Review Summary: ....and back around we go...
What a difference twenty four years makes. Or maybe not. At least not if you are Dark Tranquillity, possibly the most consistent melodic death metal act in recent memory. After the release of 2010’s We Are The Void
, many felt that the band’s golden age was over, admirably lengthy though it was. An impressive winning streak had been in steady progress since the band’s inception in 1989, leading to eight surprisingly individual full-length releases being tucked snugly under the DT’s belt, so it seemed only logical that the flush would soon end. With their tenth release, however, the band have not only quashed these apprehensions, but have managed to methodically encapsulate, once again, the defining aura of the genre. This lightning in the band’s seemingly unbreakable bottle is all at once confrontational, excursive and highly melodic, and despite the fact it may not be as trailblazing as their earlier work, it is as abstruse a distillation of the band’s talent as anything they have released in the past decade.
As specific as the genre description seems, melodic death metal is a surprisingly expansive arena. Many bands implement a cordial melody into the main beef of the music to create a genre distinguishable from both death metal and standard melodic heavy metal, whereas others maintain a decidedly more death metal sound whilst incorporating more melody than is usual for other entries in the style. Dark Tranquillity compress the intensity of death metal into an accessible but uncompromising amalgamation of speed and expressive brutality. The melody is decidedly subtler, woven into the rich and deep tapestry of the music as a weave of very fine, but every-present stitching, holding the whole package together. Construct showcases the band’s defined style from the very outset with opening track 'For Broken Words', which serves as a prolonged introduction of sorts. It’s a little longer than it perhaps ought to be, but it sets the tone very well, with subtle instrumentals and suitably abrasive vocals that feel raw and yet fine in terms of the complete sound. This trend continues in tracks such as 'Apathetic', 'Weight Of The End' and 'Endtime Hearts' which focus caustic melodies under the thickness of the supplementary aggression, and in the process, both facets feel organic to the experience. The latter of these songs is a notable standout, featuring a more prominent melody and an suitably anthemic tone, particularly in the instrumental movements of the chorus.
On a few occasions, songwriting appears a little forced and underwhelming. On tracks such as 'The Science Of Noise' and 'What Only You Know' for example, the concrete foundations of the music appears to be uprooted somewhat and forced into a static and almost dangerously bland corner, and it is maybe in these instances where the title ‘Construct’ is most apt. ‘Construct’ can imply a number of things, but most dominant amongst these conveyed ideas (to me personally, at least) is that of a basic mainframe around which far greater and more impressive things can be based. In this manner, such songs as these seem to be ‘constructs’; basic, skeletal renditions of things that could be developed into something for more fulfilling. Despite this, none of the tracks on the album are without a certain hint of effort, and this alone renders them easier to like, particularly over songs found on previous release We Are The Void
. Track,'None Becoming' continue the band’s tradition of softer, more mellow compositions, and as usual, they work well, and in the context of the album they feel like a lucid segue into a more contemplative arena of the band’s work. It feels satisfying and almost abstract at the same time, but renders the collection as feeling more complete, home to more than one style that feels true to the band whilst still displaying variety.
Dark Tranquillity’s tenth release does not ascend, expand or progress. Rather, it peddles confidently, unloading a mixture of humbling anger and startlingly compelling songwriting, presenting the release as an interesting and altogether tenacious collection of tracks that may lack the memorable nature of some of the band’s other work, but by no means skimp on any of the band’s classic hallmarks. Embracing the understated nature of the band’s melodic content is key to appreciating their work, rather than for any explicit aural feature such as the brashness or the harsh vocals. The album’s true success, though, lies in the successful merging of all the individual aspects; the package is not particularly original, but it is very hard to deny that Dark Tranquillity do what they do very well. Aggressive soundscapes that contort into lumbering behemoths intent on ravaging eardrums with wistful tunes and resolute musical assault .The band have once again engineered melodic death metal into an accessible and easily defined album, which should satisfy long time listeners of the band, as well as being a perfectly agreeable introduction to the band.