DB HOF No. 116
The making of At the Gates’ “The Red in the Sky Is Ours”
released: July 27, 1992
Slaughter of the Soul is arguably one of the best death metal records of the modern era. Genuine classics like “Suicide Nation,” “Slaughter of the Soul,” “Blinded by Fear” and “Under a Serpent Sun” call our neck and brain to action. By 1995, At the Gates were, to some degree, Slayer with a message. But it didn’t start there. The band’s pinnacle statement—Decibel inducted Slaughter of the Soul into the Hall of Fame waaaaaay back in issue #5—wouldn’t have been possible had they not started out brilliantly, bizarrely with The Red in the Sky Is Ours. Now, arguments can be made that At the Gates transformed into its present form with Terminal Spirit Disease, but the foundation, the ambition, the musical vision, the unflinching ability to weather self-wrought storms began with The Red in the Sky Is Ours. The product of five young Gothenburgers, At the Gates’ debut was uniquely unique.
The Gardens of Grief demo provided a glimpse of At the Gates to come. That four-tracker spearheaded a movement, actually. It was aggressive, complex and melodic—pillars of what would be the New Wave of Swedish Death Metal. By the time the Swedes entered ART Studios in November 1991 to record The Red in the Sky Is Ours, they were a different band. The songwriting had matured, gotten stranger; the lyrics grown more sophisticated; and even the logo—altered and improved by guitarist/songwriter Alf Svensson—looked cooler, a subtle knock on the Holy Trinity.
The difference between At the Gates and their peers far away in Stockholm was profound, actually. While Entombed, Unleashed and Dismember were already on their second full-lengths (Dismember were mid-stream with the Pieces EP) and out in the world touring by 1992, At the Gates represented a musical shift. Not content with the standard offerings—mostly structural and presentational—of the day, they found enlightenment in varied forms such as classical music, early black metal, progressive rock, folk music and jazz. Fused into classic death metal (Autopsy, Morbid Angel) and hardcore/punk, the unlikely pairing of disparate styles created something new.
While the recording (the first and last for producer Hans Hall) is of particular note—there’s an eerie and unprecedented translucence to how the songs are presented—it’s the music that deserves to be heralded. Even at ripe age of 22 years, songs like “Through Gardens of Grief” and “Night Comes, Blood Black” haven’t withered. Rather, they sound alive, wide-eyed and raging. Really, no band since has tried to replicate the Red in the Sky-stage At the Gates sound. Alien and awesome in 1992. Alien and awesome now. The Red in the Sky Is Ours’ place in the great Hall is much deserved.
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