of the Soul will forever remain lodged into the minds of metallers everywhere as the record Slayer should have recorded but never had the gusto to do so. Not to say, the Gothenburg outfit ever resembled Slayer musically, but the spirit contained within each of the album’s 11 brazen tracks has yet to be equaled.

Suicidal Final Art, a line taken from Slaughter of the Soul, is a fitting recap of the band’s short six year career (1990-1996), for it includes not only some of the best material penned by the Swedes, but also incomprehensible but cool liner notes by Tomas Lindberg (The Crown), a multitude of band photos and two rather mediocre video tracks culled from Terminal Spirit Disease and With Fear I Kiss the Burning Darkness. Hardcore fans won’t appreciate the lack of unreleased tracks since there’s really only one – a demo of ‘Ever Opening Flower’ – to be found here. ‘The Architects’ was originally released on the Deaf Metal sampler years ago. The compilation is, however, a requisite recap of At The Gates’ musical evolution, and further cements the band into ‘classic’ status.

Suicidal Final Art opens up logically with three tracks (‘The Red in the Sky Is Ours,’ ‘Kingdom Gone’ and ‘Windows’) from the band’s debut. While ‘Kingdom Gone’ is an At The Gates staple, the other two tracks should have been ‘Neverwhere’ and ‘Claws of the Laughter Dead’ as they formed, along with Eucharist’s maniacal musings, the melodic blueprint for the Gothenburg metal scene. The album continues chronologically with six – two demo, four studio – songs from At The Gates’ second album, With Fear I Kiss the Burning Darkness. The album’s strange mix of styles and sound indicated the band were unsure of how to continue. Although, frontman Tomas Lindberg states album number two was their most memorable moment (”is probably the album I like the most”), At The Gates at this stage sounded dirtier and less sophisticated. Tracks like ‘Raped By the Light of Christ’ and ‘The Burning Darkness’ were raw, unbridled aggression funneled to extreme music fans everywhere with a near-punk aesthetic to riff and harmonic structure. The departure of Alf Svensson (Oxiplegatz) allowed the band to fully concentrate on a more refined sound.

 The decision to simplify thereafter proved insightful as it buried the musical eccentricities of the band’s past, permissing them to focus on making music based on the influences they wanted to hear, namely Slayer and Dark Angel, and greet new fans unable to understand their previous wayward, near-atonal approach to songwriting. So, Terminal Spirit Disease landed a year later, marking the turning point on which At The Gates later created their landmark, swansong album for Earache. ‘Terminal Spirit Disease’ wasn’t really a proper album – six studio, three live – but these generally gentle guys had enough anger and ferocity distilled throughout songs like ‘The Swarm,’ ‘Forever Blind’ and the title track that each riff and vocal scar put ‘death’ back in metal ‘ the tracks still peel paint off walls. At The Gates’ finest hour is not their work on Deaf/Peaceville, but on Earache.

Thankfully, the two labels saw eye-to-eye on this release. The inclusion of ‘Blinded By Fear’ and ‘Slaughter of the Soul’ from At The Gates’ fourth and final album completes the circle, and shows that inter-label friendship will always result in a better release for fans; not there there’s an overwhelming reason to plunk your hard-earned cash for this unless you’re a completist, a newbie or some metalcore kid desperately trying to find more on the band.

With that said, Suicidal Final Art serves several purposes: to inform and preserve. At The Gates, like all good metal bands that ended before their time, should be proud of a release like this for it justifies the very reason why they ‘almost’ made it to the top and continues a legacy that shouldn’t be forgotten, ignored or plagiarized.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Chris Dick
July 21st, 2001


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