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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.