At the Gates: The Flames of the End

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At the Gates: The Flames of the End
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At the Gates: The Flames of the End
Melodic Death Metal
Earache Records
April 20th, 2010
Release length: approx. 5:20:00
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Recently, one of the most influential Melodic Death Metal acts, At The Gates reunited and did some touring. Given the warm reception the band received, you would imagine this group would have stayed together for a little while longer. Sadly, that was not the case, and At The Gates disbanded once again. But, at least we got not only a live album, but a decent DVD out the deal for those of us who were unable to witness the band live. This review is of that DVD, The Flames of the End, and it’s the definitive (as well as only) At The Gates release, and is the only one the fans will ever need.

Given how Earache Records handled the documentary DVDs for their recent Carcass full-length reissues, it was obvious that the first disc of the set, “Under A Serpent Sun”, would be a nicely constructed and well thought out documentary. This, of course, is the case here, covering many of the aspects of the band’s career from their start, right until their recent reunion. It’s understandable that since this release is not just isolated to English speaking parts that the members of the band, as well as others being interviewed, would speak their native languages. Luckily there are English subtitles on the DVD, however, some sort of notification that the DVD is not 100% English would be nice, or at least, with the North American release, have the English subtitles start with the video. Aside that, the only other complaint someone would have about this DVD would be the oddly placed reunion footage that acts more as segways between different periods of the band’s history that are being discussed. There are also some things that happen in the background with the video that seem a bit cheesy, such as during “Gardens of Grief” when they discuss the exchange of the demo tape, a fake package was made and opened to reveal the demo tape to correspond with the story the interviewer is telling, as well as random pictures such as a comic speech bubble when discussing a missing pedal, then one comparing the pedal to a walkman with an added equal sign and question mark. These moments don’t ruin anything, but they definitely look lame and rather amateurish for a documentary that is as well done as this.

Also included on the first disc, is the four music videos that At The Gates recorded, which have never looked nicer with exception to “Kingdom Gone”. All the information on the screen that would appear on, say, and MTV broadcast is completely blocked out, which is rather disheartening as it means “Kingdom Gone” is not the original copy made digital, but rather a copy of the version that aired on television, and actually looks rather weak to begin with because of it. Aside these four videos, you also have some deleted scenes from the documentary. Of course, the deleted scenes really aren’t necessary to the flow of the original production, and are simply nothing more then just nice, sometimes comical, tidbits that could be considered companion pieces, especially since some don’t even make it past the one minute mark. The only exception to this is the very brief “Interview with Tomas in Chicago 1996” segment that actually holds some interesting information that isn’t really important, but nice knowing, as well as gives a little more insight towards what was going on around the time of Slaughter the Soul and Earache Records. However, the song that plays at the very end of the documentary should have been made available elsewhere as well, which is a bluegrass version of the song performed (according to the credits) by the band Slaughter of the Bluegrass, which is actually a very well done and highly entertaining cover.

However, it’s pretty clear what most fans are going to dig right in to once they get this. If you’ve had the fortune of seeing At The Gates live already, then you’ll probably go right for the documentary. However, if not, clearly you’re going to head straight for disc two or three. The second disc, “Purgatory Unleashed: Live At Wacken 2008” features a great, professional quality recording of Wacken 2008 reunion show from start to finish, featuring what could easily be considered the band’s perfect set list, spanning all their studio releases, startig off with the more recent hit “Slaughter of the Soul”, and closing with the band’s staple track “Kingdom Gone”. There’s not much to say about the concert other then that it is an adrenaline fueled performance by the band that’s like a speeding train that simply cannot be stopped. The crowd reaction is absolutely insane as well, with some nice stock footage of the crowd going ballistic during the entire set, but not too much that it takes away from the band themselves.

The third and final DVD is where a lot of people are going to have mixed emotions. This disc, “Only the Dead Are Smiling: Live Material From the Vaults”, is a disc composed solely of fan-filmed footage from 1996 and 2008, with only one chunk of songs (from Factory in Eskilstuna, Sweden) dating back to 1991. The only complaint about these raw videos that show the band at their finest moments is that they are scattered about. While the videos are there in the order they were played and within that same venue, it would have been nice to have the performance from 1991 be the first set, and then follow a chronological order in order to help you understand the band’s growth as a live act. Another aspect that is a little confusing is how they have the available material set up within two different “vaults”. There’s no real reason for it either, as the video quality between the vaults are both about the same, as well as the audio. I also ran into some technical problems with this disc.

First of all, the third disc is set up in a rather annoying way. You can’t click on which show from either vault you want to watch and skip a song while it plays. Instead, you have to watch the entire performance or chunk of songs. So, say you’ve heard “Terminal Spirit Disease” to death but want to watch At The Gates perform the song “The Beautiful Wound”. Well, that means you have to sit through the whole thing. In addition, if you happen to tap the skip forward or back button [on my player at least], it puts you right back at the start of that chunk, meaning if you want to escape from that set you actually have to go and exit out to the title menu to get back to the “vault” that you were just in. If you try to fast forward, there’s also a good chance that the player will be unable to read the media, and then you would have to go through the title menu or subroot menu and bring it up again through the menus only to have to sit through the whole thing again. This disc is easily the worst manufactured product and, while it houses some great material, chances are because of all these technical issues, unless you love every song the band has on this disc and won’t get tired of them, it probably won’t be worth the trouble to watch these videos for any other occassion past your first time through the disc then that of a rainy day boredom cure.

So, with the only drawback really being the final DVD in the package, the rest of the package is worth it and a nice, convenient cost. Luckily Earache did not decide to gouge the price considering all the material packed onto this DVD, which many labels would do, charging upwards of double what this one costs in retailers. So, from an economical stand point, if you’re a fan of At The Gates, or even just respect the band and want some bang for your buck, this DVD release really is worth it for you, as it features something for everyone. The metal historians will be happy to learn the history of the band, the live fans will enjoy the concert footage, and the bootleggers will love the raw videos, and who can pass up on the ability to check out a band’s entire music video collection in the highest possible quality (save one video of course)? No one. So, make sure you get to whatever retailer you deal with, on-line or physical, and make sure your next purchase is this nice little collectable. The Flames of the End is a piece that all At The Gates fans, or Melodic Death Metal/Gothenburg fans in general, should have in their collections.

Disc 1: Under A Serpent Sun (The Story of At The Gates)
01. Introduction & Opening Titles
02. Reunion: From Vision to Reality
03. The Early Years Part I: From Nursery Rhymes to Death Metal
04. The Early Years Part II: The Grotesque/Billdal Connection
05. The Early Years Part III: The Grotesque/At the Gates Transition
06. The Early Years Part IV: Creativity Unbound
07. Gardens of Grief
08. The Red in the Sky is Ours
09. Reunion: Sweden Rock 2008
10. With Fear I Kiss the Burning Sky
11. Exit Alf – Enter Martin
12. Reunion: Graspop 2008
13. Terminal Spirit Disease
14. Reunion: Ruis Rock 2008
15. Slaughter of the Soul
16. Reunion: America Re-visited
17. Reunion: San Antonia, TX 2008
18. Exit Anders
19. Reunion: Bloodstock 2008
20. Reunion: The Past is Alive
21. Beyond the Gates
22. End Credits
23. Interview With Tomas in Chicago 1996 (Deleted Scene)
24. Adrian, the Pankster (Deleted Scene)
25. The Tokyo Experience (Deleted Scene)
26. Elvis Has Left the Building (Deleted Scene)
27. European Mini Tour with Therion 1992 (Deleted Scene)
28. Gods of Metal, Italy 2008 (Deleted Scene)
29. Tompa Cleaning Out the Trailer (Deleted Scene)
30. King Gone (Music Video)
31. The Burning Darkness (Music Video)
32. Terminal Spirit Disease (Music Video)
33. Blinded By Fear (Music Video)

Disc 2: Purgatory Unleashed (Live at Wacken 2008)
01. Intro (backstage)
02. Slaughter of the Soul
03. Cold
04. Terminal Spirit Disease
05. Raped By the Light of Christ
06. Under A Serpent Sun
07. Windows
08. World of Lies
09. The Burning Darkness
10. The Swarm
11. Forever Blind
12. Nausea
13. The Beautiful Wound
14. Unto Others
15. All Life Ends
16. Need
17. Blinded By Fear
18. Suicide Nation
19. Kingdom Gone

Disc 3: Only the Dead Are Smiling (Live Material from the Vaults)
01. Wetlands, NYC. US, March 07, 1996: Slaughter of the Soul
02. Wetlands, NYC. US, March 07, 1996: Cold
03. Wetlands, NYC. US, March 07, 1996: The Swarm
04. Thirsty Whale, River Grove, IL. US, March 10, 1996: Blinded By Fear
05. Thirsty Whale, River Grove, IL. US, March 10, 1996: Suicide Nation
06. Thirsty Whale, River Grove, IL. US, March 10, 1996: Under A Serpent Sun
07. Ruis Rock, Turku, Finland, July 4, 2008: Suicide Nation
08. Ruis Rock, Turku, Finland, July 4, 2008: Raped By the Light of Christ
09. Ruis Rock, Turku, Finland, July 4, 2008: Windows
10. Ruis Rock, Turku, Finland, July 4, 2008: World of Lies
11. Ruis Rock, Turku, Finland, July 4, 2008: Nausea
12. Graspop, Dessel, Belgium, June 29, 2008: Slaughter of the Soul
13. Graspop, Dessel, Belgium, June 29, 2008: Cold
14. Graspop, Dessel, Belgium, June 29, 2008: Terminal Spirit Disease
15. Graspop, Dessel, Belgium, June 29, 2008: The Beautiful Wound
16. Witchwood, Manchester, UK, February 5, 1996: The Burning Darkness
17. Factory, Eskilstuna, Sweden, April 20, 1991: Through Gardens of Grief
18. Factory, Eskilstuna, Sweden, April 20, 1991: All life Ends
19. Factory, Eskilstuna, Sweden, April 20, 1991: City of Screaming Statues
20. Studio Coast, Tokyo, Japan, May 11, 2008: Slaughter of the Soul
21. Studio Coast, Tokyo, Japan, May 11, 2008: Cold
22. Studio Coast, Tokyo, Japan, May 11, 2008: Under A Serpent Sun
23. Irving Plaza, NYC., US, July 9, 2008: Slaughter of the Soul
24. The Abyss, Houstic, TX. US, March 17, 1996: Need
25. Gagarin 205, Athens, Greece, September 21, 2008: Neverwhere
26. Gagarin 205, Athens, Greece, September 21, 2008: Kingdom Gone

Overall Score: 8/10


Physical review copy of this release provided by personal funds.