At the Gates, Decapitated, The Haunted, Harm's Way February 18, House of Blues.
At the Gates might be one of the most influential metal bands of the past 20 years, but they’re certainly not one of the biggest. That was made evident last Thursday at the Swedes’ first-ever Las Vegas show.
With the House of Blues’ bottom level half-empty, the reunited melodic death-metal outfit drew a fraction of the fans some of the modern bands they’ve directly and indirectly inspired typically muster. At the Gates didn’t let the room’s sparseness affect a 75-minute performance featuring a near-even split of material from 2014’s At War With Reality and 1995’s landmark Slaughter of the Soul. Vocalist Tomas Lindberg proved a masterful showman, racing across the stage while providing cymbal fills and galvanizing circle pits between snarling his uncommonly intelligible lyrics.
If headbanging were an Olympic sport, support act Decapitated would make its native Poland a favorite to win the gold medal. A hurricane of hair added to the visual appeal of the band’s fast-paced death metal, which sounded like evil incarnate behind the dizzying guitar solos of “Voog” Kieltyka and the menacing growl of “Rasta” Piotrowski. Sweden’s The Haunted, which shares two members of At the Gates pulling nightly double-duty on this tour, was similarly entertaining. Their trash-metal greeted the majority of arriving fans, most of whom rushed straight toward the barricade. And bruising Chicago hardcore act Harm’s Way took the brunt of the small turnout as it wrapped up its set three minutes before the 6:30 p.m. start time printed on tickets. Their perpetual breakdowns failed to register with an audience of mostly security guards and bartenders.
At the Gates manufactured a few special moments during which the entire room seemed to connect on a transcendent level, namely during Slaughter cuts “Suicide Nation” and “Under a Serpent Sun.” But there weren’t enough of those experiences to really mourn the lack of a larger crowd.