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At the forefront of 'Keyboard Metal' - 0%

zeingard, September 15th, 2007

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.