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It was difficult to avoid noticing the sharp decline in quality material coming out of the older guard of the melodic death metal genre by the time the 2000s had come to be. One need not venture much further than the absence of At The Gates and the detestable studio misfire that was "Reroute To Remain" to see that the big names that pioneered the Gothenburg sound had faltered, save the 3rd part of the triumvirate in Dark Tranquillity. While it could be effectively argued that even said band's best days were behind them by 2002, the album that is "Damage Done" rests pretty comfortably on a higher level than even the album that influenced it most in "Slaughter Of The Soul". It effectively utilizes the same winning formula of catchy melodic hooks, driving thrash riffs and solid rock grooves, and the old fashioned principle of songwriting that less is more that was all over At The Gates' heavily criticized final offering, only it closes the deal more effectively by sticking to the foundational aspects of the style and avoiding too much peripheral detailing.
In essence, this album represents the mirror opposite of what was on the agenda in the early 90s when the style was first starting to take shape, opting for a cohesive, rock solid sound rather than a diffused mixture of technical playing. It is completely removed from the high speed flash and low-fidelity obscurity that marked the early masterworks in the Swedish scene that still had traces of the parallel black metal sound in the mix, coming off as a sound with more in common with traditional heavy/power metal. With this sort of direction comes a high level of accessibility that normal detracts from the core fan base of extreme metal, but it works far better here than with In Flames because Mikael Stanne's vocal work maintains that darker, deeper barking quality drawn from the older Stockholm sound. Even when listening to the near sing-along anthems drenched catchy themes and consonant keyboard lines that are "Monochromatic Stains" and "Format C For Cortex", the character of the album is dark and forbidding due to the werewolf tinged growls covering the foreground.
The downside of an album like this is pretty obvious; whenever the catchy factor is the chief drive of an album, it usually comes at the expense of variety or development of ideas. This is a collection of songs in the same sense that early Saxon might put together a collection of songs, with no songs hitting the 5 minute mark or spending too much time outside of the typical verse/chorus format. This is compensated for with a driving sense of energy and a dense atmosphere, resulting in a set of songs that sate one's hunger for variety through variations in texture and slight change ups in pacing. Certain numbers such as "Final Resistance" and the title song "Damage Done" fire the guns in typical death/thrashing fashion, and while they don't attempt to match the sheer fury of the bulk of "Crowned In Terror", they prove to be formidable in their own right and showcase the interesting duality of melancholy and rage that defines a good Gothenburg album. Even when crossing into lighter territory as on "The Enemy", this album's closest thing to a ballad proves to be rougher and darker than the bulk of In Flames' later 90s work.
The prospective newcomer to melodic death metal will find this to be one of the best entry points, especially if approaching it from a vantage point where little extreme metal has been on the menu beyond the earliest works of Death and Morbid Angel. The amount of commonality that it shares with mainline heavy metal gives it an appeal that would be fit for the arena if it were not for the toneless vocals and dark themes, and at the same time it manages to surprise at a few key points, particularly when the keyboards make a few brief appearances on equal footing with the guitars. But more than anything else, it's the sort of album that will be difficult to get out of one's head once its nestled itself in, and it takes little time for the infectious melodies and smooth atmospherics to overpower the ears once they've started. It may not be death metal in the strict sense of the style, but it kills with a similar degree of mastery.
Taking into account the general direction of the Gothenburg sound in the outbreak of the twenty first century, one might be tempted to risk that this album will almost for sure unbalance the main ingredients that characterized Dark Tranquillity during their first albums, adding a bit more melody and leaving a bit less metal. And it wouldn’t be a shock to think so, because other bands had done that (In Flames being a major example with ‘Clayman’) and Dark Tranquillity themselves had been mellowing things up ever since ‘The Gallery’ and up to ‘Haven’, an album in which Stanne uses clean vocals and there is an overall down tune sound.
Strangely enough, and to my absolute surprise, ‘Damage Done’ is an excellent melodic death metal album, in which the general feeling of the music, from the crunchy riffs of ‘Final Resistance’ to the sludgy heavy guitar sound of ‘Ex Nihilo’, gives way to a very fun album to listen to.
The songs are focused on the entwining between very good, very catchy guitar riffs and the consistency of the solos, very competent and quite fitting the song structure in every case. There are even some guitar parts that resemble, even if ever so slightly, thrash moods that will surely invite you to give sway to your neck. Beyond that, there is a bass that functions as an anchor and keeps the whole string tempos and lines neatly in place (even when the song gets faster, like in ‘White Noise / Black Silence’).
Moving on to the drums, I must say they are amongst the most competently played in the whole band’s discography, especially because the majority of the songs have an intricate, though actually not too complicate drum structure, and we can hear a very good double bass drumming. Of course, this being melodic death metal, one cannot expect double bass drumming to be at hyper speed. In fact, it is not easy to use such drumming technique in more melodic contexts this well.
The keyboards have always played an important role throughout the band’s discography, and here they are no exception. What really stands out is the way they so discretely blend in with the rest of the instruments, never really assuming a highlight standard that might overshadow the structure of the songs, and yet making a huge difference. If you imagine this album without the keyboards, it would be painfully plain.
Stanne’s vocals sound really strong, he completely focus on the death metal vocalization and leaves completely aside any attempt to soften certain parts of the album by using clean vocals. As an overall result, the albums comes our more coherent, even heavier than most previous or even later records released by this band. The lyrics are actually very cool, and Stanne’s singing even permits to understand them quite well. They take on abstract perspectives that the listener can interpret his/her own way, mainly on personal matters and subjects.
While listening to ‘Damage Done’ one can actually identify each and every instrument without having to regret any production excess, because the sound still comes out quite heavy. It might not be a straight forward brutal album, but it guarantees a healthy dose of fun. It is heavy enough to be by its own right within the death metal taste, and yet very melodic.
The first time I heard of Dark Tranquillity was on Youtube, listening to there Monochromatic Stains clip. It was quite heavy when I heard it (I was still quite new in the metal scene) but I really liked the chorus. I started downloading songs and eventually the whole Damage Done album.
I was really impressed with the mix of beauty and melody present on this album. I had already heard Soilwork and In Flames from the Gothenburg metal scene but this album was very different from both of them. No clean vocals with rip off chorus. Instead, DT showed us some awesome songs a bit more complex than the other two bands in the melodeath scene.
The whole album is awesome, the album is very consistent, therefore, in all tracks you’ll find something intersting. You’ll enjoy this album from the beginning of the trash intro of Final Resistance to the powerfull Monochromatic Stain, the brilliant Format C for Cortex, the quasi ballad The Enemy and the weird-but-still-cool Ex Nihilo.
The lyrics in this album are brilliant. The kind of lyrics that pushes you to understanding the meaning behind every word. It is not always easy to guess what Micheal meant through his lyrics.
The album was not focus on a specific instrument. The guitars are clear they are more used as rhythmic, no solos (except for Monochromatic Stains). The keyboard gives a good atmosphere to the songs. The drums are always used on the same tempo, not very fast nor very slow. The bass guitar can easily be heard, which is a good point. The vocals aren’t fantastic nor boring.
If you are interested in melodic death metal and you are looking for something not as commercial oriented as In Flames then I recommend you strongly to take a look at this album.
After showing the world what they were capable of, the strange and unusual arrangements came to a halt, and Dark Tranquillity took a more proper, direct approach towards their way of making music. Never has an album by this band sounded so strict and straight-forward, but rarely before has undemanding music worked as well as it does here either. What they do is pretty simple, but inside of the shielding boundaries that they create, they do absolutely everything possible to make it sound interesting. Restarting at ground zero, although it's a risky move, it sure paid off.
First of all, the production couldn't be better. Of all the releases that major labels release, only a few really seems to fit music and production together as a whole. Without the clear-cut sound that is breathing freely into the sonic language the instruments speak the actual songs wouldn't work half as good. Studio Fredman often produces some great sounding compositions, but "Damage Done"Â takes the cake. The guitars are perfectly distorted to fit the occasion. The drums work in a splendid way, instead of confusing you with their complex beats, thanks to the sound they keep you involved in what is going on behind the kit. Even the bass guitar (which usually drowns behind the guitars) can be heard to the extent that you constantly follow its pattern.
The songs are mostly great and have improved since "Haven". The aforementioned album didn't offer much to me, and I blame it on the songs. As I stated earlier, they've aimed for simplicity than anything else, which at the time was the right move for them. Everybody who's heard "Projector" knows what this band is capable of, and I find myself in delight hearing that they don't try to repeat themselves. There are way too many bands that do that. Unfortunately, the band members of D.T. stuck to their simplistic formula for a couple more albums, where they could've benefited from inventing new material. This is why this album beats it's successors straight down.
With that said, "Damage Done"Â doesn't come without its flaws. Mikael Stanne sounds like a growling machine all the way from opener "Final Resistance" to his final performance on "White Noise / Black Silence" and does nothing at all to vary his act. This is without a doubt a big downer for most people, and of course for me too. There's nothing special about his voice to begin with, and when it becomes a monotonic mush after a while, it really can't be forgiven.
Also, whilst the simply structured may work, it doesn't work for 47 minutes straight. It would've been nice with something different once in a while, and believe me, there is no such thing to be found. Sure, there are major changes between songs, both in speed and style, but again it has its limitations. At a certain point, I begin to miss the old D.T. Fortunately they've done something unique with the last song. "Ex Nihilo"Â isn't your typical way of an ending. It's not really an outro, and not an individual song, but something in between. Let's call it a passage. Anyway, this is the real reason why bands like this one maintains its standard in my book; atmosphere. They use just about enough of it to put me under a worshipping-spell. There's great melodies and melancholic ambience which grabs you, and doesn't let go before the last second of its playing time.
I regard this release as one of the highpoints in its area. There's enough intensity to break your balls, but not enough variation to make it into the classics category. Even so, you should definitely buy it if you are interested in just how good Gothenburg-metal can be.
It's safe to say that "Damage Done," the supposed big comeback album for one of Sweden's best bands, fell short... Just like the rest of melodic death metal albums that came out in 2002. It goes without saying that "Damage Done" was cluster-fucked in with every other big release of 2002: In Flames, Behemoth, Soilwork, etc. While it's not a total flop, and does have a damn good share of moments, Dark Tranquillity didn't really usher in anything outstanding on this album.
Fault #1 is the songwriting department. Compositions are pretty linear and don't offer much outside of the "ear-candy" factor on first listen. While songs like the opener, "Final Resistance," offer up some solid neo-thrash verses and catchy-as-hell choruses, it's not anything to write home about in the end. By the time the band reaches the 2nd chorus of a song, you're ready to press the skip button.
To add on, there's not much complexity; don't expect any solos or technical flair, because that's a search you'll never complete. Anders' drums are a little TOO simplistic, and while the guitars definitely have a lot going for them, the uninspired structures bring everything down.
Fear not, though; we are, after all, talking about one of Sweden's better bands. Mikael Stanne's lyrics are the strongest point of this release, which I attribute most of the points to. His lyrics examine the human mind and emotions with a certain beauty that can't be described, (without being overly pretentious) and his vocal patterns are far from typical. On an actual level as vocalist though, this is not Mikael's strongest performance. Here, he uses a deeper pseudo-growl rather than his trademark rasp. Listeners are still able to decipher lyrics, and the gut-level punch adds to the album's more emotional moments; but his voice doesn't change tone much, and can become rather irritating through the course of the album.
The album's production is also another high point. Guitars and clear and crisp, while maintaining a healthy amount of low end; drums have a fresh and modern sound without resorting to triggers; and the electronic aspects come through beautifully on "Cathode Ray Sunshine" and "Single Part of Two."
While not the band's most memorable or technical offering, "Damage Done" is still fairly consistent; maybe a little TOO consistent.
Favorite tracks: "Final Resistance", "Single Part of Two", "Format C: For Cortex", "Cathode Ray Sunshine."
I'm going to give Dark Tranquillity a little credit here. While I cannot say I really enjoy this release or anything, it does not pain me to listen to, and it was enjoyable for a listen the first few times.
Many of the songs on this album do not sound very different from one another, they all use a similar riff type which is fast and of a more simple nature, the drumming also doesn't really standout, it, along with the bass just follow the guitar. Even though none of them standout, it does give it a complete sound which is nice.
The vocals never really change much, on all the songs Mikael Stanne uses the same type of growl, it does make sense that he would do this, seeing as it is the typical vocal type of melo-death, but some clean vocals or maybe some different type of growls or even some screeches could have at least given a little more depth to the songs.
I can say that this cd should at least get a listen from people, especially if you have never heard melo-death before. This could serve has a fine example of what melo-death is all about, fast guitars, bass and drums and growling, there are more parts to melo-death, those are just the more common things.
If the songs were a little more different from eachother, this would be a better cd all around, but as it stands, it is just average.
This album awakes contradictory feelings over me: For one side, I find all the songs following the same 4 x 4 rythm, all along, since the very first note to the ending one (even when it is a hidden variation of it or it seems to relax at times, just keep on counting steps on your head, and it never changes. The album can be used as a clock). But for the other side, they do wonderful things only using that structure (and also, to be sincere, most metal bands use also only that rythm). So my question is, should a band be required to variate what they do, when they do it perfectly?
And two answers come from my heart. The first one, "I would like to see some pace changes here and there", and the second one "I could keep on listening to this for hours". Being both of them true, I guess I can bear them even if Jivarp never goes out of his well known paths.
Also there is something charming with this album, because even when Dark Tranquillity had their experimental times albums ago, in Projector, they assimilated that without denying or refusing their paths and without sending to hell their roots, like other bands had done (hint: something about flames). I see it kind of symbolic, to go back to the roots and leave the experiments away, even if the results were as brilliant as Projector and Haven were. So, by leaving that in the past, this is Gothenburg stuff at its best: The guitars sounds fierce and clear, with wonderful riffs and those brilliant breaks and silences that sound just as part of the main melody (like the one at 3'51'' of Hours Passed in Exhile), one can heard everything the drum does, there are wonderful melodies, and the trademark Dark Tranquillity's keyboards add deepness and colour to the music, always interchanged with the guitars in the main melody of the song, always giving a dark layer to the music, sometimes holding the music just to leave the guitars tear that slowness down at the next step. And if you add to that Mikael Stanne's brilliant voice (and oustanding lyrics), you have a very very good album, that is a pleasure to listen.
So yes, they have a recipe and they keep it everytime. But the resulting dish tastes very good and it's highly appreciated in these times where ancient metal gods poison their reputation with each new release.
This album hardly breaks any boundaries and is the most unoriginal album of Dark Tranquillity's career, yet I feel it is quite possibly their finest piece of work.
The biggest problem with the album is that the songs sound very similar to each other, which causes the album to lose steam over time unless you are obsessed with the style. Thank god the songs here are generally pretty good, or we would have one crap of an album. The style for just about every song is traditional gothenburg with some added atmospheric effects. All songs typically have a strong minor key, and this along with the artsy, melancholic atmospheres provide for songs that are a bit sad sounding yet are full of melody. Occassionally the band breaks out with a puching, half-thrash riff (see intro/main riff to "White Noise/Black Silence" which is an AWESOME riff), but most of the time the riffs move along on a single string in a minor key, a la traditional gothenburg. The main difference here is how polished this album is. The production is great, all instruments are very clear, the guitars sound pretty heavy, even Stanne's voice is mixed well enough that one can make out most lyrics. The best comparison I can think of in production is In Flame's "Clayman" album, but here the drums and guitars are both turned down a bit lower.
Basically, we have a solid, consistent, gothenburg album throughout. The only song that doesn't fit the mold is the last one, which is a slow, haunting, almost doomy instrumental song. It's a decent song and sounds good when it's on, but it's nothing I would go out of my way to listen to. The only thing this album adds to the traditional gothenburg sound is that the songs have a more sophisticated/artsy feel to them. Normally this is not something I would care about, but here it adds just enough to keep the songs fairly interesting and forces me to come back to the album on an occasional basis. This album combines Dark Tranquillity's artistic ideas with their better songwritings ideas, easily making it one of their strongest efforts.
Gothenburg is to avant garde melodic death metal as San francisco was the thrash... indeed rarely does a single town yield such a multitude of cutting edge bands. DT are the guys who started this thing, and almost ten years after Skydancer comes Damage Done, their magnum opus. Damage Done is DT with all the fat trimmed off... elements from its predecessors are streamlined to an airtight malestrom of soaring, majestic melodies and superb songwriting (hows that for pretentious?). Along with Whoracle and Slaughter of the Soul, this belongs on any self respecting Gothenburg junkie's list of necessities.
Final Resistence opens off, shredding through monster riff after monster riff... of course there are cheesy keyboards everywhere, but Mikael Stanne's vo-KiLz provide an adequate check. Every song on Damage Done is memorable.... potentially mainstream without neglecting it's roots. The bombastic melodies and choruses have arena-rock power and mosh pit ferocity at the same time.
A couple of my friends who like the Deftones more than Darkthrone have fallen for this disc. Regardless of ones preference for melodic death, Damage Done is just a damn good album.
After lingering in a more electronic direction with their release Projector, and coming back with a cleaner and more powerful sound on Haven, Dark Tranquillity successfully combines both elements into their recent masterpiece, Damage Done. Damage Done laces intense lyrics into their already strong music.
Beginning with "Final Resistance," Mikael Stanne navigates you through worlds of pain and anger. Through doubt and reistance: "Hours Passed in Exile." Through lost love: "Single Part of Two." Through (my personal favorite) loss and choas: "The Treason Wall." Through realization and dissapointment: "Damage Done." Through deception: "I, Deception." And though infection and ideals: "The Poison Well."
The power in the lyrics is only matched by characteristic intense guitar riffs and drum sequences. Damage Done also includes one intrumental track, Ex Nihilo, containing similar elements of the bonus track, "I, Deception" which encompasses, almost randomly, a distintly techno interlude half-way through.
Powerful and meaningful, Damage Done remains at the top of my list.
I thought Haven was decent, certainly was original, but it was lacking as far as riffs go and it all sounded the same. This cd however, is excellent. Ity mixes everything that was good about Haven with the intensity of their older material. The riffs on this album are much more intense, technical, and melodic. The singing is excellent as is expected of Stanne, he really has a unique voice that is instantly recognizable. The songs on this album change tempo and feeling quite often, unlike the previous release.
My favorite tracks on this album include "Final Resistance", "Format C: for Cotrex", "Cathode Ray Sunshine", and "The Enemy". The album is very consistent so all the of the songs are very good. "Final Resistance" is one of the faster, more crushing songs on this album. A great start to a great album. "The Enemy" is a slow-paced, emotional, and highly melodic song that offers a very good change of pace. "ex Nihilo" is an insturmental song that closes the album very well. It has an eerie feel to it, primarily due to the excellent use of electronics/keyboards in the song (which are used tastefully throughout the album).
This album can be reccomended for anyone into the Swedish Melodic Death style. This album is a breath of fresh air for the scene which I feel is still good but drifting from its roots (In Flames, Soilwork, even though they are still pretty good).