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Dark Tranquillity
Character
January 2005
Released: 2005, Century Media
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland

Unlike fellow countrymen In Flames, Swedish melodic death pioneers Dark Tranquillty have made progressions to their sound without alienating older fans along the way. The experimentation with clean vocals on 1999’s PROJECTOR came perilously close to a call for a public lynching but the introduction of keyboards on 2000’s HAVEN seemed to make a fluid transition into fans' collective psyche. DAMAGE DONE brought the keyboards even further into the forefront but, still, the band was never hit with the acrimonious insults hurled at In Flames. Dark Tranquillity’s latest opus, CHARACTER, sees the band making a bit of an unexpected about face and returning to the sound of early classics like GALLERY and THE MIND’S I but bringing along the keyboards of DAMAGE DONE. This works so well it is a wonder no one thought of it before—take the best elements of a veteran band’s experimentations and combine them all into one package to please EVERYONE!



Mikael Stanne’s intellectual lyrics continue to boggle the mind of the band’s fans and the unmistakable riffs of Niklas Sundin and Martin Henriksson are—as always—the highlights of a Dark Tranquillity release. The band has not sounded this aggressive in years and Stanne seems to spitting out his vocals on every track. Martin Brandstrom’s keyboards are still present but are moved back in the mix from where they were on DAMAGE DONE giving the songs more immediate muscle. What is also noticeable is the dominance of Anders Jivarp’s drums in the mix. Maybe he has done some practicing but there seems to be a lot more technical drumming and he is hitting them hard, too! “The New Build” takes all of these elements and throws them out to enrapture the listener right off the bat. Fast riffing, furious drumming and a vitriol-laced delivery from Stanne make this a brilliant lead off track. “Through Smudged Lenses” brings in some sampled drums and a “flatline” outro amid the frenetic melodies of Sundin and Henriksson. Brandstrom’s keyboards are just subtle enough to be heard but never overtake the song. Michael Nicklasson lays down a killer bassline on “Out of Nothing,” my favorite track on CHARACTER, and Stanne’s delivery is precisely what makes a good melodic death metal song. “The Endless Feed” continues the run with a multi-layering of Stanne’s soaring vocals that juxtapose the intensity of what he does in the rest of the song. The keyboards are rather prominent in this track and it certainly is the most DAMAGE DONE-like of any others on CHARACTER. “Lost To Apathy,” the first single off of CHARACTER, is a real showcase for what Stanne can do. He fires on all cylinders here, running the gamut of everything he has done as the band’s vocalist since OF CHAOS AND ETERNAL NIGHT. The riffs in “Mind Matters” and "My Negation" get into your head immediately and the dual guitars are just spellbinding. If anyone needs to see what made this band so influential need look no further than the guitar work on these two tracks. "Am I 1?" and "Senses Tied" are not as strong as the rest but still stand up to anything the band has done on recent albums.



There really is not a bad song on CHARACTER and Dark Tranquillity have truly outdone themselves. Overlapping the “classic” sound with new, progressive ones, they have given its fans the best of both worlds. Speed, aggression, melody, intelligent lyrics, stellar musicianship and accessibility are combined on one jaw-dropping album, giving CHARACTER the ability to rank among the all-time favorites of old fans and undoubtedly bring them legions of new ones, as well. It’s only January and I can safely predict that CHARACTER will be on my top 10 list at the end of the year.



KILLER KUTS: “The New Build,” “Through Smudged Lenses,” “Out of Nothing,” “The Endless Feed,” “Lost To Apathy,” “Mind Matters,” “Senses Tied”
Track Listing

1. The New Build
2. Through Smudged Lenses
3. Out of Nothing
4. The Endless Feed
5. Lost To Apathy
6. Mind Matters
7. One Thought
8. Dry Run
9. Am I 1?
10. Senses Tied
11. My Negation
**”Lost To Apathy” music video

Lineup

Mikael Stanne—Vocals
Niklas Sundin—Guitar
Martin Henriksson—Guitar
Michael Nicklasson—Bass
Martin Brandstrom—Keyboards
Anders Jivarp—Drums


Next review: » Dark Tranquillity - Character
Dark Tranquillity
Character
February 2005
Released: 2005, Century Media
Rating: 4.0/5
Reviewer: MetalGeorge

It seems that Sweden’s Dark Tranquillity is on a roll lately. After the rousing reception across the board that the Gothenburg legends’ last opus, DAMAGE DONE, received, you would think they would be content to kick on the autopilot and cruise into predictability.



Perhaps in direct response to that notion, the band has unleashed the monstrous CHARACTER upon us. Featuring 11 huge tracks of polished, punishing metal mayhem, this record is Dark Tranquillity’s harshest and most aggressive offering since THE MIND’S I, and bleeds with the same kind of frantic, desperate vibe.



The band is firing on all cylinders musically, delivering an impressive display of both technical mastery and melodic sensibility, while at the same time retaining the artistic, experimental vibe they have played with over their career since the PROJECTOR paradigm-shift.



While I cannot say that the actual song structure and arrangements are quite on par depth-wise with the unimaginable genius that was DAMAGE DONE, I would wager a bet that most longtime fans of the band would be willing to make that trade in return for the sheer violence the band is displaying here on CHARACTER. To be honest, I haven’t heard the band this angry and dark in years, and it’s a welcome return to form. Needless to say, GALLERY fans are bound to cream their jeans when they hear this.



The star of the show once again here has to be front man Mikael Staane. The man has reached deep down into whatever dark corner of himself he keeps “the roar”, and unleashes it in full force here. Staane’s presence is massive here; lunging into scream and growl with all the rabid strength and force of a caged animal.



Not to say that the band is going through the motions here, either. No, in fact I am continually astounded by exactly how they can continually create such epic, emotional riffs, track after track. See “Mind Matters”, “Out of Nothing”, “One Thought”, or “Lost to Apathy”, also the title of their newest ep.



In the days where the New Wave of Swedish Death Metal has all but been replaced by it’s prettier, less talented cousin the New Wave of American Heavy Metal, it is acts like Dark Tranquillity that continue to carry the torch as godfathers of a genre. Whereas In Flames seems to have somehow lost the point of it all, Dark Tranquillity still know who they are playing for, and just how important this music can be when created for the right reasons: The Art.



A righteous reaffirmation of the band, CHARACTER should serve as Dark Tranquillity’s brilliant new statement for 2005. A winner all around.
Track Listing

1. The New Build
2. Through Smudged Lenses
3. Out of Nothing
4. The Endless Feed
5. Lost to Apathy
6. Mind Matters
7. One Thought
8. Dry Run
9. Am I I?
10. Senses Tied
11. My Negation

Lineup

Niklas Sundin-guitars
Mikael Staane-vocals
Michael Nicklasson-bass
Anders Jivarp-drums
Martin Brandstrom-electronics
Martin Henriksson-guitars


Next review: » Dark Tranquillity - Character
Dark Tranquillity
Character
February 2005
Released: 2005, Century Media
Rating: 5.0/5
Reviewer: Anders Sandvall

In 2004 Dark Tranquillity released the compilation EXPOSURES – IN RETROSPECT AND DENIAL and as a preview of the album they released the EP LOST TO APATHY. Now it’s time for their long awaited new studio album to follow up DAMAGE DONE from ‘02.



As most of you know, this Swedish Gothenburg based band started back in ‘89 with the release of their first demo. During ‘91 and ‘92 they released a few demos before their first album came out ‘93 called SKYDANCER. They have been a part of the Gothenburg metal scene for 16 years and have released 7 albums. Dark Tranquillity is one of the bands that put the famous Gothenburg sound on the metal map. The bio says this about the new album: “To show character – a rather old fashioned expression, but it fits perfectly for one of the most modern metal bands of our times”.



The band plays melodic death metal that they have strived to refine through the years…especially after the keyboard player Martin Brändström joined in ‘99 for the album PROJECTOR. HAVEN (‘02) was the album that really placed the band in focus and that album along with endlessly touring gained the band new fans.



For the first time in their career, they have chosen to release a single EP “LOST TO APATHY” and that EP was an excellent preview of what we could expect from “CHARACTER”. If you want to read about the EP it’s reviewed in metal-rules.com. On the EP there’s also a mix of “THE ENDLESS FEED” which is a track from the album. According the bio, the band had a really hard time to pick an EP single since each song from the album was equally strong. And they are right, all of the 11 songs are equally strong and it’s really hard to pick any favorites amongst them.



CHARACTER was recorded in Gothenburg in the famous Studio Fredman and two other studios - The Room and Rouge Music. As expected, the music is heavy, fast, aggressive, and amongst all this there’s also room for melodic passages that they inject into all this brutality.



Mikael, the singer, sounds as angry as always. He almost spits out the lyrics, singing which such conviction that you really believe. Martin and Niklas share on brilliant guitar play with sharp duels between them. Michael and Anders in the rhythm section really know what to do. All of the members have equally big parts in the mix, also Martin on keyboards, Mikael really uses all of his vocal abilities that’s possible to add more strength to the music.



There’s nothing remotely negative to say about the album, Dark Tranquillity holds a steady grip of their fans and none of you are going to be disappointed with CHARACTER. I’m sure this album is going to climb the charts worldwide, when this is review is online the album will already be released in Scandinavia and Europe.



This is Swedish melodic death metal at its best, don’t miss them when they are headed out on the road through Europe during February/March with headliner Kreator. It’s a terrific album and even the cover, made by guitar player Niklas Sundin looks great. One thing is certain, CHARACTER has exactly that – character. This is a grand opening for ‘05 by Century Media with the release of both Dark Tranquillity and the new edition to the CM family, Firewind.
Track Listing

The new build
Through smudged lenses
Out of nothing
The endless feed
Lost to apathy
Mind matters
One thought
Dry run
Am I 1?
Senses tied
My negation

Lineup

Mikael Stanne – lead vocals
Martin Henriksson – guitar
Niklas Sundin – guitar
Michael Nicklasson – bass
Anders Jivarp – drums
Martin Brändström – electronics


Next review: » Dark Tranquillity - Character
Dark Tranquillity
Character
March 2005
Released: 2005, Century Media
Rating: 5.0/5
Reviewer: El Cid

*Gasp* “OMG!!!” “OH NOES!!!” “BBQ!!!” “Cid is doing yet another Dark Tranquillity album review!” “I’m sure he’ll give it a perfect score”

You bunch of wankers! Perfect score?? NAY!!! I have a surprise for you!! … Ok, fine I don’t, CHARACTER is hands down the best album of 2005 so far.

Quick rundown of Dark Tranquillity’s history: They are along with At the gates, Eucharist and In Flames, the founding fathers of the Gothenburg sound. As the years go by, Dark Tranquillity remain truthful to their roots and musical principles while at the same time, polishing their sound into THE GALLERY and THE MIND’S I until they were finally ready to redefine their sound for the new millennium. In 1999, with Martin Brändström’s keyboard as an integral part of the band and their new sound, out comes PROJECTOR, a transitional album into the new Dark Tranquillity. Following the coming of HAVEN and then DAMAGE DONE, the band finally decides to put out 2 very overdue (yeah I know, my opinion) releases in the form of LIVE DAMAGE (a DVD in which finally we can get live sample of the band with a decent production) and EXPOSURES IN RETROSPECT AND DENIAL (in which we find the lost gems from the demo days for which some of us paid a load of green when the only CD containing them was a greek special release that didn’t have the band’s approval and LIVE DAMAGE recording on the second CD of the package.).



Now, CHARACTER is yet another step forward in the direction the band has chosen to take. The guitar work as always is top notch, as Niklas Sündin’s slick brand of playing ties everything together along with Ander Jivarp’s driving drum rhythm. The music itself is as I stated, a progression in the same direction the band has maintained since PROJECTOR, the “electronic” sections are there, the keyboard melodies are there, the intense soloing and guitar duels are there, the impeccable drumming is there and of course… Mikael Stanne is there to lead the band’s delivery out of the raspy growl that has been trademark for many a year.



CHARACTER was recorded between 3 studios, Fredman, Rouge Music and The Room (???) and there is little to say about the production here, it fits. Like a glove. The album cover is yet again a Niklas Sündin original (http://www.cabinfevermedia.com) yet again demonstrating that the band oversees every aspect of their releases trying to make them as personal as they possibly can.



I think there is very little I can say about Dark Tranquillity that I haven’t already said in one of my previous reviews to get you into them, but if all else fails, go see them live! There’s this random and unknown thrash act that has agreed to take them on tour through the Americas (hopefully they’ll have a stop over in my little tiny town). Oh yeah, the little thrash act goes by the name of Kreator and their tour is to promote their new album ENEMY OF GOD, no big deal. :p

Next review: » Dark Tranquillity - Construct





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