At the Gates’ Tomas Lindberg Thinks World Will Be Better When Today’s Young Adults Take Charge
For this record, Lindberg dove deep into pessimist philosophy, spurred by reading The Conspiracy Against the Human Race, a book that was recommended to him by his bandmate, guitarist Martin Larsson.
The real challenge in making this record was not simply gaining an understanding of this philosophical concept, but finding innovative ways to marry the lyrics with the music and artwork to make The Nightmare of Being a fully-realized theme.
It's a challenge the band fully welcomes as they also opened up their sound to include orchestration and producer Andy LaRocque, who plays guitar in King Diamond, helped At the Gates balance these elements in the recording process.
Elswhere, Lindberg talked about the rewarding aspect of his day job as a high school teacher, and explained how he feels hopeful about the future amid his day-to-day interactions with young adults. He even feels the world will be a better place once they grow up more and enter positions of power.
Read the full interview below.
The Nightmare of Being incorporates a musicality that's somewhat prog and even a bit orchestral. How has maturing as musicians increase your willingness to further develop?
In general, At The Gates has always been about stretching borders, being curious and challenging ourselves and the listeners, especially in the early days when we were full on death metal/prog.
Now, maturity in songwriting and ultimately musicianship helps us dare to take these steps. We always had these influences, but now we're more sure of what the base of At The Gates is — we shouldn't stray too far from it, but that security makes it easier to experiment a little bit within those boundaries.
Lyrically, The Nightmare of Being explores pessimist philosophy. What piqued that interest, particularly over the course of the last couple of years?
I always have my eyes and ears peeled for different ideas for concepts for songs or albums. I had a few notes laying around here and there, but it usually ends up happening when someone hands me a book [and says], "Read this."
Martin gave me this book by Thomas Ligotti, The Conspiracy Against the Human Race and that one is kind of like an essay written more as an introduction to pessimist philosophy and it got me intrigued. I realized I don't know much about this philosophy at all and exploring it like a curious reader, not to be convinced, but more out of curiosity, I found that a lot of stuff actually resonated with me and was kind of useful for me as a person. It's also like a great concept for a death metal record — the despair of the human soul is perfect death metal material.
At the Gates, "The Paradox" Music Video
This new album is philosophically elaborate. What was most challenging and exhilarating about pairing such a concept with suitable music?
Since we started this more conceptual yearning for each album, the challenge is always to make the music and the lyrics meet. We have really nerdy, philosophical discussions about it — which kind of emotions are we looking to express musically and lyrically and how can we weave those together, also with the cover art, to create like a whole piece of art that feels important to us and the listeners.
It's always the challenge to have this one concept go through all the different aspects of our art.
You are a high school teacher by day. How is your worldview and therefore your lyrics affected by the questions and concerns of the generation of your students?
Working as a teacher with young adults, it gives you a little bit of hope. They're curious and they know all about source-checking and stuff like that.
The world would be in better hands when they take charge instead of us.
It actually gives me some hope and it's a great pleasure every day to come home and [realize] you inspired people to reach a little bit beyond the horizon to search for new stuff. That the most rewarding work I can ever think of. It's not for the weak hearted — it's a lot of stress, but it actually gives you more hope and I'm more positive working with young adults.
At the Gates, "Spectre of Extinction" (feat. Andy LaRocque) Music Video
Andy LaRocque from King Diamond was very involved with making the new album. How has his particular musical sensibility enhanced the end result?
We went to Andy, who has become a close friend of ours, and he would present the tools for us to make every detail shine through. We have a lot of intricate guitar playing and he has the kind of ear to understand how to record these things and how to play them so they shine through all the different layers of the music.
He plays on one song ["Spectre of Extinction"] and he's a great, talented guitar player, but he also has this emotional tone in his playing that fits perfectly with our writing style. It was super great to work with him on his record.
Thanks to Tomas Lindberg for the interview. Get your copy of At the Gates' 'The Nightmare of Being' here and follow the band on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Spotify. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show here.