Review Summary: A Harmonious Balance of Light and Dark
Dark Tranquillity is one of the most influential death metal bands in existence. Since their inception, their sound has been a huge influence on modern bands and it's not hard to see why. The band's 1998 opus "Projector", continues their trend of releasing excellent material with each successive release. This is probably their most experimental album and yet one of their simplest in terms of composition complexity. light and dark, quiet and rage, shadows and clarity, the album plays on contrasting extremes. Simple riffs arranged with great taste, build the backbone of an album that doesn't really have low points. The clean vocals were introduced for the first time in DT's career and they are never too overwhelming, this contributes to keeping the mix of death metal & heavy metal & experimental music on the heavy side of the spectrum while retaining a certain "catchiness". The same is said for the effects and electronics, a welcome change that creates atmospheres ranging from solitude to energetic to quiet. "ThereIn" is probably the most well-known song, however all of the first five songs all equally great, the peak of DT's experimentation.
"Undo Control" is to me the sum of the philosophy behind this album: a kind, quiet, lovely yet sad female voice enters over a semi-syncopated arpeggio before being interrupted by Stanne's furious growl over a simple 2-chord chorus, the song moves on fusing simple yet effective electric rendition of the arpeggio with growling vocals before changing to clean vocals. "Nether Novas" follows the same principle, albeit in a different way and with a more complex structure.
The experimentation that marked this album is a breath of fresh air in a crowded death metal scene. Dark Tranquillity has always been one of the few death metal bands that have tried to push boundaries and create something fresh.
The most common criticism moved to this album is that it is not a death metal album, possibly not even a "full" metal album. The differences with the prior releases from DT are so stark that the album is possibly not completely "accessible" to the average death metal fan. The point is: this is not an album for the average death metal fan. There is nothing here that is voluntarily "br00tal" or hard-hitting, rather than that most of the impact the music conveys is through contrasts of emotions and atmospheres.
This was possibly the peak of DT's experimentation as it goes in different directions all at once (a little bit electronic here, a little bit gothic/dark there, a little bit melodic heavy metal here again) thanks to the simple -almost bare bones, in some instances- riffing without relying on one thing only to keep the attention of the listener high. DT never really replicated this degree of experimentation in their music and their follow-up efforts always had one "preeminent" element to make them stand out in the band's discography (the electronics in "Haven", the complex riffing in "Character", the directness of "Damage Done"), and you know what? That is ok. Following up on the same path would have made this album less unique. When DT tried again to balance carefully some elements of their sound the result was the other masterpiece that is "Fiction", which I effectively consider the spiritual follow-up to this album.