Dark Tranquillity, Tristania and Sworn Against
@ The Underworld, London
7th November 2013
Review by Rowena Lamb
Photography by Sabrina Dersel
Camden. Underworld. Sold out. All very good words and very good reasons to get excited about tonight’s show. There was a queue from early on which is not surprising, especially given the size of the venue and the locality of the stage, it can be a bit of a bottle neck trying to get some floor space. Being sold out you knew it was going to be absolutely rammed which I can tell you, it certainly was.
For the first band Sworn Amongst there was already a large crowd gathered, and with a light start to the set you were left thinking their style could go either way, until out came the rapid gun style drums and guitar lines. The vocals were deeply voiced and mixed with screaming aggression and you could see people on the front row responding immediately to them.
One of the best aspect for me was watching the fast finger work of the bass player and rhythm guitarist (given my view point I couldn’t really see the lead guitarist). Musically their second offering sounded very even throughout, allowing you to really settle into the song, but throwing in their usual chugging guitar rhythm. This guitar rhythm seemed a staple for the band and was repeated in several songs during their set with complementary drumming, which was overlaid with guitar solos.
It was good to see such a large crowd gathered for the first band and they certainly did their part in encouraging the audience who certainly looked to have enjoyed their set; cheering them as they left the stage following their last song Severance, the title track of their 2010 album.
It was only really a few days before the show that I realised that it had been nearly two years since the first and last time I had seen Tristania live so I was really interested to see how their set would look now.
One of the things I find most interesting about this band is that there’s not just one person singing vocals, but four members of the band taking the microphone throughout, either individually or in harmony with another member of the band.
Vocally there is so much going on, and variations on the styles, volume, meaning and effect. You can clearly see how much work has gone into arranging the vocals lines and the effects they are meant to generate.
By the time they came onto the stage the venue is very nearly at maximum capacity and it is definitely starting to get hot. There as a real atmosphere of anticipation and a clear fan base in the crowd for Tristania.
Mariangela’s vocals are clear and full, changing to fit the changes in the songs as well as allowing us to hear different styles and range she is capable of, which is a refreshing change from the sameness that can come from some bands.
But changing and variance are words that to me are much fitted to Tristania and their style. Take “Beyond the Veil” as an example which begins with a sweet operatic tone from Mariangela, seemingly calling to you.
This is then suddenly replaced with the dark, aggressive sound of opposing male vocals. Listening to this song again at home you can hear a continuance of the sweeter beginning in the background, but live that night you were surrounded by a wall of heaviness, dark and cymbals; though this was late broken in the choruses with quieter, more thoughtful vocals.
All of which went down very well with the audience.
“This Shining Path” for me was vocally the most interesting so far, showing you a good example of how the vocals mix with each other. Three different vocals began the song, reminding me a bit of Valkyries standing their ground.
The vocal changes throughout allowed you to see the various styles the band are able to produce. Mixed with the differences in rhythm and guitar lines, if you stopped to break down each individual element you would hear the variances and clashes of styles, which all added together melded and complemented each other really well.
- Night on Earth
- Beyond the Veil
- The Shining Path
- The Wretched
- Year of the Rat
- Darkest White
Almost immediately the floor really clears out as the crowd head off to grab that last beer in time to nab their space and secure their view for the headliners; Dark Tranquility.
Even if you had never seen them live before (as I admit I hadn’t) you could tell from the chatter of the crowd and the determined way everyone was trying to find a good spot that this was going to be a full bodied set.
This was reinforced as soon as the band members began to set foot onto the stage, with loud cheers breaking out already.
As this was their only UK show on their current tour but also the first night of the tour as whole, this was always going to be a special night and those that secured tickets to this sold out show were not disappointed.
The beatific melody from the keys and guitars heralded the start of the set and brought forward the opposing heavy and meanness of the vocals and drums.
This is my preferred aspect of this genre; the ability to balance the dark with the light, the anger and aggression with a flowing, beautiful melody.
Though having said that it is hard to talk about meanness and anger with the memory of such a happy looking band and frontman. You do often see bands who are clearly enjoying what they do, but it is to me rare to see such delight and contentedness as you witnessed from frontman Stanne that evening.
Clearly thrilled that everyone had come to watch the show he made sure he engaged with the whole audience, not even forgetting those out of sight behind the pillar on the right hand of the stage (and winning definite bonus points in the process).
Thanking the crowd early on in the set they were met with cheers and chants of ‘Dark Tranquility’, leaving you sure that both sides were equally happy the other had decided to turn up; which is exactly how it should be.
With regards to the set list there were a lot of well-known songs on the set list for the audience to get their teeth into and sing or shout along to.
“White Noise/Black Silence” and “What Only You Know” are good examples and there were several occasions where just looking around when the songs were announced of the first few notes were played you could see the faces of the audiences going ‘yes! I bloody love this song’ and really getting into the moment.
Musically for me one of the highlights was “The Silence in Between” off their new album Constructs and judging from the movement it generated in the crowd, I am definitely not alone in that one. It is a good example of what I mentioned earlier about the balance between light and dark.
The vocals are menacing and seem to threaten you to not go any further, while the melody is encouraging and supportive. Definitely one for your play list!
Stating that they wanted to try things they hadn’t really done before the crowd were treated to two very rarely played song in the form of ”A Bolt of Blazing Gold” and “UnDo Control” which haven’t been played for, well, let’s just say fair few years. Which in my opinion is a crying shame.
To bring these two songs to life, Mariangela was brought back onto the stage contrasting her more delicate vocals with Stanne’s real aggressiveness.
This aggression was extended to the crowd with songs like “Monochromatic Stains” and “Terminus (Where Death Is Most Alive)” really bringing them alive. Especially the latter which bought a real explosion of energy and pushing from the crowd and just listening to it again you can hear why.
Stating that they don’t believe in en cores, they kept up the pace until the very last; making the absolute most of their one UK show and the crowd by lingering to shake hands with all those that put theirs forward. This had definitely been a treat for your senses and though you know that they must have been even hotter on stage than the audience were, you would never have known it from the steady energetic performance they gave right to the last note.
Combined with such a real appreciation of the crowd it really was a joy to watch. As was the crowd itself! From my view point I could see the whole audience and everything from the number of people there to the evident joy of the audience to the level of avid concentration focussed on the stage was just amazing to watch.
Really made me wish I could pocket it and bring it out again for every other gig I go to.
- The Science of Noise
- White Noise/Black Silence
- What Only You Know
- The Fatalist
- The Silence in Between
- Zero Distance
- A Bolt of Blazing Gold (with Mariangela Demurtas)
- UnDo Control (with Mariangela Demurtas)
- Monochromatic Stains
- The Wonders at Your Feet
- To a Bitter Halt
- Silence, and the Firmament Withdrew
- Terminus (Where Death Is Most Alive)
- State of Trust
- Endtime Hearts
- Final Resistance
- Misery’s Crown