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July 16, 2008

{     At The Gates @ Irving Plaza NYC: July 9th, 2008.     }    


The last time I saw anything Tomas Lindberg was involved with was in 2006 when Disfear played a show with Phobia at CBGB's. I broke my elbow on the way there in a bike accident. I wanted to see them so bad though, that I actually put off going to the hospital until after the show.

Totally metal or completely retarded? I'll let you be the judge of that. All I know is it was worth it (and hoodie pockets make good arm slings).

Jump to 2008.

Another appearance by Tomas Lindberg in New York City. This time in town with the band to which he is most legendarily associated: At The Gates. Unfortunately there were 3 other bands to slog through on the way there.

I came in to see Toxic Holocaust on stage "thrashing out" to a meager crowd. I put "thrashing out" in quotations because this is a band who snuggles up within said punctuation marks all too comfortably. Their pretty hair, their shiny studded jackets, their thrash riffs, their lyrics about death, nuclear war, etc. their whole package: absolutely cookie cutter, absolutely trendy, absolutely invented by someone else long ago with nothing new added, and so I find them an absolutely fucking boring quotation of metal.

Unless future sessions in the practice space include a search for something intrinsically their own with anything resembling a forward push for their microgenre a result then Toxic Holocaust will be forgotten 2 years from now when the tides of metal fashion marketing turn to the next Hot Topic.

Municipal Waste fare far better. They may not claim the award for most original new sound but at least their take on new millennium thrash is filled with catchy shout-a-longs, fun songs about partying and genuine outreach to the crowd. Getting everyone to take opposite sides of the floor and run full speed at one another was a real treat (not to mention the replacement of agro-karate with the circle-mosh in pit fashion.)

Darkest Hour was up next. I felt so sorry for these guys. Sadist Nation was (and is) an incredible album that, while it completely worshipped all things Gothenburg like no other band out there at the time, had a great political message that is as true now as it was then. Alas within the current of 2008 metal they are has-beens.

The crowd lay so fallow for most parts of the show that it seemed to detune DH's guitars. Their calls for a circle pit went lazily unanswered largely because their music never has been nor ever will be a thrash revival. And despite their impassioned play, by the end, a chorus of dudes were saluting them with middle fingers while a lone Jersey girl, who looked like she could use a hug, was karate kicking her little heart out. I think I even heard someone yell "Fuck Metalcore!"

Darkest Hour deserved to be on this tour because they played such a large part in carrying the flame for At the Gates in this decade. It's just unfortunate that the season has changed. Toxic Holocaust take note.

Enter At The Gates, who quickly put a flame thrower to all the teen metal politics. There was nothing in their performance to indicate adolescent fashion either. While the crowd, in unison, yelled every single lyric to every single song, the reason they abso-fucking-lutely had to get back together became clear. What type of pit you conjure, what your hair looks like and what scene you fit into doesn't matter.

To be more precise, ATG manifested a shift from the typical space that metal has occupied as a messenger of the aesthetics of transgression to a more punk rock influenced focus on the real ethics of dissent (in their case a specific and ennobling metaphysical discontent rooted in black metal). They established this conceptual relocation in the nineties when alternative dominated the popular musical landscape.

While At The Gates' best album, "Slaughter of the Soul" had an impact then, no one truly understood how metal could occupy the aforementioned space in the midst of the '90s nu-metal miasma and in the wake of the Glam metal 80's. But the sheer clarity and depth of their darkly rebellious message, the hookiness of those evil, thudding riffs and the next level originality of the whole are why their music has carried on and had such an important roll in the post-alternative development of new millennium metal.

Everything about their performance on July 9th, 2008 was a spot on testament to the powerful place these 5 men hold in our pantheon. The Bjorler twins looked and played as menacingly as ever while Tomas was a positive, grateful and ebullient counterbalance. They played a selection of songs from every period but the set was dominated by tracks from Slaughter of the Soul.

Nothing about the show could have been better save the lack of air conditioning in Irving Plaza. My arms and neck were sore for days from all the head banging and fist pumping ATG demanded. I'm just glad the only thing I broke this time around was a sweat.

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