Review Summary: Another strong release from Dark Tranquillity, continuing the style of Fiction and We Are the Void
Dark Tranquillity has never released a bad album. Sure, they've gone through a few stylistic changes throughout their 20+ year career, but what group with artistic integrity hasn't? There may have been a few disappointments along the way, but Dark Tranquillity has always made it clear that they are a band that will move in the musical direction of their choosing. If nothing else we can give Dark Tranquillity credit for being the one band out of the Gothenburg Three that has retained full credibility in the metal world, what with In Flames selling out to the angsty American teen crowd and At the Gates milking their fans for all they're worth with their extended reunion tours…Dark Tranquillity has always stayed true to their genre and their fans, putting out solid music for more than two decades.
2013's Construct showcases a continuation of the style introduced on the excellent 2007 release Fiction and their 2010 follow-up We Are the Void. Clean vocals are present once again, being featured partially on three of the ten tracks. Keyboards are also given more presence on this release compared to the last two albums, which might have something to do with keyboardist Martin Brändström taking the position of primary songwriter alongside Niklas Sundin.
I was a little worried when I put on the album and heard the opening track, “For Broken Words”. Dark Tranquillity has a habit of opening with one of the album’s best songs. This is not the case on Construct. The song is not bad, but nothing about it stands out. The song is difficult to remember, even after repeated listens. I had no need to worry. Where Construct really shines is during tracks 2-7, six excellent songs that are destined to be fan favorites for years to come. “The Science of Noise” and “The Silence in Between” are hands down the two best songs on the album. Interestingly enough, these two tracks were the only musical contribution from Martin Henriksson, one of the primary songwriters from Fiction and We Are the Void. Both feature excellent melodic guitar work, powerful lyrics, and a strong vocal delivery by Stanne. I would go as far as to say that “The Silence in Between” has the best chorus Dark Tranquillity has ever written. “Uniformity” is also excellent, although the song seems too short. At 5:30, this is the longest track on the album, but the song would have benefited from having another chorus added to the end of it (and resolving to the root note on the last line of the chorus!).
The two heaviest tracks on the album are “Apathetic” and “Endtime Hearts”, both written by Niklas Sundin. These songs feature fast tempo guitar riffage and excellent vocal delivery from Stanne. Both songs have a melodic but laughably brief guitar solo in the middle, brief to the point of making you wonder why they are even there. “Apathetic” has some uncreative lyrics, but the excellent music and the powerful vocal delivery make up for that shortcoming.
The album starts to slow down during its second half. “Weight of the End” is best described as boring, dragging on without purpose for almost five minutes. It does have an interesting instrumental part for about the last 50 seconds of the song; this should have been removed from the song and expanded upon. Album closer “None Becoming” features an interesting keyboard melody, but ends abruptly and leaves you wanting more (not in a good way).
I do have to note one more glaring issue I found with this album. Mikael Stanne's clean vocals. Stanne is an excellent clean vocalist, and has demonstrated his skill on past songs "Auctioned" from Projector, and, more recently, "Misery's Crown" from Fiction. The clean vocals on Construct are mediocre. "State of Trust", the weakest track on the album, is the song where clean vocals are present most. It features clearly processed vocals delivered unemotionally by Stanne. The same holds true for "What You Only Knew", although the song has a strong musical performance and features powerful lyrics. The only spot where the clean vocals work on this album are during the chorus of "Uniformity", one of the album's best tracks.
All in all, this is another strong release from Dark Tranquillity. It has its flaws, but it stands as a worthy successor to We Are the Void and Fiction.
Album highlights: "The Silence in Between", "Uniformity", "The Science of Noise"