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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.