Dark Tranquillity - Character

posted by Greg, Thursday January 20, 2005 @ 05:43:00 PM

Artist: Dark Tranquillity (http://www.darktranquillity.com/)
Album: Character
Release Date: January 25th, 2005
Label: Century Media

Rating: 10/10

Recommended Tracks: The New Build, Through Smudged Lenses, Out Of Nothing, The Endless Feed, Lost To Apathy, Dry Run

At The Gates, In Flames, and Dark Tranquillity. Together they are the unholy trinity responsible for putting Gothenburg, Sweden on the metal map and adding the phrase "the Gothenburg sound" - dueling twin guitar attacks all set up in front of a wall of shifting, melodic death - to the metal vernacular. To use a campy American TV show analogy, if these 3 bands were Brady sisters, At The Gates would have been the older, hotter Marcia that all the guys wanted to listen to, Dark Tranquillity would have been middle sister Jan, never getting any attention at all but quitetly chugging along unnoticed in the shadows, and In Flames would have been kid sister Cindy who everyone liked for being cute and the baby moreso than for any actual good reason. Let's stay with this analogy a while and fast forward to the year 2005 - Marcia would probably be an old beaten down crack whore ex-stripper nowhere to be found (just like At The Gates, who broke up a long time ago), Cindy would just now be discovering boys, makeup, and the joys of wearing her first training bra (just like In Flames, who officially turned into mallcore heroes Linkin Flames with their last disappointing album), but unadored middle child Jan would have got her braces off, filled out her chest and ass, and finally blossomed into a beautiful swan ready to take on the metal world (just like Dark Tranquillity, for whom this is easily their finest album in a career that has included several excellent, underappreciated albums).

Ok, ok... shitty TV analogies aside, this really is Dark Tranquillity's finest album to date (who I will refer to as DT from here on out because I am lazy). 2003's Damage Done was likewise an excellent album, but it's as if the metal gods heard my cries of "please, let DT's new album sound just like this but a lot heavier!". That's prety much the sound you get on Character - the mature, cold, and unrelenting darkness permeating all the tracks on Damage Done mixed in with the heavier, speedier sound of their earlier works such as 1995's excellent The Gallery. The thrash-style double bass drum work and occasional blastbeat that were absent from Damage Done return to the fold on this album, giving it more of a punch that Damage Done lacked and helping to keep the energy level incredbly high throughout the whole album.

Not only do I feel this is DT's best overall album but I feel it contains the finest song they've ever done - track 4, entitled "The Endless Feed". Though it is one of the slower tracks on the album, it is a flawless execution of every weapon in DT's arsenal - hauntingly beautiful keyboard melodies shifting like hourglass sands in the background, while a downtuned chug-a-chug riff and higher-pitched melodic riff play off of each other seamlessly in the foreground, all pulled together by a spot-on pounding percussion section and Mikael Stanne's trademark throaty rasp sounding better than it ever has. This song, in fact this whole album, should be required listening for any metal band ever planning to use keyboards in their songs - DT masterfully weave intricate keyboard harmonies in the background of almost every song, rather than going overkill on the keys or leaving them too far in the background to effectively compliment anything. I swear I can hear them sampling the theme from Kraid's lair from the old Nintendo game Metroid on this song though...

Classic Nintendo game ripoffs notwithstanding, DT have set the bar amazingly high for new releases in 2005, putting out an album that's already better and fresher sounding than just about anything I heard in 2004 and will probably be remembered 20 years from now just as fondly as the old Nintendo is today. This album breathes some much-needed fresh air into a very stagnant genre and shows DT can rock just as hard as any of the newcomers trying to claim their rightfully-earned throne as current kings of the Gothenburg sound. If (like me) you are disappointed with the direction In Flames seems to be going with their sound, take comfort in the fact that one of the original 3 Gothernburg bands is still very much alive and kicking. Never before can I remember a non-gore metal band whose band moniker so aptly captures their sound - this album really is a masterful work of dark tranquility.

Fair warning though - if your preferred style of metal is mindless noise about who can scream about eating dead pools of human organs the loudest, this album isn't going to appeal to you at all. I consider myself a fan of all types of metal so I definitely dig that as well as what's going on here, but if you're only into the gorier shit-sex-satan-GRAAAAAAGH side of things this album will probably bore you to bloody tears. However, to the casual heavy metal fans who get scared off at the hint of blood and everyone else inbetween, this is definitely the first album of the new year worth checking out.

- Greg

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