Review Summary: Dark Tranquillity combine brutal death metal with melodic guitar solos and atmospheric keyboards, blending into a unique brand of metal. The founders of the Gothenburg scene have expanded their wings with every release and culminated on this honest-to-god
We live in a world of clones. Take fastfood restaurants for example. Every US mall I've been to has a motley assortment of fastfood places, all insanely similar to each other, all built from the same mould, copying off each other and trying to walk away without looking like a shifty handbag thief. But for these clones to exist, you must have an ancestral copy. One that defines the whole segment, the whole entity, in this case a musical genre. And Dark Tranquillity is just such one band.
Their 2005 offering Character is exactly the release you would want from such a veteran band. Together with countrymen In Flames and At The Gates, they took the death metal school, injected some Iron Maiden influences, and in DT's case, keyboards, provided a more melodic setting for the brutal death metal sound, and on each release they took this genre to the next step. Now they have come to their masterpiece, Character, and it is almost impossible to ask where a band goes from such a release. This release is melodeath perfection.
The guitars are in top-notch form. The intro to Dry Run for example contains some soloing and shredding to prove these guys can go with the best of them. The riffs are brutal, in your face, upbeat, designed to make the wall of noise from which the melodic keyboards and guitar solos descend to shape and colour the brick wall the riffs forge. The bass and drums solidly underline and cement the bricks of riffs together, while at the end Mikael Stanne's harsh grunt vocals come blasting through it all again just to make a different wall, with different colours, but no less impressive, and no less monstrous. It is a New Build so to speak, for the Treason Wall this band has created over the years.
My personal favourite song is the sledgehammer track Lost To Apathy. It is just one of those culminating songs, the wall of music as I described. It has those fierce, brutal, unrelenting vocals, beautiful melodic solo parts and keyboard harmonies, blast beats and double bass drumming that would make Lombardo himself look up in awe (and it's not just this track: The New Build features some drum moments that wipe the floor with any aspiring competition), and riffs the old masters could never come up with. Heavy, aggressive, melodic yet brutal: this song captures a fine band at the peak of their musicianship and quality.
Through Smudged Lenses has an intro riff that makes me want to bow down and fall on my knees before these Swedish metal gods. Its brutality just tears anything to shreds in its way, and before anyone cares to shout out that it's just mindless bashing of instruments, the song finally ends up in a bit of a slower tempo, but no less melodic. However, that intro riff is simply what got me into this band. Dark Tranquillity are indeed a powerful and unique entity in a world of clones.
But what sets these men even further apart from the other longtime veterans of the genre, In Flames, is their longtime dedication to their music and the fact that their discography has been consistently high quality throughout. Instead of hitting home on their first attempt, like In Flames did with "The Jester Race", the band has slowly built up their career. Every release was an experiment, every new album featured new grounds the band had never trodden before. They got better with each release, rather than worse, and that is why this band will always be the best band to represent the Gothenburg sound. They remained true to their music, true to their fans, and that is what the profession is all about.
What remains to say is that this is a defining album and a pillar of the Gothenburg sound and one of the best bands floating around in the genre. This band has shaped the music, molded it, and put their own big signature stamp on it, and at the end of the day Dark Tranquillity have released an album of such immense proportions that it becomes hard to determine how in the hell they are going to beat this record. It is one beast of a disc, recommended for any metal fan that prefers the dark side of the genre a little more. A must have.