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Dark Tranquility - Construct

[27th May 2013]
[Century Media]

01. For Broken Words
02. The Science Of Noise
03. Uniformity
04. The Silence In Between
05. Apathetic
06. What Only You Know
07. Endtime Hearts
08. State Of Trust
09. Weight Of The End
10. None Becoming
11. Inmemmorial (Bonus Track)
12. Photon Dreams (Bonus Track)

Melodic death metal is a genre that ticks many appealing boxes when considering the diversity of the music: there are beautiful melodies, powerful riffs, aggressive breaks, atmospheric keys and a varied range of vocal styles. Of the many bands that fall under this banner, Dark Tranquillity are one band who tend to stick. Why is this? The answer is simple: this band is one of the few that has managed to be consistently great throughout their entire career. So far there has not been one majorly disappointing album. Sure, some albums are better than others, however it would be difficult to name a “worst Dark Tranquility album” – they all have their merits.

Construct was released earlier this year and is considered to be yet another pillar of the band’s illustrious career. Whenever  the phrase “New Album” is uttered, especially from veterans like Dark Tranquillity, it is not uncommon to feel that familiar sense of fear. Will it be terrible? Usually it is only a matter of time before a band as consistently excellent as DT fall from grace. When will be their equivalent of Load or Reload, or, dare I say it, Dark Tranquility’s St. Anger? Well that time is not yet upon us; the success of this album has been quite a triumph considering the past few months this band has had, with a major tour cancellation and the loss of their bassist of 5 years, Daniel Antonsson.

“For Broken Words” eases us into it with a fairly relaxed introductory phrase before erupting into a melodic tremolo riff with an oddly timed beat. The signature style seeps through their music, however; regardless of what direction they take. Mikael Stanne’s vocals, as harsh and scratchy as ever, add that familiar dark, industrial-esque sense to the music that we know so well. This song appears to be one of the more chilled tunes, filled with atmospheric synth parts and slow, chugging rhythms. There isn’t too much all-out brutality here, but that’s not what these guys are known for. We are being eased into it. While this isn’t the best song for use as an introduction to an album, it is certainly not a bad song.

“The Science of Noise” adds a bit more power to the mix, with some dark melodies and some all round outstanding riffs. Part of what makes DT the towering behemoths that they are is their unmatched riff-weaving skill. They can CONSTRUCT (HA HA HA LOOK WHAT I DID) layers of sound comprised of vicious rhythms and marvellous harmonies, without falling into the overused cliches that are present in most metalcore these days. The lead parts, while not overly technical, never fail to create inspired patterns and flows which really bring out the “melo” in “melodeath”. This lead work, handled by Martin Henriksson (who also played bass on this record) and long time riff lord Niklas Sundin, is definitely what helps make DT who they are. They are not held back by a need to be overly technical, nor are they thoroughly focused on creating soulful jams – there is a fluid, evolving mixture of the two styles and much more.

The single “Uniformity” is another fairly relaxed take on the DT sound. The clean sung chorus is very chill, and the rest of the song follows this kind of theme – not so much that it can be considered a “soft” song, but there is certainly no balls out metal going on here. I agree with Chris that it is a definite break from their usual style, but like the man said: they have been going for 24 years and have had 10 studio albums, so this is to be expected from time to time. It is tasteful and atmospheric; the main riff, which is a slow, lonesome sounding melody and the piano parts help craft this song into something which could be considered “dark” and “tranquil”. Oh. OH! THAT’S WHAT THEY’RE DOING. It all makes sense now.

The Silence In Between” has the feel of a song from Character or Damage Done. It’s got more of a driving beat; more of an aggressive atmosphere. There is still that melody that we come to expect from these guys, but here we see a return to the groovy, chugging riffs. They construct intricate tapestries, with extraordinary attention to detail; each musical phrase has a part to play. It is this attention to detail that has kept these masterworkers from going stale, while many of their contemporaries have.

Some would criticise the direction DT are heading in – several other blogs have asked questions like; “Is this Dark Tranquillity’s Sounds Of A Playground Fading?” and “have they become a sterile, modern death metal band?”. In retrospect, this album doesn’t quite have the hard-hitting power that some of their other releases have. Classic albums like The Gallery leave you in a state of wonder and bliss at having heard such a masterpiece. Modern classic albums like Character leave you feeling excited after hearing such godlike mastery over sound. How do you feel after listening to this album? Sure, you think “That was good!”, but are not as thoroughly electrified as previous albums. There is a certain, noticeable lack of energy. We Are The Void received a lot of criticism upon its release, and this album certainly feels like a follow-up to that one. Perhaps it is a little sterile. Perhaps the creative spark is not as obvious in this album…but it is certainly still there. Can you say that for the likes of In Flames these days?

This album is a brilliant effort. It is good to know that these guys have retained that which many veteran bands have lost over the years – genuine creativity; while they may receive some negative feedback for the overall mellow feel that the album puts forward, it doesn’t fall into the “boring” or “uninspired” bracket. While the stronger songs are obvious, there is definitely no song on this release that could be considered “terrible”, nor one that even falls into the category of simply “OK”. It is no masterpiece, but it is no failure – not in the slightest. This may be a contender for my top 10 albums of the year. It is not a number 1, but we shall see what place it secures as the year draws to a close.