We Are the Void
(Century Media) Enslain Magazine Issue 10 Despite the leading word of their name, Dark Tranquillity have possibly never before tread such a dark path as they do on We Are the Void. Mikael Stanne's voice reaches eerily close to undead screeching, and although the keyboards' higher-pitched chiming often removes the songs from total devastation, they sometimes place the music right back into the swamp-level, and there's a taste of dismal here that isn't immediately expected from a DT release. Though seemingly unfitting, this new-found direction is also accompanied by a large amount of soloing, crafty guitar harmonizing and interspliced leads. The speed is also at a highly active level, and contains a restless energy that's always filled with impressive guitarwork and Martin Brändstöm's characteristic keys and unique effects.
Straight from the opening track, the band present some of their most creative and uncharacteristic riffing, having an undeniable thrash influence accompanied by faster than usual drumming, and replicated by the soloing style on the track. Other thrashy bits and even momentary blast beats are also found, taking a dynamic turn towards mist-embraced melodicism in the chorus, and followed by the dual-harmonized solo. This much diversity has never been presented in a DT song, but especially, in an album. While Character had its own consistent "character", so to say, and Fiction showcased a small amount of these twists but in a more even-leveled fashion, We Are the Void creates a more exciting listen, offering unexpected yet highly appropriate elements to a mostly darker version of the sound they've been forging in the latter half of their career. With this attempt, they've taken one foot out of Gothenburg and placed it deeper into the universal flow, still painting the world with their colorful compositions, but expanding the palate.
While many songs really leave a puzzling initial impression in their extreme variation, there are still plenty of reliable tracks sounding not unlike they would have appeared on Fiction. And though having little in common with their works on Projector, this album does bring back a healthy dose of clean vocals on three separate tracks. With as wide-ranging and career-capturing as the record is in totality, it didn't come as much of a surprise that they'd also make use of this invaluable and underutilized vocal feature. Mikael's clean voice doesn't sound as unpracticed or awkward as perhaps it did earlier, and even shows a more careful and rich result than the short instances in Fiction. Instead, what we hear on songs like "Her Silent Language" is a deep gothic vocal, barely resembling his previous attempts at clean vocals, but still retaining the frailty and sensitivity.
With this song being the calmest, easiest and most traditional new offering, it's juxtaposed by the following track, the chilling "Archangelsk", whose chorus almost resembles horror music. The non-standard chord progressions they utilize here are rarely where you'd envision the chords to go, in that they follow more challenging patterns, yet the result is still easily lovable and darkly memorable. Finally, the album's longest track, the closing "Iridium", begins with the mistaken notion of being a tender piece with its inclusion of clean vocals and the gently strummed, undistorted opening riff, but doesn't let the listener go that easily, instead forcing a dark and depressive chorus, and finally ending with a sweet, yet despair-ridden melodic passage.
While seemingly thematic in its musical approach, the direction is a true departure from the happier tunes of brighter days, and still an advancement from the solid attempt they gave us on Fiction. Even considering all the unique new touches they've added, the album is still somewhat of a throwback to the more crushing albums of their past, and I could see some of their more recent fans losing them with this record. For that reason, it's particularly inspiring that a metal act who has achieved their beyond-the-underground status continues to take the respectable, more extreme, and musically challenging directions with each subsequent record. It's clear they have a never-ending growth as musicians, and because of their immensely sound vision, they manage not to sound experimentative even when incorporating previously unused techniques.
Dark Tranquillity almost single-handedly preserve my faith in the melodic death metal scene, proving over and over again how much delightful mood and layers of sound can exist within extreme songs without transforming them into unlistenable Care Bear anthems, and how much speed and ability can be present atop these melodies without sounding forced or spoiling the harmonic balance.
(Century Media) Enslain Magazine Issue #6 With an opening as catchy as "FreeCard," a melodically hypnotizing track with glue-like tendencies, "Projector" instantly promises to be an amazing release. The sound is of the typical Gothenburg sound, rather upbeat and rich of sound, but a few things set them apart. There is a good deal of pianic pieces intervened throughout the songs that set the songs more apart from each other. Also, vocalist Mikael Stanne's variating between understandable growling and Moonspell-ish but higher pitched emotionally sung parts is truly an identifying factor of their sound. Every song really holds its own on this strong release, which is increasingly uncommon in this field of music.
-- Lady Enslain