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As the first notes of "Nothing to No One" rumble through your speakers, it becomes obvious that Fiction desperately wants to be Character Part II. It very nearly achieves this goal at several junctures, although it's more experimental nature pulls the proceedings into a more progressive direction more often than not. Brändström approaches the keyboards from a more organic perspective, shying away from the heavy use of electronica elements that had dogged albums like Haven. The one exception is "Terminus (Where Death Is Most Alive)", which desperately tries to take a stab at mainstream appeal whilst retaining the bobbing and weaving of the Gothenburg patterns. It comes off as a slightly more well built "The Wonders at Your Feet", featuring a neck-jerking groove during the chorus and an infectious main synth line.
While Fiction follows familiar trappings at first, it gets more experimental as it goes on. The otherwise average "Misery's Crown" features some crooning vocal passages courtesy of Stanne. He sounds pretty good here, much better than the overacted warbling present on Haven. "The Mundane and the Magic" features the chick from Theatre of Tragedy for some reason. I can go either way regarding these female vocal contributions that Dark Tranquillity feels the need to shoehorn into certain songs. It came off as more novel and appealing on Projector anyway. Conversely, we get some heavier riff-monsters like "Focus Shift" and "Icipher", the latter of which pulverizes the best of Character courtesy of it's monolithic inclinations. Regardless, "Blind at Heart" steals the spotlight from all of these. It starts off formulaic by Dark Tranquillity standards, but the churning tremolo verses that open into the stirring chorus embody the best of this album's approach.
Fiction's production features interesting attributes that aren't necessarily unwelcome. Most glaringly, Jivarp's kit features barely any reverb. His snare has a snappy pop to it that helps him cut through the multiple layers that usually obfuscate the mix. This adds character to his mechanized percussive assault, as per Fiction's prospective atmosphere. A good example is "Empty Me", which has some decent blasting patterns that serve the more agitated riffs well. The somber piano melody during it's chorus is searingly memorable as well, so don't miss that one if anything. "The Lesser Faith" also gets some decent drum-driven grooves going during it's verses, even without much input from Brändström.
Fiction tries to settle into the stagnant Gothenburg formula at times, but there is just enough variation to keep it's head above water. Even so, some tracks like "The Mundane and the Magic" try to inveigle the listener by muddying the creative waters with melodramatic fluff, coming off as more offensive than they need to be. Fiction is more effective when viewed as an amalgamation of differing songwriting styles as opposed to a cohesive experience. Solid for what it is.
What has always set Dark Tranquility apart from almost every other melodic death metal band out there is their ability to create a bombastic and relentlessly incredible guitar experience that remains varied and considerably more adventurous than their comrades in the genre. Punish My Heaven, the introductory track to their magnum opus The Gallery, showed this off perfectly with its fantastic guitar introduction and the band's fan base remained quietly optimistic that following the masterful album The Gallery turned out to be, the band would release another album of the same caliber. Come 2007, six albums later, Dark Tranquility finally delivered with Fiction, an album that often rivals and at times eclipses The Gallery, standing out as a perfect example of how melodic death should sound.
The best thing about this album is the keyboard work provided by Martin Brandstrom. The keyboards are constantly there in the background creating a beautiful back drop and really toning up the melodic side to make the starkest contrast possible with the energetic and crushing riffs found such as in the song The Lesser Faith. The album opener Nothing To No One also showed off how well the keyboards could be used, as they do not rely on being overly flashy but are instead purely there to create a gorgeous backdrop for the rest of the band to build off and create an atmospheric masterpiece. There are times, such as at two and a half minutes into The Lesser Faith and especially the end of Misery's Crown where the keyboard comes to the forefront of the music which creates a fantastic dynamic for the band to play off, switching from the crushing and yet melodic brutality found throughout much of the duration of the album to something so soft. This is certainly an album that goes above and beyond what has come to be expected of the melodic death metal sub-genre since bands such as Arch Enemy bastardized it.
The guitar work on this album is once again absolutely top notch, although not quite as well written as that found on The Gallery, but not too far off. The riffs are fantastically crafted and flow into one another better than most albums out there, making for a rock solid album all the way through, and is also extremely varied. For those looking for tremolo picked death metal goodness and even a few seconds of a blast beat, Blind At Heart is for you, but the song also goes into absolute overkill on the melody during the chorus which is about as catchy and accessible as death metal gets. The soloing is what really stands out about the guitar work as Focus Shift shows off well among other songs. The soloing on here are, as should be expected from melo-death, not complete shred fests but instead focus on showing off the talent the guitarists have at creating something that sounds absolutely beautiful but at the same time completely chaotic. The soloing on here ranks among the best that has ever been produced from any album out there.
The drumming is highly varied, with some fast beats but usually it is a lot slower than what should be expected from a death metal album and fits in very well among the music. The double bass work on Blind At Heart is definitely the stand-out of the drumming on this album but it is all very well written and performed. The bass guitar is very low in the mix but is still audible enough and sounds very good, although following the guitars throughout. The pinch-harmonic fest that is the introduction to Icipher and the drums and bass-only opening to Nothing To No One are the stand-out moments for Michael Nicklasson. The vocal work is among the best in the genre, being fairly low in pitch but having a decent enough range with some higher, raspier shrieks to be found. This is one of the best vocal performances in melodic death metal and Mikael Stanne should be proud of his work on this album. The production is as tight as can be, with everything being audible throughout and no single instrument dominating the mix. The song craft is also of a high caliber but this is really an album of a great consistency as opposed to one that you pick a single song out of as being the best on here. If forced to pic, then opener Nothing To No One would be the best choice as it is a varied and thoroughly enjoyable song that everyone should experience.
I recommend this album to anyone who enjoys melodic death metal as it is among the best in the sub-genre, but I would also recommend this to just about anyone looking for a fantastic album that is near perfect at everything it does. Dark Tranquility's 2007 outing is a flat-out classic of its genre and has some of the best sounding guitar work out there, on top of some brilliant vocal work and a consistency that is nearly unparalleled. This or The Gallery are Dark Tranquility's essential albums, and it is between the two as to which is better. Both are essential and you should listen to both.
6 members creating this album, and my God, what a follow-up from their previous release entitled Character. They use a lot of electronics on here, but it doesn't drown out the melodic riffs. The vocals are not really varied, they're mostly just screaming, which was different than their epic release back in 1999 with Projector. I got used to that album and deem it higher than Fiction. I like the variety on the vocal aspect of that release.
Every song on here deserves praise. They're totally original sounding. Guitar wise it's varied with chord progressions, somewhat fast tempos, some tremolo picked riffing but not much, mostly just purely melodies. They didn't abandon their roots on this release and it's a little more aggressive and anger stricken than what I wasn't used to on Projector. I don't own Character, so I can't really make any comparisons to that one compared to this.
Long songs clocking in 4-5 minutes in length for a total of about 45+ minutes in length. Well played out melodic death metal. The only beef I have with the album are the solos. I don't think that they were very good. But there weren't many on here. Mostly rhythm guitar which is very good. The quality in the riffs are what stands out the most. Even some blast beating is featured here on the drums. They were very angry on this album. It's not really mellow at all.
I think that the electronics created more of a darker atmosphere for the music which was the band's aim was on this album. Their lyrical concepts consist of death, memories, despair and chaos theory. Quite a lot of topics there and creative to the core. If they took out the lead guitar on this album and made it all rhythms, then I would give the album a higher rating. But the reality is that their guitarists play great guitar, just not leads.
The production was impeccable. All of the instruments are well heard on here. The guitars, electronics, bass, drums, and vocals are well mixed into this release. Nothing is left out here. Total quality from all aspects. No complaints at all on here in terms of the mixing and production. Just a great melodic death album overall. Great atmosphere they have on here. Dark, melodic, aggressive and quality in musicianship.
If you're a melodic death freak like I am, this is a must have for your collection. It's only lacking on the lead department, but the melodies, the electronics, piano, riffs, and vocals are all good. They didn't lose their aggressiveness in their songwriting at all. They progressed on here and what stands out the most to me is how well they're able to incorporate piano/electronics in together and not drown out the vocals or drums. As I previously stated, the mixing is phenomenal. Pick this one up!
This is the first Dark Tranquility album I ever bought, and it's also one of the best metal albums I've ever bought. This is the definition of a fantastic album and it's definitely one of my favorites.
This entire album has a real forlorn feel to it; there's almost a sense of film-noir jazz about it, particularly in the opening seconds of Inside the Particle Storm. There's just a laid back feel to it that's hard to describe, as the music itself isn't laid back. It's just a sort of...cool, almost relaxed atmosphere throughout this whole album.
The music itself is chock full of sharp riffs, fantastic drumming (this album has some of my favorite drumming on it) terrific guitar leads and solos and some killer vocals courtesy of Mikael Stanne, delivered in his trademark higher-pitched rasp as opposed to a typical death metal growl. The lyrics are fantastic, with a very cold, futuristic vibe to them, and are one of mm favorite things about the album. The production is crystal clear and sharp and fits this album perfectly; kudos to the sound engineer who mixed this record.
The futuristic vibe of the lyrics is enhanced by occasional techno-ish keyboards and industrial-esque breakdowns, though both are used with such infrequency that impact rather than annoyance is what is felt. If there's one musical high point of the album though, it would be Icipher, which stands as one of the best metal songs I've ever heard. The breakdown that occurs mid-song is chilling and in my mind is not only a high point for this album but for the genre as a whole. Every song has its strengths though, from the pounding of Focus Shift to the dark noir-jazz feel of Into the Particle Storm to Blind at Heart with its hard industrial breakdowns. The songwriting here is absolutely top notch.
Fiction is, as I said above, one of my favorite metal albums. It's fast, heavy, well thought and and well written metal with a real forlorn feel to it, and I heartily recommend this to anyone who likes good heavy, aggressive but also laid back (if that makes any sense at all) Gothenburg Death Metal.
I am quite fond of Dark Tranquillity mainly because of the eerie atmospheres this band has a knack for conveying in every album they wrote. "The Gallery", for an example, was kind of a fuck up in the ‘heavy riffing’ department due to its way too constant lead guitar, but it sure had some interesting melodies to make up for it and the whole thing sounded beautifully barroque. Like a mad bard playing frantically while singing about his innermost woes. Ah, the good old crazy shit.
"Fiction" is, as many have pointed before, a keyboard-centered album. Here, Brandstrom's keys are loud and simplistic, but the atmosphere they create is probably the best in this band's career. It's introspective, sorrowful and melancholic without the sugary aspect this genre is known for when employing keyboards, but it was the guitars that had me divided the last time I reviewed this. Here's some considerations about it:
Previously, I used to chastise this album for what I perceived to be underwhelming guitar work. Well, after listening to many other melodeath albums and becoming even more accustomed to the fine tunings of DT’s craft, I had a change of heart. See, reviewing is a subjective, weird little thing. From my point of view, an album should be analysed and criticised by what it is within the context it was created, not by what the reviewer thinks it should be.
The thing is, even if bands like Kalmah exist to prove the contrary, melodic death metal is not a subgenre that exists almost solely on the strength of sheer riffwork, like thrash does. It is a nuanced beast with many ramifications that differ from band to band, even if the core staples (Higher pitched death growls + thrashdeath drumwork + guitar harmonies inspired by Iron Maiden, etc) are almost always present.
For an example, it’s safe to assume that "Jester Race", "The Mind’s I" and "Oracle Moon" are all melodic death metal albums, even if the first one is a blueprint for gothenburg –melodeath’s more accessible brother- , rocket science won’t be needed for the listener to understand the vast differences in songwriting and atmosphere of these three excellent releases.
My point being, reviewing Stratovarius while having your mind set on Wormphlegm will get you nowhere. “Fiction” finds Henriksson and Sundin going for just the right amount of guitar shenanigans for it to be called a decent post “Damage Done” Dark Tranquillity album, just as the more aggressive “Character” did. Sure, some groove hooks could be better implemented like the one on “Terminus” and solos could be longer, but those guys were never big on the whole Tipton & Downing vibe, so their stuff is a tad different and very competent here, like the intro riff to “Icipher”, that works really well with the keys and tracks like “The Lesser Faith” and “Nothing to no One” strike me as particularly riff-heavy, even when employing the aforementioned grating one note grooves.
Vocally, this album is also not bad. I do enjoy Stanne’s vocals because the man just never failed me. I mean, his voice was always good, it didn’t go from tolerable to shit like Angela Gossow’s or from shit to a complete goddamn disaster like Anders Friden’s. This man is probably one of the most focused and enjoyable Gothenburg vocalists and is also a damn fine lyricist too. Also, his clean baritone vocals are back and they don’t sound bad, fortunately. Nell Sigland (of Theatre of Tragedy fame) also makes a cameo in the last track trading some vocals with him, and the result is also quite fun.
The lyrics are the good ol’ Dark Tranquillity fare, featuring obscure metaphors and abstract themes, but this time they apparently chose a slightly more direct way of writing, as evidenced in ‘Misery’s Crown’ and ‘Icipher’. And as far as drumming goes, Anders Jivarp delivers a sharp performance, as always. As for the production, it is slightly thin but not raw black metal-like thin. I found it very sterile and cold, more than fitting to the kind of sensations they were trying to convey here, specially on Brandstrom's end.
There are some highlights, such as this album’s best track, the great “The Lesser Faith”, which blends the keyboards seamlessly with the guitar tracks and is an absolute winner in terms of atmosphere. Other good tracks include “Empty Me” with its beautiful chorus and ending, and the aforementioned “Icipher” for its somewhat cold and introspective feeling.
This is a powerful grouping of songs that keep, in each and every one of them, a feeling of intangible coldness that spreads to every other instrument like a virus, morphing the individual parts into something else, something stranger but still pleasant to listen. "Fiction" is Dark Tranquillity in a half frozen state. Perhaps stunted here or there, but still capable of delivering the goods and an amazing atmosphere when the time is right.
(Oh, and the album also features some good bonus tracks)
I've been browsing around this site for awhile, read plenty of reviews and used several to gauge my exploration into new bands. However, after reading the sheer amount of overwhelmingly positive reviews for Fiction, I had to step in and contribute, especially as I had planned to when the album was released.
I enjoy the melodic death metal scene, and have since I picked up The Gallery and Character, the first two. While I've also explored bands such as In Flames (all the way up to Come Clarity, in which they tried to farm on the grounds they salted themselves), Hypocrisy, At The Gates, Kalmah, etc., Dark Tranquillity always stood out as a band who made memorable songs, shifted their music scheme and experimented with new things while keeping some good parts consistent (such as Mikael Stanne's voice, a certain level of 'epicness' that never reached lunacy like, say, Dragonforce, a MODERATE amount of keyboarding, which we will explore in a moment). However, when I picked up Fiction, I was baffled.
After listening to the first track, I figured they were going to hide the better songs later on, like with Damage Done. I thoroughly enjoyed "The Lesser Faith", and it remains my favorite track, as it has a sense of forlorn grace to it, and a very good mixture of all instruments. Extremely catchy too. However, it was with that track that I noticed the keyboards were taking a majority of the spotlight, and were rather simplistic. Mind you, more recent releases, such as Character, used keyboarding, but it was not a dominant force in all the songs and had some level of complexity. But it seemed that the guitar work had been dumbed down to highlight Martin Brandstrom's ability to play one key at a time. Troubling, indeed.
This continued. Terminus had a familiar feeling to some of the slower songs on Character. But lots of boring keyboards, simplistic riffs, nothing spectacular. Blind at Heart had a good fusion of instruments and was upbeat enough to keep my attention. Perhaps Fiction could redeem itself?
And then Icipher. What the fuck is up with the lyrics? Why does it seem like a sad ballad disguised with excessive palm muting? I did not approve. The composition was simplistic and mundane. Perhaps they should have swapped some of the track titles around. While I applaud our friends at DT for reaching into their inner feelings and expressing them, I would've suggested a side project. This heartfelt experience in failure continues, and peaks at Misery's Crown, where Stanne sounds on the verge of tears, perhaps upon the realization that Fiction was not only about to garner the attention of the emotionally distraught, but confuse and infuriate most of his former base. Awesome.
Focus Shift definitely shifted my focus away from the last few tracks. I enjoyed that one, reminded me of older releases and times when selling out was something that only In Flames had mastered. And then "The Mundane and the Magic". As opposed to a number of the reviewers, I thought it was shit. When the female vocals plopped into place, I did not immediately think of Gallery. I thought Cradle of Filth. I thought I had absent-mindedly swapped CDs. So much for a focus shift. We have to wait a minute for the song to actually start, and about two and a half minutes in, I almost crashed my car while laughing at the pop-star female vocals spliced in between some of the most phony and goofy singing I've ever heard come from a guy.
I am not sure why Dark Tranquillity leapt head-first into the bandwagon of recently shitty releases. I only enjoy Fiction for two songs, and was kind of disappointed otherwise. But to see that most of our faithful reviewers found this album to be lovely and perhaps superior to other, more skillful DT creations means either there's a hypnotizing quality to Fiction that I'm immune to, or we're all screwed.
For those new to DT, I do not recommend this as your only experience with their music. Pick up Gallery, Damage Done, Character, hell, even The Mind's I. Then come back and say this is the best there was.
Have Dark Tranquillity ever released a bad album? That’s definitely up for debate, but what does seem certain is that lately the band has been delivering perhaps the most solid modern melodic death metal around today. Their competition, being of course, In Flames and Arch Enemy among some other lesser known bands.
Fiction more or less picks up from where Character left off in that there is no drastic change in the music. Although on some occasions (Misery’s Crown and The Mundane And The Magic) we get to hear Mikael Stanne sing with clean vocals for the first time since 1999’s Projector. Maybe this ruined the album for some radical conservative fans, but in my opinion the vocals work perfectly. Other than that Fiction contains some of the most aggressive work Dark Tranquillity has managed to perform for quite some time. Opener, Nothing To No One carries out all the aspects with some hyper-fast guitar riffs, forceful harsh vocals, and a catchy chorus including some piano. Definitely a highlight of the album. Dark Tranquillity are a good example of a metal band that use keyboards to their advantage. Some people seem to think that keyboards anywhere ruin everything. I don’t quite understand this as I am under the impression, that if executed correctly, keyboards can add a lot to the music. Terminus (Where Death Is Most Alive) has keyboards, and I’d like to hear someone tell me that song sucks. The album continues with stand-out after stand-out of what Dark Tranquillity have become known for. Mixing some really heavy music with great melodies.
New inclusions in the music would be (as stated above) the clean vocals in two of the songs. Misery’s Crown features mostly clean vocals with some screams in the chorus. My personal favourite is the monumental and massive The Mundane And The Magic, which is also the closer. To me, this song is just a modern melodeth anthem. Old classics like In Flames’ The Jester Race and Dark Tranquillity’s The Gallery will unlikely ever be heard again. This is the new sound, and it’s just as good. It features piano, melodic guitars, aggressive screams, and female clean vocals in an amazing chorus. Worth your money alone.
Dark Tranquillity are really keeping the genre alive with their recent music. This is definitely a highlight of 2007. If you are unimpressed with what In Flames are doing these days, I would strongly suggest checking out some new Dark Tranquillity.
Another couple of years pass and another album is released by Dark Tranquillity. As usual, the quality’s there and it’s another good and consistent album. To be honest, this is quite similar to the last two but I like it more than those. Musically this is the usual post-Projector Dark Tranquillity. Well at least it’s similar to Character and Damage Done as I haven’t heard Haven yet. All three of these albums contain that slightly drier more modern feeling than the band’s first two efforts, but don’t think that this makes any of them weak.
Fiction continues with the now standard Dark Tranquillity formula of heavy melodic death metal with quite a good amount of keyboards thrown in the mix. These keyboards do an extremely good job of giving this album emotion. Half of it comes from them and the rest comes from Mikeal Stanne. The songs that shine particularly from this use of keyboards are Terminus, Icipher and Misery’s Crown. Icipher in particular has one of the most incredible…keyboard solos at the 2:30 mark. They make the album that much more emotive and powerful, and are used as to avoid sounding “cheesy” during the whole length. The band manages to blend keyboards and metal in a stunning way and as much as that might seem to piss off the last reviewer, I love it.
Mikeal Stanne continues with his usual vocals which just spew forth the lyrics in an incredibly powerful and emotional way. What pisses me off is that most people outside of the metal world don’t realize this, only focusing on the growls and thinking this is brutal or something. Cannibal Corpse and Kataklysm are brutal. This is melodic. Well…pop-minded retards, what are you going to do….Anyway, he’s great. Also, for the first time since Projector, he does clean vocals on one track. It’s Misery’s Crown and as you might imagine, it stands out. Both his growls and his clean singing help make this track as dramatic and as emotional as modern DT’s ever managed.
Niklasson and Sundin’s work on their guitars help make this album quite close to perfection, mixing very well with the keyboards and managing to create a unique atmosphere of melody and metal, the metal side being enhanced by Anders Jivarp’s drumming, which is considerably heavier than of the last few albums, most notably Projector but also Damage Done.
So this is another great Dark Tranquillity album, not marking any important changes but instead continuing on the road the band embarked on during these last few years. There are only two flaws here: Fiction lacks the organic feeling of The Gallery and Skydancer. We can’t really blame the band for evolving but this modern sound is simply inferior the original one. The other flaw, which also plagues the other albums, is that some tracks fail to really be noticed. Some are incredible and some are just there. But despite all this it’s an excellent album and another step in the right direction by the band. At least they’re managing not to sound overtly gay and mallcore like Soilwork or inconsistent like In Flames (whom I consider still very capable of putting out great music).
I hate you all, seriously all of you. Well most of you, if the scores for this album are an accurate survey of the opinions of this 'album'. Thanks to people like you I had to go out of my way to STOP listening to Destroyer 666, a band who is infinitely more talented than these keyboard-laden fucktards, then find a copy of this album, listen to most of it and then get irate enough to write this review at 2am in the morning instead of sleeping. I listened to this album earlier in the year and remembered dismissing it very early on, thus we arrive at now where after reading some reviews I thought "Maybe I was hasty, best listen to the album again to make sure". It sucked then and it still sucks now. In fact it sucks more because it's 2am at night and instead of skipping through ethereal adventures in my subconscious in my shitty, college-issue bed I'm sitting in front of my computer on a shitty, plastic, college-issue chair.
How this release has been considered as 'Album of the Year' is troubling. Off the top of my head I can rattle off a few albums, hell even an EP that is far more deserving of this title. Unless the criteria for 'Album of the Year' is; "Beguiles fucktards into believing that it's a well-constructed album with decent riffs and controlled use of keyboards" then this album is the equivalent to Lance Armstrong in the past seven ‘Tour de France’. Nile's "Ithyphallic" would most certainly take runner-up simply for being a piece of over-rated shit. To think that only two years ago we were going through the same song and dance with their previous release, "Character" which was hailed as album of the year, and in a few cases I had heard it mentioned as a milestone in melodic death metal or paragon of what melodic death metal aspires to be. When people want to express their love for an album they go straight for the hyperbole and pour it on as thick as molasses.
The problem with both of these releases is that the keyboards are far too prevalent. Since when did Dark Tranquillity turn into a death metal version of Sonata Arctica? Oh sure the keyboards aren't as flowery but they've practically turned into a forefront instrument and have a disturbing tendency to outright replace them during the choruses with the occasional quick bash of a guitar every couple of seconds. For the most part the gothenburg scene seems to be stuck within a state of arrested development, ever since At the Gate's swansong "Slaughter of the Soul" we've been given a set of simple but catchy riffs that the other two progenitors of the genre, In Flames and Dark Tranquillity, chuck into a blender with a few other chords or notes to produce their own riffs and perpetuate this stereotypical sound that everyone seems to think is ground-breaking and revolutionary. The next landmark in 'evolution' was the inclusion of keyboards which allowed these bands to write riffs that a seal having an epileptic fit could play and simply layer the whole section with keyboards.
That's not to say all their riffs are shite; there are moments that recall their early days and they manage to compose a good. Unfortunately the life expectancy of these riffs is a little less than that of a drummer for Spinal Tap. During 'Terminus (Where Death is Most Alive)' after wading through a terrible groove-based riff and some incessant keyboards we reach a decent little riff and in about 5 seconds they cock up the entire thing with a terrible riff. They return, yet again to that same good riff and then drive it into the ground and go back to the initial groove-based riff. Are these 5 seconds snippets of occasional brilliance supposed to be the selling point of an album? For metalheads with more than two brain cells to rub together there is only a stick and no carrot. The other problem in the guitar department is the lack of guitar solos. I can understand if they don't want a solo on every song but the fact is by the time I reached 'Empty Me' I can only remember two parts that were POTENTIALLY solos. Yes I'm not actually sure if they were trying to solo or if they just wanted to display that they had knowledge of the high E string and the frets lower down the bridge. They are a melodic death METAL band right? I just want to emphasise the metal constituent of their genre pigeon-holing because even the basic genre of heavy metal demands at least one solo every two songs, the more the fucking merrier I say. "Hangar 18" has something like 11 solos, that's more than this entire album. To be fair the two guitarists (they don't deserve names until I hear fucking solos) will probably never be Marty Friedman and Dave Mustaine, but you'd think a band that's part of genre infamous for bludgeoning Iron Maiden harmonies could at least pump out a solo every now and then.
Of course I could be completely wrong, is there something I'm not getting? I may have only passed Year 12 English by 4% but even I can appreciate well-used keyboards and emphasis on atmosphere and melodicism as a means to convey ideas and stimulate thoughts. However Dark Tranquillity aren't Summoning, Burzum or any band who achieves such things. Therein is probably the most polarising thought about this album; what are they trying to achieve? Was the aim to produce something that was deep and reserved for pseudo-intellectuals who like to spout large words from thesauruses as they stroke their pre-pubescent facial hair? Or was this supposed to be balls to the wall metal album that just so happened to make use of keyboards to assist their perceived sound? If either or both was the intention then they've failed, but thanks to mindless fanboy-ism they've still made some money and people will sing their praises from the highest rooftops/message boards/whatever.
It's not to say that melodic death metal as a genre is completely devoid of talent, bands such as Arsis and Neuraxis manage to produce some amazingly talented songs. The gothenburg scene is running out of steam and it's creativity was long ago exhausted, one can only hope these bands finally collapse in on themselves soon enough before they plague the world with yet another disposable and lack luster album. Don't buy this album, just because it's not as bad as In Flames' "Come Clarity" or Soilwork's "Stabbing the Drama" does not make it the best thing since some bored Thai hookers found a bag of ping pong balls lying around.
This here is a great example of melodic death metal done right. These guys have solid riffs, they have an original atmosphere, they have great vocals, and they have found a sound that they can call their own. The layered effects on this album are put to tasteful use and the result is quite simply beautiful.
The production and mix here is perfect! The atmospheric effects and the riffs are both brought out in tasteful equilibrium for the purpose of the album. There's a lot going on during each song, and it just adds to the song as a whole. Icipher, for example, is a song that features death metal riffing and harsh vocals, but also has a subtle piano playing in the background. The piano really adds to the atmosphere, emotion, and feeling of the song while not subtracting from the experience.
The song structure and the melodies on this album are tasteful as well. There's a lot of memorable lines here (on guitar, keyboard, bass, or anything else that does the job) that gives the song a more 'epic' feel. The vocals are all harsh, and behind them comes beauty with the instrumental layering and the band's excellent feel for song construction.
In conclusion, the only thing that needs to be said about this album is that from start to finish it's an enjoyable listen. There's 10 tracks on this CD, and 10 songs. There's no bullshit interludes or semen guzzling static intros to beef up the song count, which I really like in an album. Each song features great harmonized riffs, catchy vocal hooks (and guitar melodies), and most notably: a seriously epic atmosphere brought to life by tasteful keyboard use.
I recommend this album especially for fans of Nightrage, but also to fans of melodic death metal in general, or to the open minded metal head for any genre. It's quite simply an enjoyable and well written album that belongs in a good metal collection.
Dark Tranquillity is one of the few bands that manages to alter and improve its sound on every new release. Each release since their "The Gallery" sounds different from the previous one but is still easily distinguishable as a Dark Tranquillity offering.
Their sound follows the Swedish melodic death metal recipe but it is still different from the other bands playing in the same genre (At The Gates, In Flames, The Haunted, etc). Fast, aggressive yet melodic guitar riffs and leads, pounding but also varying drumming, the perfect use and amount of keys and Stanne's low and high death vocals. The good thing about DT's songwriting is that it is not predictable. All songs are versatile, aggressive, melodic, progressive and technical all at once.
Some fans and reviewers claim that 2005's "Character" is the bands strongest release since their 1995's classic "The Gallery"... well, I strongly disagree. Although "Character" was another masterpiece, it was fast paced throughout, rawer and not so versatile. It was definitely more 'death' than 'melodic death' and that similarity of tempo in most tracks resulted in a monotonous sounding release, in a way. "Fiction" IMO perfected "Character's" sound. There are still plenty of fast songs with outstanding drumming (with the use of blast beats aswell), down tuned and heavy guitar riffs and death vocals, but there are also passages within these same songs that are more atmospheric and incorporate wonderful melodies provided by keys, guitar leads and solos.
Songs like 'Nothing To No One', 'The Lesser Faith', 'Inside The Particle Storm' and 'Focus Shift' are some of the best songs that the band has ever written. Even 'The Mundane And The Magic' which is the most simplistic and slow song manages to sound amazing due to the use of beautiful keys, varying drumming and the application of both female and clean vocals in the chorus. You will be certainly amazed by this album, it contains some of the best guitar riffs I have ever heard (you will be forced to head bang), melodic and technical guitar leads and solos, truly amazing (and not over the top) drumming and the best vocals of the genre!
I honestly believe that "Fiction" is Dark Tranquillity's strongest release after the brilliant "Damage Done" and the experimental masterpiece "Projector". For any fans of the band and for any fans of metal this is a must buy. DT are still going strong after being active for over 15 years and haven't released a weak album yet. Congratulations to them...
(Originally written for http://www.epinions.com website)
RECENT EDIT: So, after several months of having Fiction, it has grown on me significantly and I consider it to be DT's greatest work to date. The score reflects this and most of the things in this review still stand in my opinion, it's just that the similarity between Character is there, only Fiction is MUCH BETTER.
Dark Tranquillity's previous effort, Character, propelled them back into widespread metal fame, truly making them the kings of melodic death metal, certainly compared to recent efforts from In Flames and other gothenburg bands. Ever since 2000's Haven, you could tell Martin Henriksson & co were searching for their sound, and it seemed that they found it on Character.
Now they've found it, they clearly don't want to throw it away. While Character was indeed a fantastic album, this new effort is just too similar.
So, when I bought this CD, I popped it right into my CD player and laid back. At first I thought I was listening to a new Velvet Revolver album, which scared me for a second, but obviously after that in comes those ever-so-gorgeous sounding guitars, and we're off. Even from here you can tell that this album will be in a very similar vein to Character. Aside from some production changes (particularly to Mikael's voice), this could be stuck on Character, anyone could deeply analyze it and not notice a difference. The technical proficiency shown on the first track, 'Nothing To No One' is actually quite impressive, with Anders Jivarp whipping out a really tight blast and some strange timing.
Overall Anders has polished up his craft. While most of the beats are very similar to things he's done before, when you compare between then and now, he's definitely better, with some more use of toms than before. However, he still keeps using a rather irritating splash (I think it's splash...) cymbal, it may just be taste but I really don't like the sound of it (listen to the second half of the chorus of The New Build to see what I mean). Of course this is a minor complaint, his blasting in particular has improved no end. Anders has definitely got his part in the band covered.
Main songwriter Martin Hendriksson and art director Niklas Sundin have to do a good job on guitars for this record to live up to expectations, because they actually wrote most of the music, and because guitar work is really what shines in this genre. Unfortunately the solos on this album are very short, and while most are quite good (absolutely great lead tone) there is so much potential to extend them. Instead they often go into a breakdown of sorts, with a semi-nice rhythm to give the keyboards a nice hearing. While I am in no way criticising the use of electronics on the album, the breakdowns do get a little repetitive. I know they were used on Character as well, but normally to much better effect. The riffs are your standard fare DT, normally a quite low riff, a simple rhythm part and then the keyboards playing the main melody, but there are times where it is the guitar standing out (and normally this is how the best riffs are).
Martin Brändström and his 'electronics' playing (which basically means keyboards and synth) are not something that I normally pay attention to on DT albums (aside from the obvious parts like in My Negation), but here I'm forced to quite a lot, but this is not a bad thing, not at all. His melodies are always nice and the synths add an awful lot of power to the songs, especially when Hendriksson and Sundin are playing leads together. He has some nice sounds, which can always help keep the atmosphere and mood of the song (see: Icipher). The guy fucking owns on Terminus (Where Death Is Most Alive).
Michael Nicklasson's bass peformance is solid. Again, the production gives him plenty of space to be heard, but unfortunately he rarely strays from the guitars (an exception is a moment in Nothing To No One which astounded me). If you listen closely though, you can tell his picking speed is very nice, especially when keeping up with the string skipping some of the riffs involve.
Melodic death vocals are very much a love it or hate it affair (see Omnium Gatherum's new album), some trying very high pitched screams, others going for very brutal sounding growls. Mikael Stanne has always been a nice mix of the two. He can rip out a terrific yelp when he wants, and he always has nice variety, even when the rest of the music doesn't (more on that later...). The lyrics he has written are actually bloody astonishing. I've never paid much attention to the lyrics before, but the lyrics here are incredible. He addresses some important subjects, like war, religion and the environment, as well as some personal-sounding songs which I couldn't expect to really understand. Also, something which he's brought back to nice effect is clean vocals. They only appear on the song Misery's Crown (if you don't count Nell's beautiful guest appearance on the closer, The Mundane And The Magic). He has a great voice, and I hope he uses it more on the next album.
The song title 'The Mundane And The Magic' really does sum up this album. There are some dull songs (though I must say, a couple less than Character), and some flaws from Character that still haven't been sorted (too many breakdowns! Not enough lead guitar!), but the lyrics, vocals, drumming are absolutely brilliant. As I write what my overall opinion of Fiction is, it all depends on what song I'm listening to from it. If I'm listening to songs like Terminus (Where Death Is Most Alive) or Inside The Particle Storm, I'll say it's another top-notch effort from Dark Tranquillity, but if I'm listening to songs like Empty Me or Focus Shift (which isn't a good sign, considering it was the lead single) I'll say it's solid, but dissapointingly not enough of a change from Character. So, to decide I'll listen to a song which has its mundane moments and magic moments (The Lesser Faith, if you're curious).
Fiction is a good album. It has everything I expected, but unfortunately that's about it. Of course I had high expectations but unlike Character, they haven't been exceeded in such a wonderful fashion. Then again, Character is a tough album to beat. It's a great album to just listen to, but if you think about it too much you'll see it has some flaws.
To those of you who were thinking or maybe even hoping melodic death metal/Gothenburg was on the edge of extinction - how wrong you were! The legendary Dark Tranquillity, pioneers of the above-mentioned genre, has with their latest effort once again proven that melo-death is perfectly alive and kicking, even though their journey throughout the years was tough. A great deal of fans feared that the band’s creativity and talent died together with ‘Projector’ in 1999, but refusing to give in the band continued along their experimental path all the way up to ‘Character’ (2005), which was proclaimed as one of the new masterpieces and milestones in the band’s history.
Luckily, ‘Fiction’ picks up just where ‘Character’ left us. The sound is carried by a pair of crunchy, down-tuned guitars and some extremely catchy riffs, which are being accompanied by Mikael Stanne’s distinct throat instrument, and one can be content with his effort. ‘Fiction’ is the first album since ‘Haven’, where Mikael dares to make use of his clean vocal, which this time actually blends perfectly well with the rest. There is one development one can thank the ‘Projector’ era for; and that is the new dimension it brought to Dark Tranquillity’s overall sound, namely the keyboards. But fortunately not the type, where the poor instrument undergoes rape and torture. No, it is being used to underline or add a haunting atmosphere, even a melancholic one at times. The drumming, although not as imaginative as one might wish for, completes the musical circle.
For me it all collide half-way through this piece of art; more precisely at ‘Inside the Particle Storm’, which can be seen as the epic track of the album. - Mellow, dark, but at the same time brutal in its beauty, it kicks off with slow guitar passage and quickly evolves into a more up-tempo, but sinister piece. The grandiose, melancholic atmosphere is recurring through the album. At the end it left me with an empty feeling inside, and when a band is capable of affecting me in that manner, they must have done something right.
The utter lyrical brilliance is also worth mentioning. I’m willing to go as far as to proclaim Dark Tranquillity as the masters of composing brutal, haunting and gloomy lyrics. The band treats themes like death and despair and is therefore quite of a party killer lyric-wise. Nevertheless is ‘Fiction’ a must-have of 2007. Listen to it on a rainy Sunday, or just when you are in the need of beautiful, catchy yet edgy musical ride with genuine quality to it.
Being one of the few bands that emerged intact from the 90’s Gothenburg scene, DT can be held up as a model for integrity. They continue to put out albums at a good pace and their material maintains the core elements of their sound mixed with just enough experimentation to keep it interesting.
Fiction, as expected, is made up of harmonized thrash riffs, melodic breaks, and dark ambient arrangements which create a sombre mood. If you’ve heard even one Dark Tranquillity album none of this will surprise you. Tracks like Blind at Heart and Empty Me could have gone on any of their past releases.
The added spice on Fiction lies mainly in some experimentation with power grooves, most notably the intro riffs to Icipher and Focus Shift. These are really memorable songs, most of all because DT are masters at fitting new things into their sound, making you feel like these are simply classic tracks you had never heard. Drummer Jivarp freshens up the album as well with some well-placed blast beats. This is great because in the past the band floundered somewhat in the mid-tempos.
Stanne’s vocals are solid and as always firmly rooted in the mid-range growl. His lyrics are the usual poetic fare, not really telling you anything specific but leaving you to contemplate while immersed in the aura of the band. A few clean passages are offered up on Misery’s Crown and The Mundane and the Magic, and while welcome, are less effective than those on the band’s B-side release Exposures. The female vocals on the latter mentioned track were a welcome surprise though, closing the album with a memorable and beautiful arrangement.
If you’re already a DT fan, you’ll love this album. If you’re not familiar and are looking for a slightly (emphasize that word) more melo and atmospheric release to counterpoint your more brutal leanings, then this is for you. Dark Tranquillity are musicians of the highest calibre, delivering quality music with no gimmicks, presented directly and honestly.
Wow, Dark Tranquillity has pulled it off again. After 2005's superb, come back of sorts 'Character', Dark Tranquillity have once again outdone themselves with 'Fiction', in my opinion second only to Dark Tranquillity's land mark album 'The Gallery'.
For starters Dark Tranquillity do not sound like a typical melo death band, and not like the ‘Gothenburg sound’ many melo death bands typically go for (ironically Dark Tranquillity pioneered the sound back when 'In Flames' albums weren't Nu Metal shitfests and the melo death genre was just emerging). The melodies are guitar based, with backing melody carried by the keyboards. Dual guitar riffs are present throughout, and the drumming is paced superbly. Unlike most Melodic death bands however, their sound is not melody focused, with the drum rhythm and pacing often being the driving force of the song. The keyboards, while not being in the background are not as central as bands like Bodom and Kalmah. This said Dark Tranquillity is still able to produce a brutal album, while being melodic. However compared to 'Character' which the album is most similar to in sound to, the album is somewhat slower and more keyboards based, the drums aren’t as blisteringly fast and as I said before, is less melody based. This change is carried out well, acting as a shift in sound rather than a radical new move.
The album kicks off with 'Nothing To No One' which starts out with a basic drum beat and some base, simple and catchy. The song slowly builds in both intensity and depth as the melody sets in and the drums start to get faster, first one guitar then another are added, each part simple, yet when all the parts are combined they create a rich tapestry of sound. Then Stanne kicks in with the vocals, he has a very unique sound, hard to describe accurately, his voice is raspy and dry and he refrains from screams or grunts, instead going for some throaty growling. The song is a good start to the album and sets the sound and tone for what’s to come.
Overall the album is consistent, there isn’t a bad songs amongst them, however as with any great album, there are of course stand out tracks. ‘Inside the Particle Storm’ stands out for being simply great, with a piano like opening building into a storm of sound. The albums last song ‘The Mundane and the Magic’ stands out as something a little different, featuring some clean female vocals to accompany Stanne’s own, giving a contrast in sound that is perhaps reflect in the songs name (but who’s voice is Mundane and who’s is magical remains unsaid), however it isn’t the chorus that really stands out on this sound for me but the verses, simply amazing and a brilliant finish to the album.
You should defiantly pick up ‘Fiction’ if you liked ‘Character’ or if you simply want some great new and different sound melo death to get into. The album is one of the best Dark Tranquillity have done, and it really is impressive to see how far they’ve come musically and as a band considering the small amount of line up changes and the amazing 17 years the band has been together. This album stands out as a monument to their commitment and proves that they can stand the test of time despite hiccups. Some things are better when their older and Dark Tranquillity is certainly one of those things.
Dark Tranquillity have returned once again and put forth yet another great slab of melodic Death Metal to help keep the scene alive. Throughout their illustrious career, DT have been at the head of the Gothenburg scene out of Sweden and unlike many of their counterparts(In Flaymez, Soilwork), they have stayed true to what they are about. Their style has significantly changed since their first couple of albums but not in the same commercial, trendy way of the two said bands. This change in direction sparked mixed reviews in some cases but in most cases, it is when their career really took off and they gained worldwide praise for their efforts. Thier 8th release entitled "Fiction" does not sway from this path. It incorporates many of the same elements that have been present on their past couple albums but yet, they have managed to mix it up much more here than before. There are noticable differences in style between albums like Haven, Damage Done, and Character and Fiction seems to take the best of each and combine them into a whirlwind of melodic death metal madness that will pull you in.
The opening track "Nothing To No One" grabs your attention from the start with its cutting edge riffs and then continues to draw you in until the chorus explodes in amazing fashion with an almost breakdown like section that manages to work quite well, with some great keyboards in the background to support it. The album continues in a similiar fashion as the keyboard layden tracks provide crucial elements to the music which form each songs base in a very emotional, catchy manor that will have the listener putting this album on repeat as you begin to pick up more and more from each song. The album continues to pick up speed as it goes and hits an early defining moment on the "Terminus(Where Death Is Most Alive)" that will keep you on the edge of your seat waiting for what will come next as the song shows the harshest side of DT with great backing vocals during the chorus that is not heard too often from this band.
However, this strong start is only the begining of what is to come when you are suddenly immersed by the albums climax just over the midway point on "Inside The Particle Storm" which opens with a beautiful guitar passage that leads the listener into thinking this could possibly be the most toned down song on the album until you suddenly hear the main riff come into play while the drums pick up speed and then are suddenly hurdled into a brutal but catchy series of vocals and atmospheric riffing that cultimates into an unforgetable song. After catching your breath from such a song, one would think that the album could not surely could not get much better and yet, DT suprises you and every song from this point on is nearly as strong as the last one. They continue with "Miserys Crown" which introduces more variety to the album with short passages of clean vocals that lead into a well crafted, brutal chorus that will have you wanting to join in. Next, their single from the album "Focus Shift" keeps the pace going with more hardlined riffing with quick changes that keep the listener on edge and fully enthralled in what is going on. And finally, the album closes with "The Mundane and the Magic" a song of emotion, intensity and variety, the perfect way to sum up the album and each of these elements cultimates in the final song to make it the perfect closer as the brutally and melodic riffing is still present while the chorus catches the listener off guard with female vocals(The first in quite a few albums) that provide a beautiful sense of melody and wonder as the album comes to an end while never missing a single step. Another masterpiece from Dark Tranquillity, essential listening.
If you're into any sort of melodic death than Dark Tranquillity is a band you've more often than not have heard. Most people even tout The Gallery as one of the best melodeath releases of all time. If you listen to The Gallery, and listen to Fiction you could say to yourself "Is this the same band?"
The fact these two releases sound so different yet are the same band, is bewildering. And might I add, they have had only one change in the line-up, and one addition to the line-up since releasing The Gallery. The progression they have tkaen between these releases (12 years), is amazing. Many bands lose their swagger and make really mediocre cd's, or simply just sell out to make some money (which for the record is ok, they need to make a living). Dark Tranquillity has managed to keep a style all their own, but craft a fresh, original sound. This release had the atmophere of Haven and Character, with the music sounding like a combo of Projector and Character. They carry over lots of elements from Character which is the best thing they could have done. The rather Gothenburg sound on Damage Done is present, but not overwhelming. The thing I'm really trying to get at is, they have combined all previous sounds and altered them into a new, simply fantastic release.
Songs that have to be noted are Icipher, Inside the Particle Storm, and Empty Me. These songs oddly enough are right in a row. What makes these songs highlighs? Icipher gives you that Damage Done feel, but brings the presence of Character. It starts out with a really catchy melody, and quickly evolves into a darker, more depressing feel. The chorus is one youll want to growl along too, as with most of Stanne's vocals, they are very clear for a growl and really allow you to get into them. At the 2:50 mark, its just what separates these guys from the rest of the pack. A heart filled passage that perfectly blends the elements that make them famous. Inside the Particle Storm is by far the most atmospheric track they have done. Think of My Negation from Character and make it more sinister. It plods along in the most delightful manner. The piano in it greatly adds with its low keys and depressing tone. The chorus erupts suddenly, once you learn the vocals you will sing along the entire time, great song. Empty Me give off a Haven and Projector feel throughout. Mainly Projector with it's overall darker tones, with the Haven part being at the chorus, which is a slow yet brutal feel. This song highlights a part of their career where most people thought they had sold out because they introduced a few electronics and clean vocals. This song greatly reminds me of that era. The bridge and solo in this song is also my favorite off the album
On a side not, Mikael brings back his clean vocals in two songs, and they sound phenominal.
All in all, this release will be one my tops in 07, and features a ever-evolving side of Dark Tranquillity that I for one love.
Dark Tranquillity is without a shadow of a doubt the best band to come out of the much disparaged Gothenburg melodic death scene. The Gallery is an undisputed classic, whether you happen to like the album or not there is no denying the fact that it is a landmark release in the genre. To me it's among the best (or maybe even the best) melodic death album ever released. Character, released by Dark Tranquillity in 2005, comes very close too. That is not to say that everything they've come up with is solid gold by default, far from it. For example, The Mind's I and Haven aren't close as enthralling as what they can and have achieved. Still, even if most of their albums are not particularly amazing, they don't have any truly awful releases either and always manage to produce at least a few entertaining moments. This put together with the fact that they change their sound on every album makes every album release something to look forward to.
After the very aggressive Character, Dark Tranquillity have chosen to take a step back and mellow out a little. Fiction is basically something of a mix between the highly melodic, keyboard-driven Haven and the easily accessible, song-oriented Damage Done, yet it is much more atmospheric than either of those albums. Songs like ”Icipher” and ”Inside the Particle Storm” are perfect examples of this. The production kind of blends everything together into something that could almost be called a wall-of-sound, making it quite hard to distinguish some elements of the music, with one element rising over the rest to gather the attention, usually in tandem with the vocals which are the obvious main attraction in the music. One example is the way the piano melody accentuated by Stanne's growls take prominence over the nondescript and uninteresting mess during the choruses. In this case it creates a lovely atmosphere but it isn't the case with all the songs. How annoying it gets varies from time to time, and depends on both how much is going on and of what quality the ”element of interest” is. Usually the simplicity is quite pleasing, but offers very little musically as the other instruments are overshadowed. Not that Dark Tranquillity are or have ever been a ”technical” band to begin with.
The first track ”Nothing To No One” is a very good example of what Fiction has to offer. It starts off with a mid-paced pompous riff that along with the drumming has an almost symphonic feel to it and grabs the listener immediately. Upon hearing this the first time you'd think what follows is just as awesome but it becomes evident that the ideas end here and they repeat the same theme over the course of the song. Still not bad, but not stunning either. Same goes for ”The Lesser Faith” and ”Blind At Heart”. The genuinely bad songs are ”Empty Me”, which has nothing to offer after the nice atmospheric pieces ”Icipher” and ”Inside the Particle Storm” that are quite similiar to it, only done better, and ”Misery's Crown” which reintroduces clean vocals we haven't heard since Haven and ends up sounding not only horribly out of place, but also terribly boring. Not everything is bad though, ”Terminus (Where Death Is Most Alive)” with its insanely catchy keyboards (reminiscent of ”Senses Tied” from their previous outing) is nothing short of being one of the great Dark Tranquillity tracks along with ”The Mundane And The Magic” which is easily the best closer they've done in a long time. This time even the clean vocals work well, both Stanne's and the guest female vocalist's.
Bottom line: great melodies, great vocals, and at times great atmosphere somewhat flattened by a bit tired songwriting effort. Though they are far into their career, Character proved that they are still capable of reinventing themselves and producing great material. But Fiction is not Character. It isn't even Damage Done, and providing the band will keep making music it will go down in the annals of metal as a work of lesser importance, just like ”The Mind's I” and ”Haven” before it. Still, like those two albums, it has some value to offer and though it is not an essential purchase it will be enjoyed by any fan of the band. It has it's moments and also shows that even though the rest of the Gothenburg scene has sold out and the genre is filled with interchangeable worthless bands and copycats they still stand tall making albums worth listening to.
When one is attempting to get into more extreme styles of metal, there are a series of paths which he or she could take. One could delve headfirst into brutal blackened tech death metal with some grindcore influences. Or they could ease themselves slowly. If the latter path is to be taken then there are several essential bands to start out with. Two of these acts are old-era In Flames and Dark Tranquillity. No, neither of these bands are really all that heavy or extreme, but it is a step in that direction. And though I would take The Jester Race over Dark Tranquillity's better albums, In Flames hasn't really done anything worthwhile in seven years (when they released Clayman). So that leaves only Dark Tranquillity as a source for some of the genre's more consistent works. And with their latest album, Fiction, they definitely deliver.
To be honest, Fiction isn't all that different from its predecessor, Character. Both in terms of quality and the actual music, the two albums are very similar, and to consider Fiction a continuation of the exploits found on Character wouldn't be a stretch in any imagination. But what does this Character-Fiction musical hybrid actually sound like? While it is not really all that complicated, as some of metal's more progressive acts, it isn't all that difficult to realize that there are multiple dimensions to the music. Songs like Nothing to No One and Inside the Particle display this characteristic, incorporating both ferocious, aggressive overtones along with a softer, more soothing atmosphere. Other songs, such as Misery's Crown for example, focus more on the sombre, heartfelt aspects of the band's writing. To accomplish such a sound, Dark Tranquillity taps into the talents of guitarists Niklas Sundin and Martin Henriksson for the dark, relentless riffing which for the most part compliments Martin Brandstrom's spacey, electronic work. The result is quite interesting and rather superb, as it catches the listener's attention and does not let it go for, well, the entirety of the 45 minute recording. Despite sounding similar to the band's past works, Fiction also manages to sound fresh and new, which is hardly a negative characteristic.
So, so far I've done nothing but praise Dark Tranquillity for their efforts on the new album. Yet, while a 85 is definitely a strong score, Fiction contains certain elements which prevent me from rating it higher. Though while one can go listen to it for the first time and love it instantly, the album still somewhat takes awhile to truly appreciate. None of the songs really stand out and grab you by the neck upon the first few listens. The aforementioned Nothing to No One along with perhaps Focus Shift should definitely impress first time listeners (of the band or the album), but it's difficult to immediately pick one particular track which is catchy and memorable right off the bat. Another issue that Fiction sometimes displays is the lack of individuality (for lack of better terms) between each track. It sounds as though Dark Tranquillity was resting on its laurels, as many a song has similar structure and, well, sound as another. Now, the famous quote which reads "if it ain't broke, don’t fix it," may ring true, as I did mention Fiction sounding fresh and interesting, but a little more variance wouldn't have hurt the album. All and all, these are just minor qualms and do not really distort my views of the album, but I feel if they were improved upon, that Fiction could be a better album.
Overall, Dark Tranquillity's latest album, Fiction, does not really explore any new territory. Fans of the band (especially Character) will love it. Detractors (especially of Character) will hate it. All is right in the world. Ultimately, I feel that Fiction is a quite enjoyable, worthwhile collection of music and definitely an album to listen to if you want to get your feet wet with some of the more extreme metal genres. Perhaps one of the metal's stronger releases this year, Dark Tranquillity's eighth full length album is definitely an interesting album to check out.
(Originally written fro Sputnikmusic)
Dark Tranquillity are in full stride now – with the fan and critical acclaim of Character it was up in the air on whether or not they would be able to match or overcome the success. Dark Tranquillity definitely proved that they are willing to even try to match but that they can.
Fiction is full of both melody and ferocity as only Dark Tranquillity can write. The music is written in a way that is catchy and heavy. When listening to Fiction, one will find themselves really getting hooked on the melodies (both guitars and keys) but head banging to riffs and drums.
The guitar work is faster and choppier as it was with Character but there are also songs with breakdowns that sound borderline Fear Factory (Terminus comes to mind). The leads and solos are well placed in the music – and very emotional. Emotional and heavy music has always been something that Dark Tranquillity could pull off – but this album feels both angry and sad at the same time – just by using their guitar tone. I found myself really getting into some of the speedier riffs. Although the melodic tones of Inside the Particle Storm and The Mundane and The Magic are amazingly catchy.
The drumming and bass work is well written although both have their faults. The bass is well done but is lost a lot of the time within the music (not to too much dismay) and is overridden by the drums and guitars. The beginning of the album started off with a killer bass line and drum part and I expected that to continue as a theme throughout the album – but it didn’t. The drumming is well done death drums without too many blast beats but without sounding outside of the death metal realm. The one complaint about the drums is production wise. Sometimes the snare drum sounds very hollow and it would pull me out of the music. It’s a nit-picky thing that one shouldn’t take too seriously.
Vocally, Mikael Stanne is still one of the most talented death vocalists in the scene. He sounds heartfelt in his vocals without losing that death edge. His voice is relatively understandable in the death metal world and borderlines thrash harshness at times. Two particular vocal moments caught me off-guard on Fiction. One was the return of Mikael’s singing (Misery’s Crown) and the inclusion of a female vocalist (The Mundane and The Magic). Both are good contrasts to the normally harsh vocals that Dark Tranquillity uses – and both do not falter the music in any way.
On a final note, this album has some of the best flow for an album that I have heard in a long time. Songs seem to flow into one another well but they don’t really overlap and meld. It’s a well constructed album without losing the individuality from track to track.
Dark Tranquillity has definitely matched the musicianship presented to us on Character. This album is not as harsh or angry (in general) but it definitely is matching to the glory that was Character.
Songs to check out: Nothing to No One, Terminus (Where Death is Almost Alive), Focus Shift.
I managed to get this album from my friend before it came out, and being a real die-hard Dark Tranquillity fan, I had to listen to it. After hearing “Focus Shift” on myspace, watching the studio report video, and the live video of new material, I had pretty high hopes for this album. But I didn’t think it would be as good as it actually was. There is no question that I am buying this album when it comes out despite having the mp3s previously. Overall, the sound is very Character-esque. Some people like me prefer the older, more classical/folk type material, and some prefer the new. If you prefer the new, this will probably be your favorite DT album, and if you prefer the old I don’t think you will be terribly disappointed. On this album, it seems like Dark Tranquillity took all the highlights of each album since Projector and combined them into a very impressive new sound. This album is as heavy and thrashy as Character, while remaining more melodic and as catchy as Damage Done, with some of the gothic atmosphere of Haven in calmer songs, and what is this? Projector clean vocals? And even that female guest vocalist returning on the last track? This is pretty exciting, and for those of you who don’t like Mikael Stanne’s clean, it has not only improved, but isn’t overdone, appearing only on two tracks.
The opener, Nothing to No One builds up with first bass and drums, and it’s nothing incredibly technical, but the power of the bass and the fact that it was actually quite prominent really impressed me. From there it starts to sound very Character, with Mikael Stanne’s always great death growls; tight, aggressive drumming (yes, blast beats), atmospheric keyboard, and thrashy rhythm guitar with melodic leads. This and the next track, The Lesser Faith, share this sound of more melodic Character. Something I also noticed that I really like is their keyboardist/electronicist has been using more piano type stuff and less techno. Dark Tranquillity will never sink to the level In Flames has. Terminus (Where Death is Most Alive) is very reminiscent of Damage Done, being extremely catchy, with techno background that doesn’t take away from the guitar lines, and the type of chuggy riffs that were in songs like Monochromatic Stains. Blind at Heart has to be my favorite song off this album. It has some very impressive lightning-fast picking patterns in the rhythm guitar, blast beats, and an addictive, catchy chorus. The harmonics sound cool too. Then something surprised me. Sundin breaks into a typical DT melodic lead, but then…what is this? Shredding? Yes, shredding. It doesn’t last very long, but he actually does a nice short thrashy solo here that is completely not typical of Gothenburg. Icipher closes off the first half of the album as a more mellow mid-paced track with an atmosphere reminiscent of Haven, but chuggy and powerful guitar unlike that album, and a good melodic lead. There are also some progressive rhythm patterns that appear on most DT albums that spice it up (good examples are Mind Matters from Character, Of Chaos and Eternal Night, and Zodijackyl Light from The Mind’s I).
Inside the Particle Storm continues with the mood of Icipher as an atmospheric gothic song that manages to be far more effective than anything off Haven, with the clean guitar and keyboards being especially beautiful and epic. Empty Me wakes up the listener by returning to the Character/Damage Done melodic thrashiness with blast beats and catchy choruses. Misery’s Crown is the Projector-esque song on this album. And I must say, I really like Stanne’s clean, but I really love them in this song, it seems like he has improved a lot since Projector. It’s very nice, melodic, and soothing. The second-to-last song is Focus Shift, a great modern melodeath song that was the first one to be released from this album. As the shortest song on this album and one of the catchiest, it’s a good choice for “single” material – in a good way. Although it is odd that DT puts it so late on the album, it’s good to have something upbeat among the calmer, more gothic second half. The Mundane and the Magic is an appropriate closing song, calm and more gothic like some of the others in the second half, with those Projector-esque clean vocals. They also seemed to have saved the biggest surprise for last – the return of those female vocals that appeared on all the early albums but hadn’t since Projector. It works well.
Overall, this is a good mix of newer DT material and as good as any modern Gothenburg is gonna get. Fuck In Flames and their horrible experimentations with nu metal, techno, and emo, fuck the shattered remains of At the Gates that play mallcore with The Haunted, and fuck all the copycats, DT is the way to go.