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While Brändström wisely scaled back his presence on Haven's oft-lauded followup Damage Done, I couldn't find much room in my heart for it's acerbic delivery and more straightforward disposition. The band shifted the pieces yet again for 2005's Character, which is once again dripping in electronics. The difference here is that the guitars have the wherewithal to back the synths up, achieving a balance that represents Dark Tranquillity at their most lethal.
The guitars still have the tendency to devolve into stock Gothenburg posturing, but there are plenty of exceptions here. The verses of "Dry Run" feature inventively timed swells of distortion and a neck-jerking groove with bouncy inclinations, making it the best cut here. The churning intro of "The New Build" immediately blows any lingering doubts out of the water with it's deliberate melodic aesthetics. The sludgy tremolo passages later on only serve to drive the fact home that the band is just much more focused this time around. It isn't that Damage Done had inferior riffs, but it lacked the multi-dimensional assault on the senses evident during most of Character. The guitars feature a biting modern tone that serves the more busy riffing passages quite well. The guitars aren't quite as overdriven as on the preceding album, but they rip all the same.
Stanne is even more focused here, radiating his overacted roars all over the place. Listen to the chorus of "Lost to Apathy". Where was that killer instinct during Haven? While some of the somber atmosphere is gone along with his cleaner crooning, it matters little during emotional mid-paced cookers like "One Thought?" and "Am I 1"? These two can be viewed as twins in style and substance, serving as a decent counterpoint to the more straightforward genre trappings present here. "The Endless Feed" also stands out on first listen, featuring a synthetic disposition that hails back to "Indifferent Suns". This is where Brändström makes the biggest impact, as he finally manages to evoke a classy atmosphere that lacks the tiresome plastic-sounding inclinations present on Projector and Haven. His synth arrangements along with the grand scope of the album remind me of the PC game Deus Ex, which is a high honor from an atmospheric standpoint. Jivarp ups the ante and benefits the most from the higher production values. His controlled blasting during certain passages forces the rest of the band to keep up, and we as listeners benefit greatly from it.
Character isn't perfect though, mostly as a result of deep-rooted imbalances in the band's primary approach. Some more soaring lead sections could have lifted this to greatness, but Character ends up falling slightly short and lacking the extra dimension it really needs to thrive on the highest level. It is so methodical and workmanlike in it's approach that the lack of peaks or valleys becomes both the biggest blessing and curse. View this album as a companion piece to Fiction as they both feature similar sonic aesthetics along with the best of what Dark Tranquillity has to offer.
The seventh son of the pioneering Gothenburg metallers arrived some weeks ago. My initial impressions were something like "another good DT album, but still the same old DT". Like, one thumb up. Okay, I've always picked up a new DT album when it has hit the shelves, and never was I really disappointed. But I seriously gotta stop believing, that a new album will dethrone the band's decade-old classic 'The Gallery' (1995).
Okay, I cleansed myself of the huge expectations and started to listen to the album instead. DT sound vigorous and angrier than for some platters, at least since 'The Mind's I' (1997). 'Character' has a live vibe. It's in-yer-face affair and that fills some of the gaps created by at times lacklustre songwriting, clearly heard on 'One Thought' (okay, its solo part rules!) and 'Senses Tied' which aren't able to surprise even a single bit. I see "Gothenburg metal" as an alloy of thrash and death metal fundamentally, then stacked with loads of melody, so that it mutates into something different again. The present trend pop does not, luckily, raise its ugly head here. On 'Character', the band have revisited their own history from 1995 to 2002, which of course is a big source. There is not every trick utilized here, e.g. the clean vocals are missing again. The guitar work includes 'The Gallery' style stuff, which I absolutely want to hear more, but also some straight "rock" stuff. The band hit their fastest here, I believe, but fluently changing the pace throughout the album. 'Character' has two sides on it: It can be viciously angry, but also enchantingly inviting, so it is very well balanced indeed. The album's bening characteristic is its way to open up quite slowly, thanks to its quite curvy song material.
One can expect a lot of riffs and fantastic memorable leads. At times the guitars are surprisingly ripping. The drumming is pounding and full of nice tricks. Synths aren't as sweet anymore, which is a good thing in my ears. Now there's more electro stuff, but also good old piano and such. The synths have slightly smaller part on 'Character' when compared to a few older albums, but it's more planned. Generally, it can be heard, that the band had joy recording the album. The Fredrik Nordström production is, above all, organic. Human touch is left intact, even though the sound is clean. Good balancing between instruments is the icing over it. Vocals are more or less brutal dry throat abuse, definitely individual. Plus for the comprehensible pronunciation despite the inhuman vocal style. The lyrics are usually very personal and I'm not one to comment them, except to say that they are well written.
Something about the packaging and extras, then. The digipak looks fantastic with its chaotic, futuristic art and embossed cardboard. Booklet's cover art soothes my eyes, thanks to its dystopia theme. The booklet's other art is surprisingly good as it's done with a computer. Someone can still conjure up some fine computer art, thankfully. The digipak version's extras includes multimedia videos. 'Lost to Apathy' video clip is usual stuff, showing the band playing the song, but there's nice stuff towards the end which I don't want to reveal. Four live pieces have bad picture quality, thanks to the compression (face features can't be discerned). The sound's okay.
'Damage Done' (2002) showed that there was still life in the band. During the recording of 'Character', Dark Tranquillity had some extra energy, which is finely utilized, except making the album a tad too long. 'Character' is modern and therefore it lacks the mysteriousness of 'The Gallery'. However, if the band have meant something good to you in the past, why not try 'Character'?
(originally written for ArchaicMetallurgy.com in 2005)
Gothenburg. The name is like acid on my tongue. For so long I have named this genre as my enemy, and it is time now, in the equinox of 2009, to put the hatchets down, stop waging war and really get down to the meat of what I hate about this genre so much.
Dark Tranquillity is famous as one of the leading Gothenburg acts, and this is apparently their most popular album. I remember reviewing The Gallery at the beginning of this year and getting quite a lot of flak for it. I am not usually one to respond to such backlash, but looking back, the review was lousy, and I believe this band deserves a better written review, even if I still think they’re lame as hell. So now I’m going to review Character. Ready? I hope so, because I’m not.
This is technically as sound as can be. There are no glaring inconsistencies or silly mistakes as on The Gallery - Character is polished to a neat, comfortable sheen. The playing is accomplished, and many a listener will be drawn in by the flashy guitar work and pragmatic heaviness, as the dedication to writing no-nonsense music will lead them to think that this has some kind of sophistication. There is a poppy sensibility about this, mostly in the keyboards, and it makes the whole thing sound just that much more accessible. That isn’t bad; it certainly makes the package easy to digest and listen to. You will never be annoyed with this, but then, the band seems not to have enough talent to annoy you to begin with. The prevailing mood here is one of Apathy.
Honestly, I just don’t like this. This album ironically has a distinct lack of anything resembling character. It is metal music by the numbers. It is the kind of middle-of-the-road material that I have a great distaste for – the guitars meticulously churn out riffs for the sake of being technical, the bass clicks and wheezes along, the drums fill in everything in a most complicated manner and everything is tailored to be as modern as possible. All of these things appear to be happening for no other reason than because it is what metal bands do - there is no sense of real musical creativity on this album. The way this album sounds to me is like the band wrote this album because it was expected of them, as Dark Tranquillity, to write it. At least the old stuff was funny at times because of the glaringly weak songwriting – now that they have improved, I find them even less entertaining.
People endlessly champion this band and others like it for reasons that are pretty hazy and vague – the riffs? Yes, there are certainly riffs here, but the quantity does not add up to anything stirring or memorable. Most of the time they’re just ripping off Iron Maiden with a more modern sound and keys backing it. The heaviness…well, sure, it’s heavy, but it’s also rather streamlined and easy to listen to if you’ve listened to the metal genre as a whole for longer than a few months. There is nothing that challenging or exciting about this, no sense of rebellion or pride exuded from its pores. It is music from a production line, made in parts, without any real feeling to it. Play some calculated and boring riffs, make sure to keep a melody going from the keys and end the song after four and a half minutes. None of these songs is that different from that which comes before or after it. People seem to think that the fact that this band makes legitimate metal music is some reason to praise them, even though they are so thoroughly average - it is not. As if that is some kind of an achievement. Like making metal music is that much harder to do than not making metal music.
It’s like, metal with RIFFS and KEYBOARDS at the same time? With GROWLING, too? Holy smokes, call the press! We have never seen THAT before!
There are a few moments here that are pleasant to listen to and that serve as some sort of candy to the ears. That is not really any testament to any perceived ‘talent’ of the band in question though, as it is just the process of elimination – write songs long enough and you inevitably come up with something that is pleasant. Such listenability does not even take that much talent in the first place, when so many better bands have done it with more finesse and greater character and style. Pleasant. In what twisted, parallel universe should that word be the prevalent descriptor of a Heavy Metal album? This is a sad state of affairs, people.
Songs are titled asinine things like “Lost in Apathy,” “My Negation” and “Out of Nothing” – can they get any more generic? I mean, while you’re at it, why don’t you just make this album self titled and go full-stop cliché modern metal? You’re one step away from that, anyway. I don’t know; I just really hate this whole modern “pessimistic” lyrical trend that pervades amongst these kinds of bands. I kind of doubt these songs are really about anything – such encompassing, sweeping generalizations of pessimism are meaningless and stupid, and I almost wish this band would just start writing emo lyrics about rebellion and lost love so at least I could have something to laugh at. At least then I could feel one way or the other about it.
This band is shallow and lifeless. This album is decently written for what it is, but I derive no enjoyment from it. Character is the kind of thing that makes me tired of listening to metal; it really is. This is music that does not go anywhere. This music is fuel to the fire for everyone who ever said metal sucked. It is frighteningly basic, having to feign even the most elementary kinds of emotion with its “atmospheric” synthesizers and those butt-clenching lyrics, mistaking this terrible lack of personality and charisma for ‘sobriety’…this becomes insufferable in its mediocrity. It is clever in the way that it will fool you into thinking it is excusable with a nice riff or a passable lead, but do not fall into that trap. Dark Tranquillity is all but completely worthless.
It’s safe to say that Dark Tranquillity hasn’t changed their sound a whole lot for the past ten years or so. They’ve been playing generally same type of melodic death ever since they picked up Martin Brändström and started adding keyboard parts to their albums. They tweak each album a little, but not much.
The focus point in Dark Tranquillity’s music clearly isn’t the guitar work. If you exclude the bass part (when audible sounds creative) the lead guitar work is kind of weak. The songs consist of simple and repetitive riffs consisting of around one to three notes. Where as the melodies (taken from Iron Maiden? You decide) are generally simple also. To put it they’re just in the background. Some songs have some catchy ones, “Am I 1?” and “Out of Nothing” I guess would be the strongest songs on the album.
The main focus in DT’s music I have found would be the vocal performance by Mikael Stanne. Mikael is basically the key item of this band from sticking out. His vocals are different compared to other vocalist in melodic death work. This mainly has to do with his higher pitch growl he does where compared to the lower and monotonous growls much like the vocalist in this subgenre much like the ones Anders Fridén gave on DT’s early work.
Keyboards, they use a lot of them. And they are also the other main feature to this band nowadays. Let’s face it, if you hate these guys the main reason is probably the keyboard use they use. I can see why also, it’s overused, and if they’re going for an atmosphere approach they failed miserably. But Martin does pull off some cool parts in some songs like “One Thought”, and the ending to “My Negation” is cool.
Is this their best album? No not at all. Is it their worst album? I wouldn’t say that either. Its kind of just borderline same-old-same-old Dark Tranquillity doing what they normally do. Dark Tranquillity fans who haven’t heard it will most likely enjoy it, and so will people who like a lot of keyboard in their metal.
Edit: fixed mistake.
Dark Tranquillity is one of those bands that are different in every album. There is a lot of variation between their different albums, while the core always remains the same. Some people may find this negative, since it would seem to them that they are still looking for a sound. I however find this positive. In this way it never gets boring, but still always recognizable.
Kicking off heavily with "The New Build", a strong, fast, technical and heavy song and finalizing with the slower and passionate "My Negation", this album is full of variation. Every song is heavy and strong, but in different ways. While the first two tracks are fast, other tracks such as "The Endless Feed" and "Dry Run" get their heaviness from a slow but pounding rythm.
The vocals are possibly the best about this album. From beginning to end Mikael Stanne screams and grunts his lyrics into the microphone with incredible emotion, power and passion. The lyrics are - but how could we expect different from DT - great and you really need a spade to dig in your brain to find the meaning behind. So they may be difficult to understand, but nonetheless they really do have meaning. A funny note is that for me, those ideas of what a certain song may mean come at the most weird, or perhaps normal, moments. Not when I'm sitting in my room and intensely listening to the music, but just when I am cycling home from school on an ordinary day. For example, in my interpretation the song "Am I One?" discusses the fact that some people keep denying the fact that people have different characters, and keep trying to frame them into their own visions. I really don't know if this is what Mikael Stanne meant by this song and these lyrics, but this is my interpretation.
Now for something else: the instruments. The keyboards have always played a significant role in Dark Tranquillity's music(Well, Since 1999's Projecter, that is). They never dominate the music there, but they are always prominent. The same is the case on "Character". They either play a more Piano-ish role, such as on "My Negation" or "Lost To Apathy" or a more electric role, such as on "The Endless Feed".
One thing that I usually dislike, so to speak, about Dark Tranquillity is their lack of solos. But on the other hand it would be difficult to fit a good solo into an average DT song, if there even is an "average" DT song. Guitars may get quite technical as is the case on songs such as "The New Build" and "Mind Matters". With rasping riffs of incredible rawness and awesomeness Martin Henriksson and Niklas Sundin rage through each song, leaving few space for the bass on some occasions. "Out Of Nothing" is an exception here, as the bass is prominent a lot more often here.
The drums are pushed somewhat more to the foreground, and usually exactly as one could expect: fast and technical on the faster songs, and less forthcoming but still essential on the slower songs. My favourite "drum moment" is without any doubt the very beginning of the first song, "The New Build", which is like a very short drumsolo.
What remains a bit obscure to me, is the production. I do not know how they managed to do it, but in some way they managed the best production I have ever heard so far. Raw at every moment, which makes all the emotion and passion that these six Swedes have poured into it. Never before have I heard a production that fitted the music so good as this one. There's many albums with a good or even great production, but there are always some small things that could have been done better, although they may not even be very significant. On "Character" this is not the case, everything has been taken good care of.
All in all, this is a masterpiece that probably couldn't have been forged anywhere else than in Sweden, and is possibly the best album the Gothenburg scene has ever seen for now. You may ask "Then why 99% and not 100%?" Well, this is simply because nothing is perfect, nor is this album. Therefore, rating it 100% wouldn't be possible in my eyes, although this album gets dangerously close. If Dark Tranquillity continues to improve their sound like this, I may be forced to alter my opinion in the future, but for now it remains a 99%.
Listening tips: "The New Build", "My Negation", "Am I One?"
'Character' seems to be considered as something of a monumental step in the evolutionary chain of the gothenburg style of melodic death metal, perhaps even in the entire sense of the genre of melodic death metal. It becomes readily apparent when you ask people what the best gothenburg albums of all time are; 'Slaughter of the Soul', 'The Gallery' and 'Colony' will invariably be mentioned, and whilst I don't readily agree with these choices it's important to note that they came out around 1994, 1995 and 1999 respectively. It's a long time ago! Surely something must come along and revive this impotent and ambiguous genre! 'Character' is the chosen record of the blessed children of gothenburg; it has keyboards, there are riffs and lots of overt melody all over the joint. It also manages to be utterly devoid of talent whilst maintaining some sort of mental grip over even the more cerebrally inclined of the metal scene, which leaves me at a loss as to discerning just why this band gets recognition that it clearly doesn't deserve.
This album isn't an absolute void of creativity or talent; I mean it's most certainly not 'Fiction'. However that's because 'Fiction' is just a cardboard cut-out of this album, and thus since this album is decidedly below average that just makes 'Fiction' all the more worse for reasons that I shall one day articulate more effectively. The day I listen to that album again is the one wherein I decide to skip the nipple clamps and hot wax and just move onto the 'sick fuck' territory of masochism. Much to my surprise there are riffs on here that don't manage to conform the usual gothenburg standard of being simplistic, recycled and weak. The first song in particular, "The New Build" actually starts off with a nice round of tremolo picking and blast beating before moving into the more pedestrian metal riffing that borrows from the mid-90's rather than the much preferred mid-80's, i.e. thrash. The chorus however is very very very fruity, so exceptionally fruity that you can forgo that banana you were just about to eat and just listen to that chorus a couple of times and via energy wave based osmosis you'd get all the vitamins and nutrition you'd need for the day! Of course the side-effect is that you'll probably become some sort of raging homosexual and start listening to more gothenburg whilst indulging in gratuitous amounts of sodomy. There's also that melodic break in the middle, with some staccato power chords and keyboards which moves into a slightly different break but it's all the same really and is a waste of time. You could have quite happily put a solo in that spot and the song would be worthy of listening to, I'd ignore the fruity choruses by thinking about manly things and focus on the upcoming balls to the wall solo
The album only gets worse from this point, every song is just another adventure down the circles of Dante's Inferno, well it would be if there were 11 circles to the inferno but there aren't and I can't be bothered rephrasing this analogy because it's still appropriate. It's unfortunate that the band member's are not more attuned to "The Divine Comedy", had they been so I'm sure that the album cover would have "Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate" scrawled across it in the mixture of blood, semen and cocaine; the remanent of the album release night, which was most likely fuelled by the money people seemingly throw at this band for the musical equivalent of passing kidney stones the size of gerbils. There are quite a few repeating pieces throughout this entire album that spell doom for the listener; the frequent dropping of guitars with an emphasis on vocals and electronica-based keyboards are one of the more disturbing and vile moments that try to make an appearance in nearly every song, I'm not sure why they bother to do this because it only emphasises the fact that the band are trying to establish some sort of obtuse vocal hook or perhaps highlight a lyric that only emotionally crippled morons would pay heed to, potentially taking onboard whatever enlightening message Dark Tranquillity wish to pass on. As previously mentioned there are the melodic sections that are mostly full of keyboards, sometimes with a trace of flaccid lead work that does nothing, or perhaps they'll include a nice round of power chords every couple of seconds. Funnily enough they always seem to appear around the middle of the song, as though these songs grow outwards from this central point of intense suck; the epicentre of suck. Actually I'm tempted to run with this theory since most songs start off on a good foot with either a decent riff, such as in "Mind Matters" before they descend further and further into worse riffage, more keyboards, bad choruses and then BAM! They reach the epicentre wherein lies their utterly desolate melodic section with their flowery, electronica keyboards pumping out something that wouldn't be out of place in a charity concert of ambient music for the deaf. Within the song "Mind Matters" it does quickly descend but hilariously enough around the middle the guitars start to play that initial riff again, as though the guitarists have been drowning and are racing to the surface to gasp at the air, of course the keyboardist steps on their heads as soon as they get even a second of fresh oxygen whilst gleefully cackling "OH NO YOU DON'T!".
I think the most notable feature of this entire however, is the songs are devoid of personality; they all contain the same set of signature riffs that they bludgeoned from Iron Maiden, a certain degree of keyboards especially in the choruses, some superfluous lead work and the infamous epicentre of suck. They all follow a pretty set pattern of song structures, each song itself is around about four minutes long with the only notable exception being the final song which tops six minutes by just drawing out the formula even more by adding more and more melodic sections and keyboards rather than trying to be interesting; some actual riffs, maybe a couple of solos back and forth, perhaps learn to build suspense and make the song construct it's way towards a climax rather than hurling itself down a slope, tumbling on it's way to the pit of boring keyboards and irredeemably bad riffs. All those things just previously mentioned would be infinitely better than what the last song presents the listener with; "My Negation" is the finishing touch of this opus to mediocrity and ode to writing the same song eleven times. Its six minutes are nothing short of a cockslap to anybody whom has the slightest idea about heavy metal and what it should be.
One could quite easily summarise this album as having a few good riffs hidden sparsely about the landscape of intrusive and ominous keyboards, badly disfigured Iron Maiden riffs and double bass drumming, whilst the bassist is busy doing nothing and the vocalist lays down some decent vocals but can't seem to stop singing about the same whiny subjects ad infinitum. I always seem to be really rough on Dark Tranquillity but I can't help it, their claim to fame seems to hinge on the fact that in a time where their closest contemporaries began to sell out as a means of financial gain, they decided to simply homogenise their sound and still successfully appear more 'true' to the metal community but still produce music that lacks intellectual stimulation not unlike their sell-out contemporaries. Just because they sound different to In Flames and Soilwork, does not make them any more credible.
When I first bought this album in 2005, I hadn't any idea of what to expect. I had heard of Dark Tranquillity and the constant praise that they received, but hadn't heard any of their songs. Searching the shelves of my local Best Buy, I came across "Character" and decided to give it a shot. I certainly was not let down by this blind purchase. When I uploaded it to my computer I was hit by a wave of fast-paced melodic riffing and intense melodic keyboards, accompanied by a great atmosphere.
The guitar work on this release is superb. Melodic riffing is most definitely present here, with some blazing-fast riffage very reminiscent of many melodic death metal acts from Gothenburg. The solos are awesomely melodic as well, but they aren't that plentiful, which is sort of a down side, as they are really good! The bass guitar does its own thing in the mix as well, not always following behind the guitar's lead, and due to the great production is heard very clearly. Speaking of which, the production of the album is nice and crisp, certainly one of my favorite production jobs on any melodic death metal CD.
I've heard other Dark Tranquillity releases since buying this CD, and I can tell you that it's the same Mikael Stanne vocals; they are raspy, shouted vocals, and could easily fit in any melodic black metal band as well without a problem. They fit the melodic riffing and atmosphere of the CD perfectly, and I wouldn't change them at all.
My favorite trait of this release is by far the keyboard/programming work. Martin Brändström does a superb job of giving me chills up my spine with his keyboard melodies, often complimenting the guitars with great melodic ferocity and epicness. There are no lightning fast keyboard solos or anything, in fact there aren't any keyboard solos at all, but damn do they create atmosphere!
Overall, this is a highly recommended CD for any fan of melodic extreme metal, or extreme metal in general. Highlights: Lost to Apathy, Mind Matters, Am I 1?, One Thought, Senses Tied and My Negation.
Having never released a weak or uninspired album since 1995 (The Gallery), Dark Tranquillity comes back with another melodic metal masterpiece in 2005's `Character'.
`Character' is in a way a back to the roots album for the band. The speed of their first three albums comes back to the songwriting together with Stanne's higher pitched death metal vocals. The album grabs the listener from the first seconds and never let's go. Fast drum speeds, with the inclusion of lot's of double bass and blast beats, melodic-sharp-heavy and thrashy guitar riffs, several guitar leads and solos, some memorable bass lines and screaming vocals, characterize the whole direction of this album.
There are some really shinny tracks to be found on `Character'. "The New Build" is the perfect album opener. After a few drum fills a fast blast beat backed by heavy yet melodic riffing give way to Stanne's screaming vocals. The song maintains its fast pace throughout with fast and slower sharp guitar riffs succeeding one another. "Lost To Apathy" is certainly the most catchy track to be found here. While being fast and aggressive it is greatly enriched by infectious melodic riffing, some remarkable death vocals and an amazing chorus followed by melodic guitar tapping. "Mind Matters" is also another catchy tune with a very melodic, bouncy type, intro guitar riff. My favorite track though is "Dry Run". Sharp riffing, varying drumming with sparse double drum fills provide the backbone for Stanne's most memorable vocal performance in the album. Keys on the other hand elevate the track to another atmospheric dimension throughout the chorus. But the best part comes in the 2:10 minute mark were sharp riffs heard from one speaker at a time are enriched with nice guitar leads, great cymbal work and low tone almost whispering vocals. All this is followed by a section with double base drumming, backing keys, power metal like guitar leads, succeeded by the albums best, longest and most varying guitar solo. This is the best track by far in my opinion.
But besides those tracks mentioned above, the rest kind of fall short. `Character' definitely has its weaknesses, although hardcore death metal fans and Dark Tranquillity fans will never admit to it. Due to the fast pace of almost all tracks and the sharp guitar riffing, which sound very similar in some instances, the album sounds kind of monotonous. On the other hand, there are some truly amazing songs (the ones mentioned above) succeeded by considerably weaker ones and that isn't a good thing. The last flaw lies with Stanne's vocal delivery. Although I believe that the guy is the most outstanding vocalist in the genre, he doesn't impress me on this release. For some reason he doesn't sing so deep and heavy as on the two previous albums (Damage Done, Haven) he rather follows the approach of the vocals he used in 'The Gallery' and 'The Minds I', which is a higher death-black vocal delivery. Admitably his voice doesn't sound so great nor unique in that short of pitch, he should have tried to blend the two techniques together...
Someone may argue that the faults I'm mentioning are nit picking, in a way, or personal preferences. Well for me they count a great deal and hold back `Character' from being better than `Damage Done'. Nevertheless Dark Tranquillity should be applauded for making a back to the roots, heavier, faster and rawer album and thus keeping the tradition of altering their sound on every release. All the faults of this album will be diminished and perfected on their next release `Fiction', but this is another review...
(Originally written for http://www.epinions.com website)
I'm one of 'those people' who feel that Gothenburg took a massive turn for the better with the advent of the third millennium. The additional influence of electronics upon the community seemed to work wonders for it, at least in my opinion, primarily by drawing emphasis away from massively overblown guitars and distributed more evenly through the musical space. Of course, one of the highest profile examples of this would me Dark Tranquillity, whose material has improved vastly since their roots.
Despite my dislike of albums such as 'The Gallery', 'Character' is right up my alley. I have no problem with saying that it's pop metal; that's seriously what it is. The music here is unabashedly poppy in nature (a song like 'Lost To Apathy' I could easily see doing well in the mainstream), but by focusing too much on that element, we miss what makes pop music pop: its quality. Obviously, that's a debatable statement, but the majority of pop music is appealing at least on the basest level to our senses because it uses aesthetics almost universally defined as appealing. Dark Tranquillity on 'Character' makes easy on the ears metal without sacrificing artistic and emotional credibility, resulting in beautiful, well-developed music that appeals to a very large audience.
The album seizes your attention right out of the gate with 'The New Build', a wonderful piece of highly melodic, modern death metal that, unlike previous Dark Tranquillity albums, is able to make you feel a real connection with the music. Lyrics that would seem cheesy otherwise seem compelling with Mikael Stanne's undeniably passionate delivery. "I don't ever want to see you/Doing all the same things as me/Don't ever let this be you/Knowing what it is that drives me." Melodramatic? Hell yes! But Dark Tranquillity pulls it off, presenting their ideas and feelings with a drama that is clearly over the top but highly resonant and articulate in its careful construction. There is no understatement to be found on this LP, and it's all the better for it.
Perhaps the most massive, dramatic, flawless moment on this album after 'The New Build' is closer 'My Negation', the bombastic, romantic production of which makes the exquisite melodies that much more potent. It's a highly tactile music, full of riffs (such as the chorus of 'My Negation') that cannot be played normally, but must be drawn from a pick being smashed across the strings in pure agonized artistry. Even if it is pretense, it's a pretense that makes you believe, which is the very most important aspect. The technical performances here are all highly stylish and capable, with highly developed sense of melody and rhythm that will ignite the heart of any metalhead that listens.
While many will disagree with me, saying that Dark Tranquillity has fallen away from their roots, I'd agree with such a conjecture: Dark Tranquillity has indeed left their roots. And all for the better.
The one thing about Dark Tranquillity is their uncanny ability to change the slighest aspect of their music on every cd and sound different. This would be called progression of music. And like most successful bands they do this a lot. After Projector (which was a most unique and amazing release in its own right), Dark Tranquillity went heavy on keys with Haven. Not for everyone but it gained, lost, and kept fans. Next was Damage Done that was more of that trendy Gothenburg sound. Again although it followed a trendy sound it was not a bad release. Now we have this slab of Dark Tranquillity, Character.
To put it simple. They took the Gothenburg sound from Damage Done, made it darker and heavier. Combined with watered down, but never boring key passages from the likes of Haven.
Essentially altering their sound. Best of all it works, it works damn well. Everything about this cd screams they still have a long career ahead of them. Almost 20 years in the business and constantly changing sounds, keeping up with the young guns and best of all making music worth while. Songs like Out of Nothing just show a side of Dark Tranquillity not present in a long time, if ever. The sound is mean, the bass is stuck in your head. The riffs are catchy as hell, yet never get to cheesey, hell they use riffs at times only 3 times than discard them. The keys are tastefully done, they don't have that power metal feel that Gothenburg bands seem to love. If anything they add to the modd and atmosphere as they should. Vocals as usual are top notch ranging from low to mid to high. There's no words that havent already been said to describe Mikaels steller vocal performances. The drumming at times gets boring, but never to the point where you notice it. Only if you're being very picky reviewer.
Mind Matters is another song that will take you deep into the musical world of Dark Tranquillity. This song in particular is how I think they will progress forward in their next effort which is due out later this year. The music is agin dark, yet maintains that sublte calmness. It almost feels as if this song could go to a sci-fi movie. The overall tone of the song give you that futuristic atmosphere. Again all the instrumentation performances are top notch, I really hear no flaws whatsoever. Best of all this song stands out on an already stellar album.
My Negation has to the standout song on the album. It's not the best song., but just not the style song you would expect from Dark Tranquillity. From listening to the rest of the album, you do hear a decline in speed from the band. But when you hear My Negation it's almost ballad type slow. The darkness and dispair combined with the melodic death metal elements ar still present tohugh, just toned down to a slow tempo. Some might love this others might not because this type of song is usually reserved for Doom metal. Yet this is far from a typical doom metal song.
All in all this album is thier most complete since Projector. They incorporate new elements every cd, and hit a gem with this one. With another release of this caliber Dark Tranquillity will solidy their place in metal history.
I was surprised by Dark Tranquility's new album. I wasn't expecting much from them, however what I got the first time I listened to it satisfied me. This is by no means perfect and I have some complaints about it but other than that, it is above average melodic death.
The drums here are actually probably the best feature. They are fast, and they are heard well. The guitars aren't as great. There are many riffs, probably several per second at times, however they are all incomplete and very choppy which is a mistake many melodic death metal bands make. The vocals are also decent however 90% of the time it sounds like the vocalist has a touch too much saliva in his throat.
The first seven songs are what's really good on here. There are definately some memorable melodies and they make the choppy riffs less painful to listen to. "The New Build" has some great drumming to start the song. "The Endless Feed" starts off with some very good melodies and the "wet" vocals actually sound pretty good here. "Lost to Apathy" also has some very good melodies. However once we start getting beyond the seventh song which is "One Thought" the album starts losing my attention. It sounds very similar to all the songs before it, the drums start to get a bit repetitive and the riffs are choppier than earlier in the album. "My Negation" is rather long, 6:29, and boring because it starts off with a very quiet acoustic guitar. "Dry Run" also starts off with a rather quirky melody.
Overall this is a very good album for the melodic death genre, however I have heard better, and while this does sound good, it does sound slightly generic. Recommended to melodic death fans, all others, stay away.
I never thought Dark Tranquillity’s newest opus, “Character”, could be so impressive. After watching bands like In Flames and Soilwork fall into the commercial world of almost Nu Metal, I was afraid that the forefathers of the Gothenburg Sound were going in the same direction. Apparently I was wrong. Very wrong. Everything is better than before on this album, it’s like a second “The Gallery”. From start to end the sound is heavy, melodic and flawless.
“The New Build” which I can describe as “one damn good opener”, is presenting the new sound of Dark Tranquillity. First, the guitars are playing heavier and more technical riffs than ever before. The bass keeps the pace in an unbelievable effort to add deepness to the overall sound. You can tell that Anders Jivarp has been improving his drumming for this album or he’s simply showing the world the full extent of his talent. Finally, the keyboards have definitely caught my attention. Unlike most (if not all) bands of death metal these days, they use the synth as an instrument not just an atmosphere-maker. That is simply bringing more variety and complexity to Character’s refined sound.
The third track “Out of Nothing” is mesmerising; a deep and catchy bass intro followed by a groovy yet heavy riff. The keyboard is making a great transition between the verses and chorus and a fast and technical solo accentuates the song’s atmosphere.
Then after the slow-paced and very dark “The Endless Feed” and the single release “Lost To Apathy” comes “Mind Matters”. This song carries the essence of “Character”, heavy, deep and fast-paced riffs, technical and stable drums, a deep and intense bass, a rich and developed keyboard presence, all that completed by Mikael Stanne’s vocals. His, voice already my favourite around the Death Metal scene, has just improved on the album. Stanne seems to use a more brutal growl just like he used to in the “The Gallery” and “The Mind’s I” days. It simply makes the whole thing even better. Moving onwards, the last song I will talk to you about is “Senses Tied” the tenth track. Once again this song is fast and truly impressive. This song is probably Stanne’s best performance of the album; he sings fast and articulates so damn well that you don’t even need the booklet to read the lyrics. What also struck me was how the keyboard was almost playing the role of a guitar on the whole piece. It practically leads the intro riff and it’s definitely leading the chorus. That’s something you don’t see every day. Yeah, it has been done a few times before, but never was it sounding so good without changing the true metal sound of the song.
“Character” is definitely on the list of the possible Best Metal Album of the Year. It’s a proof that Dark Tranquillity is not planning to stop breaking the barriers of metal. Since their beginning they have constantly changed style, exploring the musical world in a way few ever did. This new album is a flawless masterpiece and just like all previous DT albums, way ahead of its time. It’s defining new standards for Melodic Death Metal.
With each step that this band takes, they confirm why they are one of the most important bands in the metal scene. It’s sad to say it, but as one of the creators of the Gothenburg Sound, maybe DT is the only left flame holders of this trend. Sincerely I liked more Damage Done, but I must recognize Character is a great album, because DT returns to some of their death metal roots in the way of The Mind’s I era, but they still continue experimenting with the electronic part (I say “thank you” to Martin B.). Character is not as melodic as Damage Done, but it doesn’t have the “industrial sound” performed on Haven. I just can say that they found the perfect tuning for the keyboards and now they are a vital part of the DT organism.
Character kicks off with The New Build, reminding us that Dark Tranquillity is one of the heaviest acts nowadays. It’s just the perfect opener for the album, just as Final Resistance did on Damage Done. With Through Smudged Lenses heaviness continues; it seems that these guys don’t want to give us a rest for while until this track ends with a slow and dark outro. DT retakes the curse with Out of Nothing, which has nice piano parts and one of the most memorable guitar solos on this album. Lost to Apathy gives you a general idea of the main sound of DT. If you liked Monochromatic Stains performed on Damage Done you must like this song. And from this point I would say that the following songs define the trend of the whole Character album: highlights like Mind Matters, One Thought, and Senses Tied are part of the heaviest side of this band, but I must give a special mention to Am I 1?, which has a nice main riff, with kind of Projector and The Gallery stuff mixed with the new sound acquired in the last two albums; and of course, the closing track My Negation, perfect to end the album: acoustic intro but more heavy later, maybe it will remind you of Mine is the Grandeur… Of Melancholy Burning (the 2 closing tracks from The Gallery album).
Character is one of the strongest albums from Dark Tranquillity, maybe not the best but as always with this band, another face they have recently unveiled and that’s one more reason to hail them and to pay attention to their past and future works.
Dark Tranquility has done it once again. This is a band that just never ceases to amaze their listeners release after release, constantly re-shaping and re-inventing their style yet remaining distinguishable in every way. Character is perhaps the band's best work to date and serves as a testament for all bands labeled under the "Gothenburg sound". Although the band doesn't like that label which many place them in, they truly blow practically every other band out of the water today when it comes to melodic death metal. Imagine the melodic aggressiveness of The Gallery combined with the luscious atmospheres of Projector and Haven, and you may have an idea of what Character is like. However, I doubt anybody will be completely prepared for what DT has in store this time around regardless of previous listening experience. With every consecutive release, Dark Tranquility always come up with something unique from anything else they've done before and this album is definately no exception.
The first track "The New Build" immediately kills you from start to finish, leaving no mercy for your soul. Perhaps one of the most catchy and aggressive songs the band has ever made with everything being top notch. By listening to the first song, you already know that this is going to be one hell of an album, track after track. Stanne's vocals are better than ever, growling and screaming his lungs out in a much more matured way than his days on Lunar Strain with In Flames. The guitars create bone-crushing melodies and incrediblely aggressive riffs combined with the fantastic drumming of Anders Jivarp. This is the way melodic death metal was meant to be performed. Rather than taking the nu-metalish mainstream route former Gothenburg bands have chosen (In Flames, Soilwork) , Dark Tranquility continue to tread their own path, innovating their sound constantly, staying true to old fans while gaining many new ones with a sound that is catchy yet still complex as it was when melodic death metal was at its prime in the early 90's. While other bands think otherwise, DT care only about the music, not cash. They deserve every penny they get for their passion to create such brilliant music.
If you are a fan of Dark Tranquility, then Character will definately please you. Even if you haven't heard any of the band's stuff you'll most likely become addicted to this release. This is one of their best albums and it is amazing that they are still just as strong as ever since '89. Character is incredibly aggressive, catchy, and melodic. It's not mainstream metal by any means yet still deserves much acclaim just for being such damn good music. This, in my opinion, is a big step up from Damage Done, which I thought was a great album alone. Although it is very early 2005, I can definately see this topping my list as one of the best albums of the year already. Character is more addictive than crack and will be constantly spinning in my stereo for a long long time. Long live Dark Tranquility. They must come to the states soon. I must see them live.
Dark Tranquillity's newest release Character is a huge surprise from a band that has been fairly "hit and miss" throughout their 13-year career. It is nothing new to suggest the Gothenburg melodic death scene has died an ugly death. However, with this album, Dark Tranquillity have proven to outlive the scene. Character is certainly a stronger album overall than past efforts, and while it has its great moments, it also revisits why some of the other albums don't stand out as excellent.
The opening track The New Build is a mover. It just keeps going with riff after riff, never once getting boring. Even the half time sections keep you moving. The first weak point of the album comes with The Endless Feed. Although some of the effects in this track are well placed and interesting, we get a sense of that mallcore whispered vocal during a soft synth section with no guitars. The album quickly returns to form with Lost to Apathy. This is arguably the most memorable song I have heard from these guys featuring very well constructed melodic guitar passages and very tasteful keyboards. Again, for some reason, at 4:00 we have the return of the hushed whipsers. At least they were at the end of the song and not a long middle section.
Mind Matters is a song that starts off kicking your ass, but then takes a unnecessary turn at 2:00, slows down for no reason, and the picks up again. The following track, One Thought is example of how to use keyboards in a metal band. In the past, a song such as this would have likely gone down the tubes for Dark Tranquillity, but the song structure works very well here. The slower sections have a purpose and don't leave you going "what the fuck?" Dry Run is just more of the same with a serving of more whispered vocals. Again, why do they keep doing this? It's not scary. Am I 1? offers a change of pace with more interesting varied parts that involve heavy keyboard work and tempo changes, and makes for one of the more interesting songs.
The album's closer, My Negation, is slow and seems to take forever. It has great potential and the music touches on some interesting melodies, but they never go anywhere. This song should have been placed in the middle because an album with very little significant down time should not closed with such a droner. The keyboard outro is probably the best part of the song.
The album is fairly strong and a good representation of the melodic death metal genre. The qualities are the overall heaviness and greatly improved song structures. The album loses points for repeating itself in several places and those horrid whispered vocals. It's a very accessible album, and would make a better commercial album than any of the current radio friendly nu-metal bands.
Best tracks: The New Build, Out of Nothing, Lost To Apathy, One Thought
I wasn't expecting that much from this album actually, but man when I heard it for the first time I was in complete shock. With all of the Gothenburg bands "selling out" and totally overhauling their styles, I just expected DT to follow suit and write shorter, catchier less intelligent material. I felt Damage Done was a solid CD, but lackluster for such a talented band such as DT, no where near their older stuff in terms of technicality, depth and intelligence, but this disc gave me a new found respect for this band.
The one word I would use to sum up this album is aggresive. DT is known for mostly very intelectual song structure and really involved lyrics and complicated music, but this CD just kicks you in the ass and never lets up, but still remains technical and impressive as fuck. Only a few breaking moments are reserved for clean interludes or a break from the non-stop thrashing. I absolutely love the approach they took for this new album, it just completely surprised me and blew me away. The songs on this album are by far some of the best the band has ever written, which is incredible that they can continue to remain true to their original style and still evolve as a band and write great music.
I was really impressed that the band didn't sacrifice any of the things that made them one of the orignal and best Gothenburg bands. I would compare them to Iron Maiden in the sense that they have never sold out and wrote a song to get airplay or to gain fans, their music has for the most part remained extremely consistent and yet still refreshing and enjoyable. They're writing music that they love and that passion really shows on this disc. My favorite tracks are probably Mind Matters and Am I 1? (despite the lackluster song title, the actual song owns). I love the use of the keyboards in here as well, which have always been very well done, not overdone like some bands. When the keys are used they make for a refreshing break and usually a pretty badass hook that you won't get out of your head for a long while.
Overall if you're a DT fan, you're going to absolutely love this, and even if you aren't I would recommend giving it a listen. The band may actually gain some new fans just because of the sheer tempo and speed that they keep up for the whole CD, but old school DT fans will not feel neglected at all. This CD is fucking brilliant, when it officially debuts in January 2005, it will automatically be one of the contenders for best metal CD of the year.
Rarely am I impressed. Even more rarely am I impressed to such an extent as this. Dark Tranquillity has been nothing but consistently good, if not utterly great, for over a decade of album making. In this very admirable and accomplished attempt, Dark Tranquillity manages to change up their sound, without losing the distinction of their sound. It's a tad bit more on the tenebrous side, more punchy and more atmospheric than previous releases. What they've done here, is created a new sound, while still remaining grounded.
Mikael Stanne still remains one of my favorite vocalists, and he's still doing what made him good in the past ... he's not traveling the road of his peers, Soilwork or In Flames, thank goodness ... the drummer has done some practicing - and it never hurts ... he's become more precise, and his parts accent the music perfectly. Even though this CD starts out with a blast beat, the main complaint I have on the drummers part, is he just needs to do a few more 4th note, and 8th note beats ... but, no damage done. (hehe ... *cough*)
Scattered throughout are riffs reminisent of Gothenburg's glory days ... melodic yet punch-you-in-the-face heavy, great riffage. The keyboards add a superb touch of atmosphere where it's called for, and compliment the guitars very well.
There is little going on in Gothenburg that people pay much attention to anymore, but Dark Tranquillity is proving to me, to be something that will stand the test of time. They completly outshine their peers, and continue to travel new territory.
Over all, I have no real complaints about the CD. Mikael's performance is dead on, and as far as I can see, Martin (keys) and Anders (drums) have stepped it up a notch. I'm very, very impressed with this album ... I don't just recommend it - I DEMAND YOU GET IT!