Review Summary: Niklas Sundin's second solo release brings back the metal, but not in the way you might assume.
When Niklas Sundin announced in March that he was leaving Dark Tranquillity to focus on his own music (and tour less), he should have emphasized the word ‘focus’. By the time he announced his departure from the band, he had already released the first Mitochondrial Sun album, but apparently that wasn’t enough. Nine months later and Niklas is already back with his second Mitochondrial Sun release, Sju Pulsarer
– talk about focus. If Niklas’ self-titled debut shocked fans with its subdued electronic nature and total lack of metal, Sju Pulsarer
is going to shock them again with its complete one-eighty.
The first album under the Mitochondrial Sun moniker was a collection of subdued, electro-ambient soundscapes that was only recognizable as a Niklas Sundin release due to some familiar tones; there was definitely no metal to be found. Of course, It would stand to reason that a second Mitochondrial Sun album – especially one coming so soon after the first -- would be fairly similar, but you’d be wrong. Sju Pulsarer
still has some electronic influences and the music could still be described as ‘soundscapes’, but that’s where the similarities end. The foundation of Sju Pulsarer
is black metal guitar riffs and relentless programmed percussion. Over this bed of chaos is the electro-ambient melodies that made up the entirety of the first album. The coolest thing about that mashup is that it actually works very well.
The problem, if there is one to be had, is that each song sounds way too similar due to the very homogenous drum patterns and tempos. This coupled with the complete lack of vocals makes the entire album blend together; with individual tracks being near-impossible to pick out even after a dozen listens. Fortunately, the quality of every other musical element, combined with the brief twenty-eight-minute runtime make the linearity of the whole thing almost a non-issue. If there is one song I would point to as the one to hear, it would be “Pulsar 2”. It, too, features a blasting black metal beat but it also has one of the most prominent lead guitar pieces, as well as clean guitar and subdued keyboards in the background.
One of my favorite things about the modern Dark Tranquillity sound has been the electronics and the solid melodic elements, and Niklas still brings those elements here. Despite the similar nature of every song due to the very basic drum patterns and lack of vocals, the juxtaposition between the chaotic black metal and electro-ambient elements combined with the finely crafted melodies and atmospheres makes Sju Pulsarer
well worth hearing.