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23.11.2020

DARK TRANQUILLITY

Moment

Anmeldt av Eddie Rattlehead
(Century Media, 2020)

Karakter: 5.5/6

DarkTranquillity_Moment.jpg"There comes a point in life - a moment - when your mind outlives its desires, its obsessions, when your habits survive your dreams, and when your losses... Maybe death is a gift" - says Kevin Spacey as David Gale in "The Life Of David Gale" (2003). The Swedish melodic death metallers Dark Tranquillity (DT) have always been a band who took their music wherever they wanted and whenever they felt like it. From the humble beginnings as Septic Broiler (take THAT to a Metallica stardom) in the years 1989-1991, through the legendary "Trail Of Life Decayed" (1991) demo and "A Moonclad Reflection" EP (1992) to becoming one of the 3 originators of Gothenburg melodic death metal (next to At The Gates and In Flames) with "Skydancer" (1993) and especially "The Gallery" (1995), Dark Tranquillity quickly started experimenting with "The Mind's I" (1997), "Projector" (1999) and "Haven" (2000) resulting in masterpieces such as "Damage Done" (2002) and "Character" (2005), but they started running out of steam with "Fiction" (2007) and "We Are The Void" (2010). They seemed to have pushed melodeath as far as they could without becoming caricatures of themselves so subsequent "Construct" (2013) and "Atoma" (2020) were going back to the drawing board, somewhat succeeding, but suddenly DT found themselves without one of their founding guitarists (Hans Martin Knut Henriksson) in 2016. This had happened before in 1998 with Fredrik Johansson (whom Martin subsequently replaced then) but this time it was different. The MOMENT came when they could have gone the way of their fellow Gothenburgians In Flames and set sail on the sea of mediocrity or, instead, treat death as a gift and be reborn like phoenix from the ashes. The departure of the 2nd founding guitarist, Niklas Bo Sundin, in 2020 provided the necessary impetus.

I admit I have been a little of a fan boy with the last 2 Dark Tranquillity albums, giving both of them perfect scores in my reviews. An ardent fan since 1999 upon hearing "Projector" for the first time I had absolutely fallen in love with "Haven", "Damage Done", "Character" and "Fiction" which albums inspired me to reach way back to appreciate "The Mind's I" (my favorite), "The Gallery" and "Skydancer" and loving them all. I continued to like a lot "We Are The Void" despite some audible signs of wear and tear. Aware of DT slowly devouring its own tale I hailed "Construct" and "Atoma" (two albums some fans I know received with rather mixed feelings) as rebirth and return to form, respectively. In hindsight, "Construct" was clearly uneven, even awkward although it did have a few excellent standouts, while "Atoma" was well balanced but had a significant flaw I only noticed with time - a kind of lifelessness to it that often buried excellent ideas. Today I'd rate "Atoma" a 5/6, but in my review of it I also had gone back on my perfect score for "Construct" for more of a 4.5/6 score. So, yes, I had played a little of a fan boy.

It is important that we drag this MOMENT a little bit before getting to the point because DT did something In Flames should have done: they replaced the two departed founding guitarists, in DT's case, with Christopher Amott (ex-Arch Enemy from their best years) and Per Johan Reinholdz (ex-Andromeda) while keeping the remaining line-up of Bengt Mikael Stanne (vocals), Lars Anders Iwers (bass), Anders Mikael Jivarp (drums) and Lars Martin Brändström (keyboards, programming, electronics) intact. The stage was set for a true rebirth of the phoenix from the ashes.

I may, therefore, run a risk of losing my reviewer credibility because "Moment" hits with everything the last 2 albums lacked (even though, since the 3rd in a row one-word title and similar graphics to the 2 predecessors suggest another possible trilogy) be it stratified structures, catchy melodies, proper balance, ripping riffs or powerful sound to say nothing of the boundless creativity. In fact, this new CD is so rich in all of the above that even the first 3 consecutive applications of "Moment" failed to give me a fair picture of the record. Obviously the opener "Phantom Days" very wisely chosen for the first video single is one of the highlights, combining "Damage Done" catchiness with "Character" raw riffing with an almost progressive edge of "Haven" without sounding antiquated and with Amott/Reinholdz magic loaded with brilliant Brändström ideas. But I immediately catch the subsequent "Transient" as such a perfect balance of melody and aggression it could have been on Chris' former band's classic "Burning Bridges" (1999) and the same goes for its immediate follower "Identical To None". You want 1,2 punch? You get 1,2,3 punch. That DT sometimes sounds like classic In Flames we so dearly miss should not surprise you as both bands are known to switch vocalists and write each other's songs plus their first albums sound exactly the same. The album is fantastic for first 3 tracks and that is a fact.

Then things get no less interesting but different. The 2nd video single "The Unbroken Dark" (an allusion to themselves?) mixes the clean sung ideas from "Construct" (songs like "Unity" or "What Only You Know") with aggressive "Haven" riffing with an additional twist of speeding up the chorus towards the end. And this is not a one-time deal either, as the gothic choruses dominate in the fantastic "Ego Deception" and the favorite "Eyes Of The World" (that last one will get stuck in your head!). Names like Depeche Mode or Type O'Negative and even Lamb Of God pop up in those more experimental tracks but we are no longer "weak" as my best friend once remarked, no, far from it. Even Michael Stanne sounds more convincing than ever in both light and dark, even though the man is just a year older than I am. And the lyrics (from what I could discern since I have no lyric sheet), some of the most insightful non-cliche words...To give you a sample: just take "Ego Deception" alone, Mikael first crooning "I cannot feel your pain, I cannot see your fear, 'though I can sense your anger" and finally juxtaposing it with a growled "we" as if to give an impression of schizofrenia and as if to echo the questions of "Ego Drama" from "Haven" or "Am I 1?" from "Character". The more things change the more they stay the same, as we say in the U.S.

Then there are signs that Dark Tranquillity has not parted ways with their remote past and the likes of "The Mind's I" or "The Gallery", with Characteristic ferocious thrashers such as "Failstate", "Empires Lost To Time" or "A Drawn Out Exit". Nor are they done with "Haven" magnifiscent guitar choruses a'la "Not Built To Last" or "The Same" as evidenced by "Remain in the Unknown" or "Standstill". In fact, there really, and this time I really mean really, not a bad track on the album, be it the regular 10 track or the expanded 12 track version (although you should definitely get the latter). Sure, the aforementioned "Remain...", "Stanstill", "A Drawn Out..." and "In Truth..." could have had more twists and turns comparatively to the rest of the tracks but I really cannot see any other reason for deduction from the score and over 7 applications of the album both inform and approve my final decision.

Excellently produced by Jens Bogren (Katatonia), briliantly planned and executed, full of melodies and, yes, fantastic solos, "Moment" is definitely one of the best albums in DT's extensive catalogue. It's probably the best thing since "Damage Done", an album with which it shares also a very similarly colored cover, perhaps on purpose. But it's ALIVE like DT has not been since "Character" and, most notably, not one second sounds like a rehash of old ideas or recycled riffs or melodies. Everything sounds so incredibly fresh and hungry and able with the emphasis on variety without sacrificing an ounce of creativity or heaviness. You cannot afford to miss this album if you are a fan. Hail the Unbroken Dark!

http://www.darktranquillity.com/


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