Dark Tranquillity: We Are The Void
By Aniruddh "Andrew" Bansal
Release Date: March 9th, 2010
Record Label: Century Media
My rating points:
Surely one of the greatest melodic death metal bands of all time, Sweden's Dark Tranquillity have returned with their ninth studio effort after a gap of three years since their previous album 'Fiction', which was also the last album to feature Michael Nicklasson on bass before he quit and was replaced by Daniel Antonsson. Fans would have been curious to find out how the band has done since that change in personnel and I can safely say that this effort won't leave any of them disappointed.
The album gives you quite an atmospheric build up with the first few seconds of the opening track 'Shadow In Our Blood'. I can easily imagine this being the song they will open upcoming live shows with. The song gathers pace as the vocals kick in, and never really loses it after that. This is how a typically good tune in this sub-genre should sound like. When bands try to make things too complex and layered by throwing in slow quiet interludes, intros, outros and additional instruments into it, the result is failure more often than not. Learn from Dark Tranquillity. Keep it fast, aggressive and melodic. Coming back to this song, the band members have put a really good tune together without needing to show off what they are individually capable of. This is a brilliant start without the shadow of a doubt.
The atmosphere is maintained in the next song 'Dream Oblivion', well obviously it does, with a song title like that. While this tune has more tempo changes compared to the flat out rocker that track 1 is, the piano is much more prominent in this one, consequently making it quite a bit more melodic. The guitar riff-piano combination after the first verse should get the heads banging in a live performance of it. With some albums, as you listen to them, you feel they are getting better with every song. This song doesn't quite do that to this album but it certainly keeps up with the momentum built by the first track.
'The Fatalist' has a whole lot more to offer than the first two songs, being a longer one as a result. Everything from ultra-fast drumming to piano melodies to twin guitar riffs to the quintessentially powerful vocals by Mikael Stanne decorate this track throughout its 4 minutes and 33 seconds. Despite it having lots of these sub-plot-like ingredients, it never loses its basic melody that comes from the piano this time. Other than the brilliant twin riffs, the guitar solo is easily the best so far despite being rather short and sweet. 'In My Absence' is track number 4 and it takes quite a different route altogether, while still keeping all the elements of the Dark Tranquillity sound. This one has guitar and bass as the most prominent forces, with piano taking a backseat. This is the heaviest song thus far and one of the heaviest tracks in the entire album. I'm glad to see such a variation in the way the music has been arranged from one song to the next. Sometimes songs in melodic death albums sound too similar and the whole album sounds like just one huge extended song. It is most definitely not the case with this one, giving a fair range of musical variations to its listener.
So far, the band has greatly succeeded in deepening their impact on the fans with each successive song being longer than the previous one. The trend is continued in 'The Grandest Accusation'. It never really rises too high in its tempo, but then with the kind of musicianship it boasts of, it didn't really need to. It's a true masterpiece with Stanne offering his entire range of vocals for the first time here. The twin guitar-work is something I really admire. A good twin guitar-melody rivals and beats even a great solo, because it needs lot of precision and concentration. Even then, it is manageable in a studio setting but still a challenge, knowing very well that they'll have to replicate the effort in live shows. So for people who don't give enough credit to twin guitars just because they aren't as fast as individual solos, well here was my two cents on why you need to understand the genius that goes behind them.
After the epic-ness that was track 5, 'At The Point Of Ignition' is the mid-point of the album and gives more of a conventional spin to things. It's more along the lines of the opening number and sounds a lot like it. Having said that, the basic piano pattern and the twin melody in the middle of it makes it more than a decent song to listen to. I just realised that I haven't mentioned Stanne near enough in the review thus far, and that's not because he doesn't deserve credit. It's just that he is so consistent on the vocals that you and me can safely assume that no matter how the rest of the music changes, the amazing Mikael Stanne keeps belting out teeth-clenching lyrics in his crisply authoritarian voice. 'Her Silent Language' is the next song. It's probably the most melodic tune of the album and does complete justice to the abilities of the musicians on show, especially Niklas Sundin and Martin Henriksson. The lyrics are pretty generic to be honest but go very well with the music. Once again the twin harmony is amazing to say the least. The guys on the six-string have really shone through this entire effort in a big way.
The song that follows is 'Arkhangelsk'. It consists of a heavy bass sound and an epic, doom laden keyboard backdrop. While the guitar riffs are solid and at the forefront, the twin melodies don't kick in until very late into the track, showing that the other members led by Stanne can hold their own very capably, without the constant need to hide behind a twin harmony or a guitar solo. Each member is definitely pulling his own weight in this particular band. They punch us in the face yet again with the next song 'I Am The Void' which is the best song in the album and represents Dark Tranquillity in every way you can think of. I foresee this as a staple in their live sets in the immediate future and can imagine everyone in the crowd rocking out head-banging, playing air-guitar, fist pumping and signing along to every riff, beat and lyric of this song. If I could give this song more than 10 on a scale of 1 to 10, I really would.
'Surface the Infinite' is the tenth and penultimate track on the album. Although not quite as good as its predecessor, it keeps the listener sufficiently interested. In addition to the usually fast drumming, this one has some double bass as well, which is a welcome addition. Its one of those songs which might not stand out on their own, but is good as a continuation to the previous 9 songs, specially track number 8. Its really important to maintain that, because even if a band tries to devote their entire efforts toward making each and every song a masterpiece and doesn't care about the continuity aspect, sometimes the resulting set of songs doesn't quite sound like a coherent album, losing its impact. This great album comes to a gripping end with the final track 'Iridium'. When I listen to this song, Porcupine Tree's 'Time Flies' comes to mind because 'Iridium' also has a very similar soothing, relaxing effect while still being heavy in parts. Words are not enough to express how good the music is. You need to listen to it yourselves! This is definitely one song I'll be listening to many, many times in the days to come.
So overall, this is quite an amazing album and I'm glad to be able to listen to and review some refreshingly great music. Although, I do know a lot of people who don't give this band and this sub-genre enough credit, citing it as not being 'old school metal'. Well, its not old school, but good music is after all, good music. I urge such people to look past 'genre-ing' everything and make an effort to appreciate the level of musicianship that's apparent here. To the Dark Tranquillity fans, you people are in for a treat! A great effort, highly recommended. \m/To buy the CD and for more information, check out their official website www.darktranquillity.com
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