Review Summary: An absolute gem of the nineties. Anyone who likes their death metal melodic and loud should pay this some attention
Ask anyone who knows their death metal and they will tell you that 1995 was not only the rise of melodic death metal, but the rise of “The Gothenburg Sound” with bands such as At the Gates and In Flames releasing some of the best the genre has to offer. While In Flames went on to become international stars in the genre and At the Gates decided, controversially to split, Dark Tranquillity plugged on to become a reliable, if somewhat repetitive act until “Damage Done” was released 7 years later. Nonetheless, this little known (at the time at least) group of musicians produced, with their second full length an absolute classic of death metal, one that combines melody and brutality in equal measure to devastating effect.
The key to any effective melodic death metal release is melody, and this is something that “The Gallery” delivers by the bucket load. Right from the frantic opening leads of “Punish My Heaven” to the final, sombre acoustics of “...Of Melancholy Burning” the album never lets up in its intensity, nor does it slow down enough for the listener to digest the subject matter. For once, Anders Jivarp delivers a truly stellar performance from his stool producing rapid fills and great blasts on the double bass to drive the songs along with Niklas Sundin and Martin Henriksson’s incredible leads. There is also a lack of keyboards (Martin Brandstrom joined in 1998) and it is simply refreshing to hear the genre being represented by nothing but pure guitar riffs, without divulging into keyboard experimentation.
“The Gallery” also offers up one or two unexpected twists and turns along the way; during the fantastic opener, Stanne breaks into new territory and adds a lot more emphasis upon his clean vocals than on later releases, and the inclusion of female operatics in the title track offer a nice, welcome break from the onslaught before it. However, the stellar instrumentation simply does not end with the guitars. The bass is clearly heard in many songs yet is not overpowering like on Opeth’s earliest releases, and Mikael Stanne offers a fantastic input on the vocals. As well as his considerable efforts on the clean vocals, his growls sound top-notch on here, and the occasional demonic shriek, like on “The One Brooding Warning” and “The Dividing Line” is refreshing to hear. The lyrical content here isn’t too bad either, but the way it is delivered really sells the record.
When all of the aforementioned techniques come together, the result is truly astonishing. “Punish My Heaven” establishes the tone for the whole album, and “The One Brooding Warning” consolidates the overall sound. Considering that this is only 6 measly years into the bands career, it is truly revolutionary to hear such fresh ideas being put onto a record, and being played so consistently without them ever becoming tedious. Sundin and Henriksson never seem to play the same riff all the way through a song, Jivarp varies from thrash style drumming to jazz-infected tinkles over the cymbals and the raw emotion behind Stanne’s vocals come together to produce a fantastic listen, which only becomes better with repeated listens. None of the aforementioned ever sounds forced or laboured; it just sounds like 5 musicians pouring their heart and soul into something they truly believe in, and what more can you ask for in a record?
“The Gallery” is truly a benchmark in the genre. The songs presented are melody driven, yet still pack enough of a punch to ensure you will come back for more, the variations in vocal styles and guitar leads sound nothing but fresh and exciting, and the rhythm sections drive the record along at enough of a pace to ensure no song wallows in a sea of mediocrity. For those who have not listened to the band or the genre in general yet wish to do so, you really cannot find much of a better place to start. Highly recommended
1. Punish My Heaven
2. Silence, and the Firmament Withdrew
3. The Gallery
4. The One Brooding Warning