Although now being marketed as an EP – and there’s nothing wrong with that, don’t get me wrong – Gardens of Grief was actually recorded originally in 1991 by At the Gates as a ‘mere’ demo, and committed to tape only four months after the band had got together at that.
Fans who came to the band only when they’d hit their melodeath/Gothenburg stride on later albums like Slaughter of the Soul and didn’t have the patience to work backwards may be surprised by the sound this then-nascent band were churning out at their career outset, but I have to say I actually prefer the sonics and generally more grimy attitude to be found on Gardens of Grief.
All four tracks here are ripsnorting corkers, of course, and all have more in common, largely, with compatriots like Entombed than they do with what the band became. Production is basic at best, giving full vent to the sheer brutality of the axes of Anders Björler and Alf Svensson, and giving plenty of space for the already impressive Adrian Erlandsson to, well… impress.
City of Screaming Statues features some well-placed creepy synths, but apart from that what you have here is just some gloriously basic, deadeyed death metal that, if it doesn’t hint at the streamlined leviathan that was on the way, still furnishes the listener with some very high quality old school tuneage.
At the Gates’ Gardens of Grief will be reissued on April 13th through Dissonance Productions.