Dark Tranquillity
Atoma


3.0
good

Review

by Jacquibim STAFF
October 30th, 2016 | 379 replies


Release Date: 2016 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Atoma might be competent, but it fails to inspire.

Atoma is a bittersweet ordeal for me. It’s the album with which Dark Tranquillity have finally solidified their pop-tinged style and ironed out the creases, with the hitches of We Are the Void now a distant memory. As someone who once worshipped the ground this band walked upon, it’s personally gratifying to see them fulfil their ambitions, but at the same time, Atoma completes their migration away from the riff-centric approach that made me fall in love with them in the first place. As a consequence, refusing to allow my own sentimentalities to colour my impression of this record is nigh-on impossible.

Front man Mikael Stanne has more-or-less become the “star” of the show; his warm, baritone voice is now fit to lead proceedings in combination with that trademark snarl, and he scarcely misses an opportunity to put one or the other to good use. I suppose this comes as no real surprise, because he’s developed into a genuinely accomplished singer – the untrained vocal melodies of “The Mundane and The Magic” sounding almost parody-esque in retrospect. However some of his choices as to when either technique is utilised still raise an eyebrow from time to time. “Faithless by Default” is a dynamic little tune with a handful of soft, keyboard-laden sections that would’ve greatly benefitted from some of Stanne’s crooning on top. However, he elects to growl in a way that is neither aggressive nor subdued, coming across as rather feeble as opposed to menacing.

Notwithstanding some grievances, Atoma’s atmosphere is still quite palpable. The instrumentation coalesces in a way that is harmonically rich yet subtle in its presentation, compelling you to savour the fleeting moments in which glints of hope manage to overcome the ever-present sense of melancholia. The problem is that while Dark Tranquillity are supremely adept at conjuring this very specific setting, on Atoma, they do little else. Variety between songs is sorely lacking, whether it be in terms of mood or structure. Of course, it would be a little short-sighted of me to lambaste the band for writing songs in a strict verse/chorus format with homogeneous run times, as they’ve been embracing pop-sensibilities for eons at this point. It’s simply that never before has their process felt so one-dimensional, which is especially ironic given that no song on this album is as immediate or magnetic as say, “State of Trust” from Construct.

Despite the inherent accessibility and predictability of Atoma’s material, songs tend to blend into one another as if they’re entirely cut from the same cloth. The production style that helps evoke such a tangible atmosphere also has the knock-on effect of sapping what character is left from many of the songs. Leads that could otherwise distinguish cuts like the title-track, “Forward Momentum”, “The Pitiless” and “Caves and Embers” are buried beneath a smorgasbord of synth lines, keyboards and stacked rhythm guitars. That said, peppered throughout Atoma are little tokens of brilliance; “Our Proof of Life” has a delightful lick that leads into the song’s chorus, though it begs to be expanded upon despite being consigned to a mere transition. As one of the few tracks to somewhat deviate from the compositional norm, “Force of Hand” also helps lift the album the doldrums with a brief yet impactful solo to go with its comparatively mild riffage.

As arguably the album’s heaviest number, “Neutrality” reminds us that these Swedes still know their way around a riff, but I can’t help but get the impression that the reason it stands out is more due to the faintness of what surrounds it. Had it appeared on Damage Done or Fiction, it would have been put to shame by songs like “Monochromatic Stains” or “Icipher”, respectively. “Clearing Skies” is another example a song flattered by its company, containing an infectious, palm-muted, head-banging bridge that beckons for the arrival of something fierce. Unfortunately, when that “something” is just a cyclical reprise, it’s difficult not to be underwhelmed, but you end up subconsciously elevating the minor triumphs due to following material being no stronger.

Atoma still achieves everything it needs to, but my reservation comes from it barely striving for anything higher than par. This is most evident in its lack of “statement song”, for want of a better term – something that I can truly marvel at. Character had “Lost to Apathy”, Fiction had “Inside the Particle Storm”, We Are the Void had “Iridium” and – hell – even Construct had “None Becoming”. Atoma might be competent, but it fails to inspire. Perhaps Mikael Stanne said it best in the lyrics to “Clearing Skies”.

“[Dark Tranquillity], you’re better than this, I know”.




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Comments:Add a Comment 
Jacquibim
Staff Reviewer
October 30th 2016


1779 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

The most consistently "good-not-great" album ever made.



Edit: Forgot birb video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbmZgIV2ha4



Call me gay in the comments below.



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Kusangii
October 30th 2016


1456 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Found myself bored way too often by this. I guess it's an entertaining listen if you don't mind the calmer side of DT but this really wasn't my cup of tea at all. Kinda hard to believe they described this album as riff-oriented too.

BigPleb
October 30th 2016


50352 Comments


Upsetting news :/

EvoHavok
October 30th 2016


6874 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Nice read. I liked the album significantly more, so hoping for some positive review in the coming weeks, heh.

Digging: The Birthday Massacre - Under Your Spell

jesterhead92
October 30th 2016


3300 Comments


Isn't Ulcerate 3/5

Maco097
October 30th 2016


2285 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

So I can guess that this is just like Construct.

jesterhead92
October 30th 2016


3300 Comments


Really can't wait to hear this though, getting mine tomorrow.

Crysis
Emeritus
October 30th 2016


17231 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i like this a bit more than you but this review reflects my thoughts on this record exactly. it's mostly good, at times great, with only two or three songs that are great throughout.



As someone who once worshipped the ground this band walked upon, it’s personally gratifying to see them fulfil their ambitions, but at the same time, Atoma completes their migration away from the riff-centric approach that made me fall in love with them in the first place.




This is the perfect summation of my feelings really. I need more riffs to give this more than a 3.5. They need to calm the fuck down with the keyboards.

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
October 30th 2016


7463 Comments


I need more riffs

That's exactly why I left the band after The Mind's I, even though I learnt to appreciate some of the albums that followed.

Willie
Moderator
October 30th 2016


17096 Comments

Album Rating: 3.4 | Sound Off

The keyboard-centric albums are my favorite DT albums (Projector, Construct, Damage Done), but this isn't extremely appealing to me either. I'm wonder which type of DT fan will end up being the most attracted to this album.

Digging: Tuesday The Sky - Drift

EvoHavok
October 30th 2016


6874 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

It seems only me so far.

jesterhead92
October 30th 2016


3300 Comments


I'm predicting that I'm going to love it, all the singles are great.

jesterhead92
October 30th 2016


3300 Comments


DT bros for life Evo!!!

EvoHavok
October 30th 2016


6874 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Sure thing ;)!

I probably listen to gothic metal way more often than most DT fans so the atmospheric style appeals to me in a different way. I definitely dig the use and sound of the keyboards on this album, certainly a highlight.

Hellscythe
October 30th 2016


1862 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I probably listen to gothic metal way more often than most DT fans so the atmospheric style appeals to me in a different way [2]

I've loved the singles so far for that very reason, really dig the spacey/gothic vibe they're going for.

Digging: Hundredth - Rare

Jom
Staff Reviewer
October 30th 2016


2980 Comments


Terrific write-up. Haven't had a chance to listen yet, but it sounds like they're splitting the difference between Katatonia and Soilwork thematically?

Jacquibim
Staff Reviewer
October 30th 2016


1779 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Thanks guys.



"Kinda hard to believe they described this album as riff-oriented too."



Indeed, even "Apathetic" from Construct goes harder than anything here.



"it sounds like they're splitting the difference between Katatonia and Soilwork thematically?"



Imagine a combo of those two with Depeche Mode vocals and that's actually pretty spot on.



Also are you still planning on reviewing this, Crysis?

EvoHavok
October 30th 2016


6874 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

It was sort of a misstep from them to label it as riff-oriented. I never bought into that much, but I imagine the hype it must've created for some.

jesterhead92
October 30th 2016


3300 Comments


To be fair they said they were writing a lot of riffs like a year ago, a lot can change in that time.

Crysis
Emeritus
October 30th 2016


17231 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Also are you still planning on reviewing this, Crysis?




I might, but tbh I would end up echoing many of your points.



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