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If there is one point in Dark Tranquillity’s early releases where the actual face of their well known melodeath sound revealed itself, it’s this rather short and sadly, flawed EP. All of what was going to become cliché about the style begin to fall into place, though a remnant of the early 80s thrash character of the Septic Broiler days still manages to keep itself attached to the band. In fact, apart from the chaotic blast sections which hint a bit more at a Morbid Angel influence, these songs are pretty well in line with the “Human” influences that were also heard on “Trail Of Life Decayed”.
Perhaps the biggest factor that holds “A Moonclad Reflection” bad a bit is the lackluster production, which finds an imbalanced mix job with a overly reverb drenched drum and vocal presence that obscures a lot of the other things going on. Particularly on “Unfurled By Dawn” the raucous snare hit (further sustained by the reverb additives) works against a lot of the fairly impressive riff work going on, and even a set of Schuldiner inspired lead lines find themselves struggling to be heard. Fridén’s vocals, while still fairly close to the early death metal standard accomplished earlier, is becoming a bit more whisper-like, which definitely leaves him a bit exposed when factoring in the mixture of studio effects at work.
The other song “Yesterworld” works a bit better in this capacity because it doesn’t spend as much time in a frenzy of high tempo drum sections and tremolo riffs, but even here there is a bit of an obscurity factor that works against what is otherwise an excellent song. The acoustic guitar lines that occasionally chime in are apparent enough, but robbed of their depth, and the Iron Maiden inspired lead guitar melodies that chime in at key points are the only element that is free of being buried under a barrage of drum noise, mostly because they occur when the drums have settled down a bit.
While definitely the weakest of the early offerings before “Skydancer”, this is still unique enough of a release to be worth checking into if a historical perspective is high on your radar. The trappings of the melodeath sound are definitely here, though they are still somewhat at war with the older, archaic sound of the late 80s. It’s a listen that is governed by a duality of serene beauty and chaotic ugliness, though the latter has the edge, and definitely reveals itself as a sort of rebellious force in a style that was beginning to define itself by employing ugliness and leaving little room for the band’s namesake, ergo tranquility.
I know that if this was the only release I heard from this band, I would have been skeptical about them myself. The first track goes nowhere at all, and it stays that way for nearly eight minutes. However, “Yesterworld” can count as the earliest hit by the band, so it saves us from complete misery. Both songs clock in at just less than eight minutes each, but I’d call that stretching them way past their lifelines.
“Unfurled By Dawn” starts off promising in a sort of classical melodic death fashion – truly an early sign of the genre. However, the next few minutes can be characterized as dull, redundant, and ruined by vague vocals. They’re the same forced gasps that Fridén is used to and I get really tired of them. The song attempts to hit melodic death metal throughout, but it barely scathes anything decent sans the drumming which is pretty packed and clear.
The intro to “Yesterworld” sounds like the keyboard tune from Pan.Thy.Monium’s second track off of Dawn of Dreams. It isn’t exact note-for-note, but it’s similar as hell and I immediately made the comparison upon hearing this for the first time. Regardless, this song is much better than the first track, with classical influences, a gloomier tone, a more menacing bass, and a grave acoustic outro.
Slightly better production and one pretty good track are the only things gained from this release, but with better recordings of the track on later releases, I’d hardly recommend hearing this release. It isn’t passable as it is, and only die-hard fans or collectors would even think to hear this. In my opinion they should have scrapped the first track and released “Yesterworld” on another EP or demo release. Could have saved it the burden of carry the torch all by itself.