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At The Gates, live in London

Support: Triptykon, Morbus Chron, Code Orange

Poor Code Orange [5]. Their failure to launch tonight is far more down to circumstance than anything under their control. For one, the Forum’s notoriously challenging acoustic reduces their sound to auditory mud. For a second, they are obviously having major technical problems, stopping entirely early on, and it’s a drop in momentum impossible to recover from. For a third, the large stage seems not to suit them as they look more static than they actually are. Add to this a crowd that isn’t their natural audience, and it really isn’t Code Orange’s night. Not their fault, but a weak show.

Morbus Chron [7] are facing an easier task, as the gremlins appear to have buggered off by the time they are on stage, and the crowd is more suited to them. And musically, they are absolutely killer, armed with great riffs played excellently, full of grit but with discernible songs amidst the filth. On other fronts, however, they are obviously still somewhat a work in progress. Frontman Robbe Andersson has charisma and a fearsome voice, but replicates Erik Danielsson’s stage moves a little too obviously, and the differing styles of their two records (one sounds like Autopsy, the second like Human-era Death) don’t mesh that well, hampering the atmosphere. But once they sort those issues out, on the evidence of tonight, they’ll positively slay.

It’s a curiously cautious start from the usually imperious Tom G. Warrior and co., but before you know it, Triptykon [8] are the destructive, twisted force they always have the potential to be. It’s a short set tonight, limited to just five songs (three Triptykon, two Celtic Frost classics), but even so they still manage to stoke up the fire of your spirit to the point you find yourself unknowingly shouting “SATAN! SAVIOUR! FATHER!” along with Tom G. And while this could have done with being devastatingly loud, rather than the borderline socially acceptable volume it is here, by the time 20-minute epic The Prolonging closes the set, the catharsis is mighty, and you’re probably about an inch and a half shorter from the sheer crushing weight of the riffs.

The best example of how nuts the crowd is for tonight’s headliners comes about midway through a truly ferocious rendition of Under A Serpent Sun when, Tomas Lindberg points the mic at the crowd, and the resulting chorus of “Stricken numb by fear I fall” could probably be heard back in At The Gates’ [9] home town of Gothenburg.

Even the most cynical jaded bastard would struggle to find reason to gripe about a show this good. For one, any heavy metal show where a flawless Slaughter Of The Soul (GO!) is the second song is going to be hard to fuck up. More importantly, there’s an honesty and integrity about At The Gates’ performance that is both hard to argue with and also eradicates any sense of divide between band and crowd. They may be a little greyer than in the ’90s but they still look, sound and act like a bunch of angry kids playing metal like they fucking need to. There’s a punk rock simplicity about the no-bullshit performance that, combined with those songs, the visible intensity from the musicians, and an immaculate musical delivery results in the At The Gates show London’s been waiting nearly two decades to see.