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Tomas Lindberg: This is Your Life - 87%

TrooperEd, March 11th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2001, CD, Century Media Records

Easily my favorite At The Gates release, Gardens/Embrace is a grainy, snuffy snapshot of the days when Tompa drew logos for death metal bands that would turn into black metal bands. Before he'd go plum nuts and slaughter all souls with terminal spirit disease (I'd love to say At The Gates as a whole but between the two bands only one member is shared). Re-listening to these for my review, I realized that I really want both a time machine and a cloning machine, so I can go back in time and clone Tomas Lindberg so he can do both of them at the same time. Heheh hey Butthead, you said do both of them at the same time.

Gardens of Grief is the more sophisticated of the two, eschewing the satanist approach for, well, whatever it is At The Gates were talking about on those first couple of At The Gates albums. Which isn't to say this is anything clean sounding at all. We are still worlds (within us) away from the custom Bjoler cabinet riffage to come. If you loved the production of The Red In The Sky is Ours, you'll love this. The songwriting as well, the band's namesake song is a wonderful suite of tremolo riffs and even a sense of melodic advancement beyond what Entombed, Tiamat and Paradise Lost were unleashing. Perhaps this what the early fans of so called melodic death metal raved about with the genre. Granted they'd still be wrong, but I can clearly see a difference in the riffing style here and say, Cause of Death. I will say there is a little bit of difficulty on Adrian's part when it comes to hitting the snare on the super-fast blast beats. It sounds like fast kick drum intro rather than a blistering death metal massacre.

The main attraction of Gardens of Grief is old staple All Life Ends. Very much like the song At The Gates, this song is a salad of riffs and tempo changes, almost too many of them. The thing about these old songs is they will not get instantly stuck in your head like the Slaughter of the Soul songs. It may take several listens before you figure out which song is which. I won't go so far as to say the songs feel interchangeable, but it's leaning that way.

Then we have In The Embrace of Evil, that mysterious basement filled with human bones about ankle high. There is blackened death metal, and then there is Grotesque. For a bunch of pimply faced teenagers these guys were super ahead of their time. Not to mention the fact that most so called blackened death metal bands got the idea completely wrong and were never able to come close to this. What's particularly impressive is even the "reunion" songs, Ripped From the Cross and Church of the Pentagram remain true to the band's original spirit. Say what you will about Tomas going for a more simplistic approach with Slaughter of the Soul, coming back to this, he and the other remaining members still remembered what made Grotesque tick and didn't infuse any outside influences to it. Tomas understands death metal, or at what Grotesque's role in it should be. The production is just a pinch slicker, but it still sounds like Leprosy compared to Sound of Perseverance.

If you're a fan of Swedish death metal, there's no reason for you not to pick this split up. Whatever format you find it on, if it has both releases on the plastic its pressed into, get it!