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There aren’t that many bands as consistent and influential in their genre as the Melodic Death Metal pioneers Dark Tranquillity are in theirs. Yet despite being on the front fronts of shaping the style’s sound for the past 30 years, the band has never been afraid to experiment and explore new musical horizons. And this is exactly what the band has done on their latest record Moment which will be released on November 20 this year. So let’s take a look at what the Gothenburg crew has got for us.
The album’s opening track Phantom Days starts with a mysterious slow intro, yet quickly evolves into a fierce and heavy piece. The song has been released as one of the album’s singles to ease the listener’s way into the record’s sound. Just like on Atoma, the band continues to mess around with the classic song structures. And while the song is clearly a natural evolvement of the foundation laid by the previous album it still hints to the listener the direction in which Moment will be developing. Extensive yet not overly lengthy duelling guitar solo by the two newcomers Cristopher Amott and Johan Reinholdz paints a melancholic picture which will be a running thread throughout the record. A great opening track.
The following song Transient taps into the older sound even more. Its simple (don’t confuse with easy) rhythm section led by the steady drum beat and a recurring guitar lick make this track one of the most straightforward ones on the album. A masterful guitar solo adds colours to the tune and helps building a song’s climax, which seemed impossible just a moment ago. And thus dismissing the case of it being flat, which could have been built easily by the band’s critics.
Identical To None is simply a melodic death metal song straight out of a textbook. A textbook, co-written by the band themselves. Vigorous guitar melody, accompanied by a robust rhythm section storms in from the very first accords of the song’s intro, and keeps that momentum going for the track, making it one of the most dynamic songs on Moment. Simple yet memorable verse followed by a short yet powerful bridge build up the necessary excitement of a listener for this catchy yet not too «poppy» chorus. The song’s melody will get stuck in your head for the hours to come and will make you want to come back to it again and again. A great track.
Just like its predecessor The Dark Unbroken was released as one of the three singles prior to the album being officially out. And it is on this track where we can hear the melancholic thread of Moment being emphasised and put on the forefront of the song’s sound. Masterful yet not intrusive guitar solo doesn’t take you away from the enchantment. Rather the opposite, it actually speeds up the trail of thoughts the song has evoked in your head. Just like it does the track’s tempo towards the suspicious end, which opens the gates to a darker and a more desolate part of the record. Remain In The Unknown is a magnificent slow-tempo piece, beautiful in its venture of developing a pensive atmosphere, making you close your eyes and imagine the outer shores of distant and unknown worlds full of vivid colours. And despite being slow and somewhat melancholic, the song is full of hope and hues. It is worth pointing out the keyboards part, which being in the vanguard of shaping the song’s melody, are responsible for developing this thoughtful yet uplifting feeling. And despite not being the heaviest or the most melodically advanced tracks it might still be the strongest one on the record.
The following one, Standstill builds on the foundation laid by the previous track. It is much more upbeat one with a simple verse theme, and a somewhat unexpected chorus line. In the latter Mikael changes his vocals to clean ones. And while it is not something he has not previously done on this record, yet combined together with the sweetness of the melody, the chorus may sound somewhat cheesy to some listeners. And maybe it is. Yet somehow it does not bother me, even though it should. And even more, I actually liked it a lot. And the reason for that is simple. This track has been placed in a perfect spot on the record’s track list. And while I might have not understood it if it was taken out of content, it works ideally as both a follow up and foreword to other compositions.
Ego Deception opens with the synthesised keyboard intro well familiar in its sound to every modern Dark Tranquillity fan, followed by a wonderful and somewhat bold rhythm section. It is the efforts of Anders Jivarp and Anders Iwers which deserve the applaud the most here. Irregular drum beat with a powerful bass line not only create a backbone for the track but also contribute to the song’s melody, allowing Mikael and the other musicians experiment with their sound and explore new structural formations. And that trend is followed on A Drawn Out Exit. It is a much darker piece with little to none light melodic offshoots. The song’s vibe is gloomy and heavy from its very beginning and till the very last note. Mikael’s growl sounds like a vigorous and desperate animal roar and the band’s newcomer guitarists’ lines are very coherent with the overall sound and the feel of the track.
The next song, Eyes Of The World, once again resonates with the sound of the early 2000s. Sturdy verse is quickly overshadowed by a lyrical chorus in which Mikael and the band show their much more sensitive side. The chorus might be reiterated one too many times for my personal taste, yet overall the track is quite pleasant and enjoyable. It is followed by Failstate, a rapid and powerful track with multiple evocations to the band’s various sound throughout the career. The melody itself is vigorous and even somewhat aggressive, with all musicians working in synergy to paint an image of unstoppable force heading towards its destination ignoring any obstacles on its way. And Mikael’s forceful growl only reassert the above image adding colours to it.
Empires Lost To Time confirms the band’s status of the masters of the melodic death metal songwriting. With multiple melody variations, tempo changes and powerful breakdowns this track is probably the most elaborate and dynamic song on the record. Captivating piano solo lets you breath for a just a moment, yet gets quickly adjourned by the song’s main theme. And its guitar counterpart towards the song’s end mimics the keyboard strain at first, yet takes the song’s melody to yet a new one, absolutely unexpected journey. And Mikael’s scream by the end of this sweet voyage simply gives you shivers, leading straight into the chorus once again. My personal favourite on this record. On the album’s closer In Truth Divided the band decided to slow down and emphasise the melancholic aspect of the album one more time. The song itself takes you on a journey through your inner self once again and leaves an open ending, allowing you to think of what the band’s next chapter will be like.
It is hard for Dark Tranquillity to top itself, being one of the most consistent bands and releasing absolutely stunning material year after year. And yet with every new record their fans are finding something new that they will cherish and hold up as a standard for future material. Thus the band’s discography should not be looked at as a competition between their records, but rather appreciated as a continuous work in progress with every record painting something new on the canvas. And after 30 years the band still finds inspiration for being on the foreground of the genre and not letting it remain unvarying.
Verdict: one of the best albums of the year, 9/10.