At The Gates
The Flames Of The End (DVD)
Released: 2010, Earache
This month I’ve reviewed five documentaries from across the ages. One covering a band the 70’s (Twisted Sister), a pair from the 80’s (The LA Glam scene), one from the 90’s (At The Gates) and one from post 2000 (Edenbridge). Feel free to read all my reviews of these very different documentaries spanning well over 40 years.
I’m quite behind the times reviewing this DVD, seven years after it came out but I found it for an amazingly low price at a record store ($5.00 used in perfect condition!) so I snatched it with glee. It is also a fairly important historical document for fans of At The Gates so it made the cut for a review!
THE FLAMES OF THE END is really put together well. This triple DVD set comes housed in one of those soft shell cases, really annoying but attractive. Inside is a 38-page booklet just jam-packed with liner notes, photos, credits and a brief note from the band. Totally professional presentation. The art (skulls!) and a red colour scheme the DVD reminds me of Arch Enemy for some reason The whole set is good value, even if you did buy it at full-price when it came out because the whoel thing is well over five hours long. Too much is never enough but who has time to sit and watch 5.5 hours of TV in a row? Not me! I suspect many people will break it into multiple viewing sessions and so my review will reflect that with a bit of a break down.
Disc One is the main feature a two hour + documentary of the band. It is very well done, well shot and very detailed. Entitled UNDER A SERPENT SUN: THE STORY OF AT THE GATES follows the entire history of the band inter-spliced with clips from their 2008 reunion tour. They speak in Swedish so I used the sub-title feature. There is a mountain of archival footage and a very interesting segment where singer ‘Tompa’ does a walking tour of various parts of Gothenburg and surrounding area and shows the viewers where they used to drink, party, rehearse and play back in the early 90’s. Just about everyone was involved in the documentary including a number of ex-members. At The Gates was a brief light that burned out too quickly and they were all friends so there were very few line-up changes over the years, only eight members in total were in the band from 1990 to today. Accordingly everyone got a say about the bands history, which was nice to have multiple perspectives. It was interesting to hear former guitar Alf say he felt the band was very average, but not in a malicious way. It could be an under-stated Swedish humour thing. There were lots of great old videos, bootleg footage, old photos mixed with interviews. At the end of the movie (remember this was shot in 2008, produced in 2009 and released in 2010) Lindberg states emphatically that there will be no more albums or tours by At The Gates. Little did he know that in a mere four years there would be a fifth album! It was a great documentary, very revealing. I didn’t remember how poor the bands albums covers were over the years and I also had sort of forgotten how many incredible bands these guys went on to perform with. Brujeria, Cradle Of Filth, Crown Of Thorns, The Haunted of course, the list goes on and on as each member does a little ‘Where Am I Now’; segment, near the end of the film. The end credits roll with a funny bluegrass version of ‘Blinded By Fear’. Disc one also features the bands four videos, which in my opinion were not all that special, but it is nice to have them in one spot. There is a bit of edited footage and some short clips that never made the movie. A+
Disc Two is their 2008 show (August 2) at Waken Open Air. Like many of the Wacken live concerts out there this is just as good as any of them. They gave the DVD a title of PURGATORY UNLEASHED and it was released separately on standalone DVD and CD as well . The DVD has about a minute of the usual backstage getting ready footage and then dives right in. The whole show is about one hour 13 minutes long and spans their entire career. They had a pretty prime spot at dusk on a Saturday night and the band was on a high during their successful reunion tour. They are tight, and kill it. All the Wacken shows are totally professional, multi camera shots with good angles, good sound and good mix of crowd and band. I’ve seen so many ‘Live at Waken’ DVD’s they all blend together but as I said this is as good as any of them.
Disc Three is the treasure for the true fans. ONLY THE DEAD ARE SMILING is live material from the vaults. Running 100 minutes it is a collection of clips from 10 different live concerts from 1991 to 2008 from all over the place. They shot shows in (alphabetical) America (4 clips) Belgium, England, Finland Greece, Japan and of course their homeland of Sweden. The clips range in quality sonically and visually. This was my least favourite part of The DVD. I understand these are rare treasures for the die-hard fans but I feel I don’t need to see four different, mid-quality, live versions of ‘Slaughter Of The Soul’ more than once. Most of the clips that you saw in the movie, are presented here in the full-song versions.
This is a flawless DVD. THE FLAMES OF THE END has it all; good value, good presentation, a great documentary, rare stuff, a whole concert, all the videos it doesn’t get any better than this. At one point on the film Lindberg says, (paraphrased) “We are a band again,” and it is true. They went out (at that point in time) on an incredible high note, neatly wrapping up a six-year legacy that ended way too abruptly in 1996. It is almost a shame, in an odd sense that this did not remain the final high point in heir career as when they choose to reform (again) they put out a mildly disappointing album that did not have the hype of the first reunion tour and resulting DVD. Either way the title is perfect because this was the end of the first era.