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Interviews : “We’ve managed to come up with a good mixture of old and new” – An interview with Martin Larsson (At The Gates)

By on June 6, 2018

At The Gates – Martin Larsson

There are important bands and then there are popular bands. Rare is the artist whose music intersects both labels. One band who come close, particularly in the world of straight up heavy metal, are Swedish phenom At The Gates.

Slaughter of the Soul (’95) is the bands universally revered offering that continues to influence as many hands to pick up a guitar as Rage Against The Machine’s eponymously titled debut (’93) or Nirvana’s industry-changing Nevermind (’91)… not such an overstatement when you think about how many indie metal bands thee are out there today, and the lack of almost any guitar-based music (read: rock music) in the global music charts.

Martin Larsson is the guitarist in At The Gates, so he may well be the most influential guitarist that you have never heard of. Slaughter of the Soul is a classic due in a large part to Larsson’s blistering, NWoBHM inspired death metal guitar performance.

“People say that off and on.”

That’s Larsson’s introspective take on comments that Slaughter of the Soul is a genuine heavy metal classic.

“I think it’s healthy to try and keep a bit of a distance to all that. Also, for me personally from the mid-90s onward to me the metal scene became so boring. It was so clinical and produced and all that, and I missed my underground feel of death metal. I started drifting more to hardcore punk and stuff like that, that felt more genuine. Now it’s healthier than ever (the metal scene), it bounced back within just a few years around the millennium. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, so I’m constantly back-tracking and finding bands from 10 years ago who are brilliant now. What I’m trying to say with many words is I wasn’t really aware of our impact on the scene, because I wasn’t really paying attention around the late 90s and early noughts.”

Like so many other metal bands, things were far from easy for At The Gates in the metal-phobic nineties. Slaughter of the Soul itself was borne from hard times and a desire to get back to where the band felt most comfortable.

“I think what happened for us was because the earlier albums are really intricate and just riffs on riffs on riffs when we made Slaughter of the Soul, we came out of a really bad time, crashed tours and whatever, it was a little bit of a make or break feeling. We wanted to go back to making just a classic metal album, but the way At The Gates would do it. We grew up with Iron Maiden and Judas Priest and all those bands, that’s our roots. We wanted to make one of those kinds of albums, but then also we had all this history that we grew up with all the extreme music as well, I suppose Slayer most of all. It came through that filter also. In one way I suppose it’s like a comfort album for us.”

At The Gates went on a long hiatus after the release of Slaughter of the Soul, reuniting for sporadic live shows from 2007, then releasing the well-received At War with Reality in 2014. In 2018 the band unchain To Drink from the Night Itself, a brutal affair that Larsson explains is as much a reaction to the previous album as it is a desire to produce straight-up death metal.

(With the new album) we’re trying to honour our past and at the same time look forward and try new things. It feels like we’ve managed to come up with a good mixture of old and new stuff on this one, and hopefully, we’re going to keep on going in this direction. There are a few hints on the last album of the direction that we’re going further in now, the stuff that’s different on the last one, a little bit more dramatic and cinematic; songs like “Order from Chaos” and “Night Eternal”. There’s a bit more of that on this new album, also it’s a little bit more death metal. I think we felt that the last album, satisfied as we are – we are really proud and happy with it, it’s a little cleaner. It’s a little tidy in a way, so this one’s darker and harsher.”

Listen to the full conversation here

Grab your copy of the brand new At The Gates release To Drink From The Night Itself, out now via Century Media Records.

About

Andrew is a musician who has spent many years performing on the stages of the pubs and clubs of Queensland. A devotee of the broad church that is rock, punk, funk, jazz and of course all genres of metal... he now shares his enthusiasm via a burgeoning pursuit of music journalism. Follow him on twitter @andymckaysmith