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This album is one part Gothenburg classic and two parts an ADHD sufferer’s wet dream. There’s so much stuff going on Dark Tranquillity’s sophomore effort that it could soothe the brains of your young kids for a whole month nonstop or maybe turn them into those hyperventilating freaks from 2007’s reimagining of I Am Legend. Better produced and less aimlessly chaotic than “Skydancer”, “The Gallery” tears its straightjacket and takes you into a hurricane of hyperactive, vaguely baroque lead guitars (same feeling that made In Flames’ “Subterranean” a winner), Anders Jivarp accidentally replacing his drummer’s seat with an electric chair and a bassist that should’ve played in every other melodeath group. Songs end abruptly as if the band grew tired of it and wanted to immediately try the next batch of influences, few ideas and segments take hold for much more than 10 seconds and the album revels in the act of being loony and scandalous. Like it or not, the entertainment value is palpable.
Formerly of In Flames and switching places with Anders Friden in what was probably Jesper Stromblad’s weirdest career decision in life, Mikael Stanne makes his first impression on a DT record with the utmost lunacy and reckless abandon. Yelling from the top of his lungs whilst sounding playfully unhealthy just like Jonas Renkse on “Dance of December Souls”, the man was the definition of “all over the place” and did not give a shit, as any self-respecting early Gothenburg singer like Lindberg or even Friden himself used to do.
Also, Stanne shows us firsthand the only element that has remained excellent or at least otherwise unaltered in band’s two decade career; the lyrics. An inspiration for many (myself proudly included) metal lyricists, Mikael (and Niklas, occasionally) weaves us webs of shrouded diatribes about topics both mundane and magical (pun intended) with equal quality, telling stories instead of opening a thesaurus and churning out complicated shit just for the sake of it. Take “Edenspring” as an example. A favourite of mine, the song is about nothing more than binge drinking and the effects of being shitfaced, but you’d be hard pressed to find many other metal musicians who write about such common stuff with this level of poetic flair and taste. I tend to make a huge deal of it because heavy metal is a music genre full of extremely accomplished artists who mostly – and unfortunately- don’t seem to give much attention to what they’re saying in detriment to what they’re playing, which is quite sad because the process of writing music meant to be sung should inherently involve a relationship between both.
Back to the songs! “Punish My Heaven” and “Edenspring”, still live staples to this day, project DT’s gleeful lack of restraint and youthful vigor like it was going out of fashion, as “The Dividing Line” features sweet guitar eclecticism, stirring things up with a simple groove phrase, then a very welcome traditional riff and ghostly tremolo lines that would not sound out of place on their following record, not to mention the tasteful leads. “The one Brooding Warning” and “Midway through Infinity” are an exercise in theatrical Gothenburg that keeps on boiling and raging around dynamic song structures as Stanne yelps and gnarls his way like a rabid dog pursuing an out of control car.
What’s so great about this is how they didn’t give up the franticness of “Skydancer”, but did their homework of making it less erratic. Instead of catapulting two hundred ideas in your face at breakneck speed and calling it a day, they’ll ease on the pace, let the riffs sink in just a tad longer and, in hopes of enthralling you, make the wise choice of leaving the cornier stuff at the album’s tail end. Oh, believe me. This is going to get corny, and DT’s willingness to dive headfirst into it can be seen as questionable albeit endearing. Remember, those were five young guys who didn’t care and just wanted to show their music to the world, and excessive seriousness in a subgenre based around the thought of a less caustic death metal making sweet love to bastardized Iron Maiden riffs would be kind of silly. Sure, it can be pulled off (check out Garden of Shadows, or even this very same band when their ideas matured), but a little bit of ingenuity and inventiveness are the bread and butter of any good musician.
That being said, the middle part of “Lethe” takes the cake as the funniest segment in here and a suitable Dani Filth favourite in his wine and gaaaawthic vampire literature afternoons. Man, this shit is so cheesy I can’t help but love every second of it. Check out those over the top lyrics and vocal acrobatics, tell me you can’t dig it and I’ll deem you a joyless piece of wood for the rest of my days. “Mine is the Grandeur...” is the obligatory acoustic interlude, but this time you’re in for a sweet serving of flamenco guitars and orchestral drums. To do what has been done before, but with a twist of strangeness. That’s where Dark Tranquillity shines.
The only songs that seem lost are “Silence, and the Firmament Withdrew”, a cute but slow number sandwiched between two monstrous tracks (thus rendered forgettable), the title track, and album closer “... Of Melancholy Burning” which attempt to summarize all we’ve been listening to but can’t quite circumnavigate certain pacing issues despite warbling yet surprisingly solid vocal cameos by Eva-Marie Larsson.
Writing a worthwhile second album after a promising debut is no work for slouches. To take the foundations of what created your musical identity and fearlessly building upon them is even harder, and DT has broken the code for it. If you can stomach its drawbacks and unapologetic sprawling nature, you’ll find out “The Gallery” is, above all, a very fun metal album.
Something is going on here, mostly as a result of creative compositions packed to the brim with multiple shifts in both temper and mood. While Dark Tranquillity later streamlined their songwriting approach, the more spastic compositional style that makes albums like Skydancer so endearing is also present here on The Gallery. The lack of keyboards is still a concern, as it puts an inordinate amount of pressure on the animated leads to deliver the melodic goods. While the band's rhythm section has never been one of it's strengths, Johansson's leads are both agitated and memorable, carrying the bulk of The Gallery on their back alone.
The first four tracks are all among the band's best work. "Punish My Heaven" serves as a functional enough introduction, but it is "The Dividing Line" that makes the strongest individual case here. Tense sounding leads open up into rocking, groovy powerchords as the song transfers from style to style. What also becomes evident around this point is the busy nature of some of these tracks. It very nearly comes off as a compositional flaw at times, as the band throws just about everything except the kitchen sink into numbers like the title track and "Lethe". This doesn't necessarily come off as desperate though, since they manage to pull most of these experiments off. Some brooding, bass-driven numbers like "Edenspring" hint at future elements present on albums like The Mind's I, giving the listener a chance to catch his breath between apoplectic cuts like "Silence, and the Firmament Withdrew" and scorchers such as "The Dividing Line".
Where The Gallery begins to show thin points at the seams is during it's second half, which suffers from too many deviations from the winning formula such as the pointless instrumental "Mine Is the Grandeur...". "Midway Through Infinity" embodies the last attempt at a compact and focused song, as many of the waning moments of The Gallery feature overlong and tired compositions like the closer "...of Melancholy Burning". The aforementioned instrumental deviously builds suspense for this one, only for the entire ordeal to fall apart under the weight of it's own pretense. The female vocals come off as window dressing, distracting from the luster of the leads and Stanne's dessicated roars. Still, even the most meandering of these songs have their moments, as the band refuses to stay in place for any extended period of time.
The Gallery's production values aren't very high, which serves as both a blessing and a curse in this context. The now-legendary Nordström buries the rhythm guitar more than I would like, as Jivarp's kit overpowers much of it's surge and renders too much of the performance inert. Even during the amazing "The Dividing Line" you can tell that the song has sacrificed some of it's angry disposition along with the potency of the rhythm guitar. The rest of the band sounds passable, and as always on Dark Tranquillity's earlier albums the stronger bass presence adds a neat counterpoint to the attention-hogging leads.
While it undoubtedly serves as the one brooding warning that the band's experimental side was beginning to take over, The Gallery still holds up fairly well by virtue of it's animated leads alone. Most definitely not the all-time classic it is often lauded as, but it has it's place in history all the same.
Dark Tranquillity's 'The Gallery' and In Flames' mini album 'Subterranean' (also 1995) are two first slabs of Swedish melodic death metal I ever got to hear (and so-called Gothenburg metal, you know the story). I was hooked, to put it mildly. Both of them being great classics nowadays, many times more or less mimiced, never truly outdone. At least not in my world of metal. Melodic death metal genre itself might be seen lame by those who want the brutalest of brutal, yet the genre is no less metal at its best. Those were the days...
Metal as fuck is what this is. This might be no perfect combination of melodies and brutality, because this is outdone in both fields, but this is a very individual one. The melodiousness plays bigger role on 'The Gallery'. Both guitarists play a lot of lead guitar, maybe even more than just rhythm riffing. Substantial, meandering of compositions might be blinding at first, but I believe, that hooks that are thrown at listener at high velocity should easily sink deep into brain. Tempos change from slow heaviness to fast speed blast beating, like roller coasters. While the songs are shorter when compared to the debut ('Skydancer' from 1993), they also are much tighter yet more crammed. Changes from calm acoustics into tornado-like, listener-spinning attacks are not a rarity on this album. These all sound like they are thoroughly thought out, so well is this music composed. One big part of this are folk elements (maybe some baroque, too), playing vital role here, as well as Nordic melancholy. Dark Tranquillity is not so death metally, though. They perform metal, taking a lot influences from many subgenres (heavy, speed etc.). While being down to earth, somehow this sounds otherworldly at times, too, granting one of the greatest listening experiences for me, ever. There's some keyboards, but they're well done and do not bring anything down. The lyrics are poetic, and so is the music.
Guys' playing is great, for sure. Everybody is everywhere for a great deal of time yet the band knows the power of simplicity and use it, if rather seldomly. Lately I've found this "virtuosity without showing off" a bloody great thing (like Helloween, for example). Very playful yet comprehensible for me, who only hits skins. Interplay of the guitarists Fredric Johansson and Niklas Sundin is seamless. The bassist Martin Henriksson and the drummer Anders Jivarp provide tight basis, which at same time is also experimental. The sound is good for it's time and every instrument is well heard. It is quite heavy, thanks to rhythm crew, since guitars are usually playing higher notes. Michael Stanne's (also did vocals for In Flames debut album 'The Lunar Strain' ) vocals are brutal. His malevolent growl is truly individual one, more theatrical than before and easily recognizable. A few lines of clean singing is heard, a nice touch and also very individual. Female vocals, which are used on a few songs, are bloody powerful. Lyrics are anything from personal to universal, every listener can make one's own conclusions. Kristian Wåhlin's cosmic cover art is the final plating on this album full of most precious metal.
In the past I seemed to think, that the first five songs are the best and after those, some less excellent music was heard. Longer I experienced the album, more wonderful it sounds throughout. Be that as it may, it is a rare occasion when I've heard an album beginning with such a powerful quintet. 'The Gallery' is an infinite classic. Every metal music fan should check this album out, without any prejudices for this maybe being "un-metal" like a lot of today's Gothenburgers.
(Originally written for ArchaicMetallurgy.com in 2003)
Ah, Gothenburg Melodeath. Never before has such a terrible waste of talent and time gotten such a strangely unanimous wall of praise. I'm one of those weirdos who thinks this shit is pretty lame, and as a result, I don't find much enjoyment in Dark Tranquillity's (notice how they spelled "tranquility" wrong? Was that intentional, or what?) supposed masterpiece of the genre, either. I can kind of see why people are attracted to this Gallery of bloated masturbation, but on my scale? This just barely keeps itself from not totally sucking.
Let me start off with a typical analogy: The Gallery is sort of like a Thanksgiving dinner. You sit there and you stare at all of the delicious harmonies and the melodic Iron Maiden riffs and the double bass drum kicks and the screeching harsh vocals and the clicky bass sounds, and you're not very hungry, because you just ate a platter of DragonForce two hours ago, but you want to eat anyway, because it looks so good. But then you're served another plate of rip-roaring solemn/emotional clean male vocals on top of all of that, and you just can't bear it anymore. You wave your hands in front of you in protest as you fall backwards and your head hits the sewing machine behind you. And then you find out that it was only the first song, an appetizer of what's to come. Yeah, that's about what this album is like. The songwriting here isn't technically that bad, and the band is unquestionably talented, it's just that they're trying to do too much at once, cramming too many unnecessary elements into each song and making them kind of unmemorable, despite sounding cool sometimes. It's like if The Chasm's Deathcult got hooked on crack, for fuck's sake. God, even In Flames could construct a more memorable song than most of the shit on here, and that isn't exactly a high compliment!
Okay, I was a bit harsh there. Dark Tranquillity at times conjure up some decent songs, like opener "Punish My Heaven," which is alright despite my earlier diatribe about it, and serves as a good introduction to the band, and...and...alright, I just have to face reality here: It is not a good sign when the only memorable part of the album is the ridiculous clean bit in the title track where this female singer comes in and the song turns into a sort of Sarah McLachlan-esque ballad with a load of cheese that is fast growing stale around the edges. "Lethe" is also memorable for the wrong reasons, as it starts with a lame bit of guitar strumming that reminds me almost uncomfortably of Iron Maiden's infamous "Children of the Damned," except unlike that classic intro, this one outstays its welcome by about ten seconds before the Metal kicks in, and only really serves to break up the flow of the album and bore the listener.
Yeah, the only reason this is getting any points at all is because most of it is listenable enough, and the cluttered songwriting at least shows a little bit of creativity, which is more than you could have said for many bands that were putting out albums at the time this was released in 1995. As deplorable as the genre is, in all its raging monotony and obnoxious trend-riding, it was actually pretty original and fresh once, and while I think The Gallery is a tepid, self indulgent Gallery of bullshit, I can't deny that it's really not as bad as it could have been. However, for my money, this won't be taking any trips to the cash register any time soon, and I think I'll be smart this time and not try to check out anything else from Dark Tranquillity.
Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com
All undisputed classic albums will inevitably have one or two reviewers that will pick it apart in a stubborn desire to go against the norm. A few people said this album was overrated, but note how few truly poor reviews there are. Ignore the naysayers, this is Gothenburg's best, and Dark Tranquillity's best. From start to finish every riff is epic melodic perfection, to say that this is all technicality and no songwriting is incredibly inaccurate, and there is in fact not much soloing or extraordinary technical guitarwork, if at all. Niklas Sundin and Fredrik Johansson are not Yngwie Malmsteens (who I happen to actually love). The vocals are perfect. Mid-ranged and raspy, there is nothing annoying about them, and you can understand almost every word. Accessible? Hardly. Progressive rhythms are present and scattered throughout the songs, especially in tracks like The Dividing Line. The drumming is fast and aggressive, this is not The Jester Race. This is melodic DEATH metal, not power metal with raspy vocals. And it is far better than The Jester Race, or Slaughter of the Soul for that matter. You wouldn't ever see Dark Tranquillity at Ozzfest or in Hot Topic, or in some mallcore kid's walkman. They are not In Flames, they are not Soilwork. This is what Gothenburg should be.
Punish My Heaven is a great fast opener with beautiful finger tapped melodic guitarwork making an epic, almost neoclassical feel to the music, as Stanne growls along with his always melancholic and beautiful lyrics. The second track is more mid-paced, and leads into the similarly fast, aggressive, melodic, and epic Edenspring, one of the best songs on the album. The Dividing Line is melodic and progressive, highlighting rhythmic experimentation that would also be present on The Mind's I and occasionally on many further releases. The title track brings in some folk influence, with acoustic guitar and female guest vocals that were the highlights of Skydancer. The One Brooding Warning is a bit of a faster track that has its share of progressive tendencies, as well as a particularly nice guitar melody. Midway Through Infinity starts off with some blast beats and finger tapped melodies; now this is melodic death metal! Another one of the best, followed by probably the top track on the album - Lethe.
Lethe is, in my humble opinion, one of the most beautiful songs ever written. With epic, beautiful, and emotional lyrics that manage, at the same time, to incorporate fantasy and mythology, and music to match it perfectly, it is the defining track of The Gallery. Henriksson starts off with a long and epic bass intro that makes you see why he would eventually switch to guitar, before the other instruments come in, playing the characteristic melodic/neoclassical riffage as Stanne screams passionately along. The end fades again to bass, before exploding out abruptly with the final words. Perfection. The Emptiness From Which I Fed is a faster paced track in the vein of many other Gallery tracks that serves as a good bridge between Lethe and the epic outro, Mine is the Grandeur of Melancholy Burning. Mine is the Grandeur consists of acoustic guitar and tympani, making a very powerful and epic feel, as if the listener was in the middle ages walking through a sunlit grassy field. It fades into Of Melancholy Burning, which switches off between mid-paced but powerful riffs backed by Stanne's very powerful pipes, and faster melodic riffage in the middle of the song. The female vocals again add a nice touch, and as the song approaches its close, it transitions back into the riff of Mine is the Grandeur, and the album closes with a very brief and beautiful acoustic outro.
If you got the re-release, you get 5 great covers as bonus tracks. It seems impossible for Dark Tranquility to butcher a song. I have never heard Sacred Reich's version of Sacred Reich, but I love Dark Tranquility's. Bringer of Torture is a powerful Kreator cover, where Stanne actually greatly surpasses his primary vocal influence, Mille Petrozza. Maiden covers are often done by melodeath bands, and sometimes butchered. But Dark Tranquillity manages to make a very interesting version of 22 Acacia Avenue with death vocals that is a good alternative to the original. Lady in Black was so amazing that it made me want to hear the original very badly. I listened to the original and despised the annoying, whiny vocals. Stanne knows how to make a bad song good. And finally, it closes with My Friend of Misery, where we are treated to death growls instead of James Hetfield's annoying hick vocals.
This album left me craving more, and more, and more. I could listen again, and again, and again and never get bored. It might be a stretch to call it the greatest album of all time, but it is surely my favorite. And it is definitely the greatest of the Gothenburg/Melodeath genre. I would surely suggest it for any melodeath fan, and anyone who really craves a perfect epic blend of melody and aggression. Go out and buy it. Right now.
You have to realize that the derision that Gothenburg experiences is in no way unreasonable or senseless, and stuff like Dark Tranquillity's 'The Gallery' is precisely what causes such negative opinions of it. What's the typical Gothenburg stereotype: too much sugary melody, melodramaticism, dueling solos, tom fills, too much every damned thing without any restraint whatsoever. 'The Gallery' is the biggest walking stereotype of Gothenburg melodeath after 'Lunar Strain', and it's no wonder that I hold so much resentment towards it.
Everything is soloing. There are no 'riffs' on this album, just an endless series of more or less complicated soloing that taps out melodies of Sweet 'N' Low flavor that causes most people to jump for joy but me to retch. The guitar tone is sickeningly sweet and jangly, just like the production which retains a crystal clarity with almost zero personality. The name of the genre is completely illegitimate. There's no 'death' to be found here, and omitting that word seems to result in a much more logical label: melodic metal. So melodic that any trace of brutality or intensity is conspicuously absent.
A modicum of aggression does not death metal make, and it applies quite easily to the drums and vocals here. The former taps away with a predictable series of skank beats and tom fills, while the latter, despite 'growling' in a mildly inaccessible way, seems to be halfway pop crooning with an overly emotional delivery that doesn't quite mask the inherent sterility of the music on this release. Why the hell is this legendary? There's too much technicality and melody and not enough genuine songwriting. Dark Tranquillity on this album has a massive case of Opeth Syndrome; beautiful portions that have absolutely no connection to each other.
Enjoyable parts are few and far between. 'Edenspring' is probably the best, packing the most logical and quality riffing. 'Midway Through Infinity' is also enjoyable for similar reasons. However, on the exact opposite end you have stuff like 'Punish My Heaven' with its constant atonal noodling, or '...Of Melancholy Burning', with its horrifically warbling female vocals that add nothing but horror to proceedings, and not in a cool way. No matter how many times I listen to it, it stays just as underwhelming and boring play after play, offering nothing new, despite the 'depth' of the music here.
If you get the 'Deluxe Addition', you get to wander through an additional five cover songs that are truly hit or miss. The good: 'Lady In Black' and '22 Acacia Avenue', both of which maintain the intensity and beauty of the originals. The rest are rather average renditions that just play through the tabs without retaining any of the meaning.
I've never understood why 'The Gallery' is viewed as a classic of the Gothenburg scene. Granted, my position against the scene in general may give me a predisposition against it, but there are numerous examples of melodic death metal that is far better than the material on this album. While some who are infatuated with the genre may enjoy it, it's simply not my thing. Make of it what you will.
(Note: I originally write this on Amazon.com on June 1st, 2006.)
I believe I'm not alone when I argue that Dark Tranquillity's '95 album "The Gallery" is the cornerstone of the Gothenburg melodic death metal sound, as well as the album that took it into a different dimension. This album has the trademark harmonies, melodic solos, occasional female vocals, and a stellar production; but at the same time, it's not "straight-up" melodic death like In Flames early albums or old Arch Enemy. No, "The Gallery" has a progressive feel to it, and a somewhat Gothic atmosphere to it. (I would connect this to Stanne's lyrics.) Dark Tranquillity use a technical flair on this album not found in many metal bands; meaning that the transitions between the riffs are kind of weird. You know, the type of thing where just as you're getting into a nice riff, it switches up on you, and you're taken by surprise, finding yourself saying, "Woah, didn't see that coming!" However, it's not self-indulgent and the technical moments seem to make the album deeper and keep things interesting, rather than just trade riffs back and forth. For instance, "The Dividing Line" starts off with a strange, amorphous drum pattern leading a jagged guitar lead, but right after this, the boys kick it into high gear with ass-kicking harmonies in true Gothenburg style.
My love for the guitars on this album is unfathomable. From the gorgeous interlude "Mine is the Grandeur", which tastefully utilizes three classical acoustic guitars (harmonizing with each other, of course) and booming timpani drums, to the epic yet somber "Lethe" and the frantic neo-classical solos on "Punish My Heaven", it's total perfection. The display is not totally virtuostic, and the harmonies add so much impalpable atmosphere to this record. The bass playing is superb as well. Instead of playing regular root notes, the bass seems to be a totally independent instrument by itself, as seen on "Edenspring".
One of the greatest things that grabbed me about this album was the drumwork. The listener doesn't get pummeled to death with double bass overhauls or endless thrashfests, but the drumming firmly supports the music. To sum it up, it's technical, intricate, but not over the top. Anders allows to music to breathe, and his odd patterns add a lot to the music.
Stanne's voice here is his best, I think. His raspy screams are at his emotional heighth on "...Of Melancholy Burning" and the vicous "The Emptiness From Which I Fed", and his lyrics are far from the metal norm. You can feel the sorrow through his screams, and he doesn't try to be another Anders Friden clone. There are some occasional clean vocals, and the female vocals on the title track work perfectly, giving the album even more of an epic feel.
This is definitely an essential metal album, and I would place it in my top 5 of the 90's. Pick up at all costs.
This album is one of they defining moments in the melodic death genre. The three main bands that sprouted this type of music (Dark Tranquillity, In Flames, and At the Gates) all sounded completely different.
At the Gates had the thrashy sound. In Flames had the power metal sound. And Dark Tranquillity had the most unique sound. A mix of several sounds combining to have a most epic and grandeur sound.
The Gallery for that latter half of the last paragraph was born and dead with Dark Tranquillity. Even the band now has all but abandoned their old sound. The Gallery never got boring. It drew folk influence at times, it never recycled riffs a repeatedly throughout a song, and futures dynamic vocals. Get this; the bass was AUDIBLE, strange for a metal release. The drumming had blast beats and double bass, but maintained a more controlled pace. Everything about The Gallery was perfectly done.
Punish My Heaven is the opener. This song alone would make you fall in love with this album; the opening riff feels so powerful. Not only that but the lyrics to the song feel like a medieval poem, a struggle between God and man. Heaven and Hell. The self and the universe. It's just empowering to say the least. The last two minutes are what sets cd's this apart. Most songs end in typical fashion, but Punish My Heaven ends with an epic closing two minutes that never get boring, no matter how many listens you take. No amount of words typed can justify the completeness and grandeur of this song.
The title track is another track much like the opening track. It has several passages that you wouldn’t expect, and even has some female vocals that really assist in making this song one worth noting. Dark Tranquillity really set in this song to capture the atmosphere of The Gallery as a whole. Well-composed music, intricate song writing and the talent of the band helps this song really set you in the mood Dark Tranquillity intended. The bass lines stick with you and aren’t always used for rhythm. The riffs constantly change to keep the dreaded monotony at a low. The guitars are crystal clear. The Gallery is a perfect example again of what melodeath used to be.
... Of Melancholy is the closer track. A closing track should do just that. Bring closure to an album. This fails to live up to that. But don't think that's a bad thing. For it just lingers on long enough and ends in such an epic fashion it begs the listener wanting for more. Just like any great movie or book does. Dark Tranquillity has succeeded on doing this through music. The song structure of this album really makes it a great listen. Of Melancholy never follows any sort of systematic formula. It had continuity through good writing, and some mind-blowing melodies. Whether it’s the leads, rhythm, bass, or drums carrying you through the song. Female vocals kick in a bit to help set the mood at one point. Just as you feel it may get to be a little repetitive. They kick off with the best closing 2 minutes to a cd. It has you pumping your fist in the air, humming the melody, and feeling every message the song is attempting to convey. Through all this they close it out with about five seconds of an acoustic melody that just really lets your mind take in the album you just listened to.
If you got the re-release you get some covers, of which I wasn’t to thrilled about. Their Uriah Heap cover of "Lady in Black" wasn’t too bad. Only because it reminds me of the Projector album which I highly approved of.
Overall this cd is for the music fan that is looking for more than sheer brutality and gut wrenching speed. This is for the music fan than sit back and take in the atmosphere.
I've been a mild fan of the Gothenburg scene since my introduction with At The Gates. Once I began to understand the sound of Gothenburg, I started to search for other bands that were built upon the same structure as At The Gates. My search for more Gothenburg bands led me to Dark Tranquillity, a band who many praised as the best Gothenburg band. I became interested with Dark Tranquillity, and that's when I heard of the "The Gallery." Many Dark Tranquillity fans called "The Gallery" the best album Dark Tranquillity has released, some predicted Dark Tranquillity would never top it, and some even went on to say it was the best Gothenburg album ever! I anxiously went to a CD store and bought "The Gallery," and after a few listens, I was kinda disappointed. "The Gallery" is a good album, but it's nowhere near the masterpiece it is said to be.
Before the recording of "The Gallery," former Dark Tranquillity vocalist Anders Fridén left the band for In Flames and guitarist Mikael Stanne was selected to perform vocals. After recording "Of Chaos And Eternal Night," it was clear Stanne was ready to record his first full length album as a singer. Stanne's vocals could not fit the melodic madness of Dark Tranquillity any better. Stanne commonly uses a harsh, yet different kind of death growl. Instead of the incredibly low vocals used by most death metal bands, Stanne uses a clearer kind of growl that is easier to understand and seems a bit lighter. He also uses a clear voice on "Punish My Heaven," which shows he can both sing and growl. His voice does get a bit annoying when he screams during the opening seconds of "The Dividing Line," but his vocals usually seem to be a great asset of "The Gallery."
The one thing that usually brings down a bunch of Gothenburg bands is the lack of variety in the music, and this is present on "The Gallery." When speaking on a musical level, this album has "Punish My Heaven," "Silence And The Firmament Withdrew," "Mine Is The Grandeur..." "...Of Melancholy Burning," the title track, and one song that sounds exactly identical to the rest of the album. The songs previously listed sound like something totally different then the rest of the album because of the riffs, vocals, and overall texture of the songs, but the rest of the album sounds like one melodic riff played for half an hour. The minimal variety in the music makes "The Gallery" get pretty old after a couple of listens.
One thing I really enjoy about "The Gallery" is the experimentation. The female vocals used on "Punish My Heaven," "...Of Melancholy Burning," and the title track help make these songs seem more interesting. The soft intro on the title track and "Lethe" help build up an emotional mood for the listener while "Mine Is The Grandeur..." is a swell instrumental orchestral breather that turns the album into a more progressive direction. There is little experimentation on "The Gallery," but it still adds a powerful punch to the album.
Even though "The Gallery" is a good album, it doesn't live up to all the hype it gets. I've grown more fond of the present day Dark Tranquillity rather then "The Gallery." Even though I like this album, it has to be one of the overrated albums I've ever heard. Sure it's a good album, but a masterpiece? I think not.
A gallery is a home for art. And 'The Gallery' by Dark Tranquillity is no different. The band is one of the originators of the Gothenburg scene, just like In Flames and At The Gates, but 'The Gallery' is so much more than a downtuned version of Iron Maiden with Death Metal vocals and the occasional blastbeat (in fact, drummer Anders Jivarp hardly does any and when he does, they're used effectively). This album actually displays a unique bland of melodic, progressive Metal and Swedish folklore elements. It's too bad the band never made an album as inventive after this one, but it's better to make one album as breathtakingly wonderful as this one than none at all.
As far as I know, no other Gothenburg band has ever made an album as experimental, as refreshing and above all as good as this one. I don't see any other Gothenburg band do that beautiful bass intro to 'Edenspring', that wonderful piano and acoustic guitar middle part in the same song, the exciting structure of 'The Gallery' or that haunting intro to 'Lethe'. The use of a female vocalist, and not even an operatic one, but a normal voice, is pretty unique too. Sometimes she's slightly off-key, but that hardly gets disturbing. Even Mikael Stanne's grunts don't disturb me, even though I prefer clean vocals. He actually does a few here and there that aren't bad at all! In fact, on the 1999 'Projector' album, also a great and unique album from the Swedes, he does some very decent clean vocals.
But back to 'The Gallery'. The album starts out in a perfect fashion with 'Punish My Heaven', easily the best opening track ever written by any Swedish band. And even though every song on this album is a little different, 'Punish My Heaven' is an adequate example of what you're going to get on the rest of the album: the song has a lot of changes, an incredible shitload of amazing riffs and haunting melodies, with the two guitarists often playing completely different things that should be dissonant, but somehow work so perfectly that the only thing we can speak of is compositorical brilliance. The twin guitars are also much more than just two guitars playing the same line with an interval of a quint, they're really one-of-a-kind!
'Silence, And The Firmament Withdrew' is, despite the fact that its title is the longest on the album, the shortest track on the album, but even within the two and a half minutes it lasts, there is a lot going on. It's actually surprising that the song is midtempo. There are some beautiful guitar interludes throughout the song. Not exactly one of the most striking moments of the album, but not by any means less good.
I've said this before, but I really want to point this out specifically, the bass intro to 'Edenspring' is one of the best moments of sheer beauty I have ever heard. From the moment my ears were first confronted with these notes, I had been hypnotized. After that, the song turns into a beautiful chaos of different riffs and tempo changes, constantly swapping beautiful tranquil parts and heavy, yet melodic parts. Like on a lot of songs on the album, the lead guitar plays a very important role, I kind of have the feeling that the guitars take over the role that clean lead vocals usually have, because there are lead guitars almost all throughout this wonderful song. Another absolute highlight of the song, and of the entire album, is the middle part of the song. There's a beautiful interaction between a piano and the acoustic guitars there, followed by an almost as beautiful twin solo. Sheer brilliance. One of the best songs on an album that was nearly flawless anyway.
'The Dividing Line' is another moment of pure brilliance. Another song full of beautiful lead guitar lines and changes. There are some riffs that are clearly inspired by At The Gates, but then taken to a higher level. I don't know what it is, Niklas Sundin and Fredrik Johansson play them in a different key, which makes the emotion attached to the riffs completely different. Also, like in the previous song, bassist Martin Henriksson makes a stellar appearance. He plays his instrument as if it's not a rhythmic instrument, getting beautiful melodies out of it. It didn't come as a surprise to me that he would take over the guitars two albums after this one.
In the title track of the album, the acoustic guitars play a very important role, which immediately gives the song a Swedish Folk kind of vibe. During the middle part of the song (where the bass once again is quite dominant, yet not disturbing at all), the female singer makes her first appearance. As I've said before, I have the feeling she sometimes sings slightly off-key, but that might also have to do with the fact that I, as a non-Swede, am not used to these Swedish Folk melodies. Nothing stops this song from being one of the best on the album.
'The One Brooding Warning' isn't as memorable as the rest of the songs, but it's still a great song, definitely as good as the rest of the album. It also contains one of the best riffs on the album. If you own the album...it's the riffs that returns the most. Right before the last part of the song, Anders Jivarp does some amazing work on his toms as well.
Up next is probably the least memorable moment of the album for me personally. Not that 'Midway To Infinity' is a bad song, not at all, there are some good riffs and melodies in the song, they just don't stick in your head as well as the rest of the album. Coincidentally enough, it's one of the few songs with blastbeats.
Then we get one of the most memorable moments of the album. 'Lethe' is probably one of the slower songs on the album, it has a doomy, almost desperate atmosphere, partly caused by Mikael Stanne's vocals, which turn this song in a lament to Death. As you might know, Lethe was the river of the dead in Greek mythology. It's funny that Stanne pronounces the title wrong all throughout the song, but that only was a complaint the first time. The intro once again shows Martin Henriksson in optima forma. The atmospheric bass line gets a little help from some very subtle keyboard lines, just subtle enough to not spoil the song. The rest of the song shows remarkably few lead guitars, but that fits the song really well. One of the album's highlights.
'The Emptiness From Which I Fed' is probably the prototype of how well the changes work on this album. There is an enormous load of guitar riffs, in fact, some of the riffs are only played for about two or three seconds and never return again, but that might just be the force of those parts. There are so many surprising changes in this song, that the biggest surprise is that there actually is a chorus in the song. Another surprise is that the song is never going too chaotic, everything flows well and sounds well together.
'Mine Is The Grandeur...' is an acoustic interlude that also has a unique sound, partly due to the percussion in the song, but the melodies are something one-of-a-kind as well, they form the interlude to '...Of Melancholy Burning', just a perfect closer for the album. It sums up everything heard in the past songs, including the female vocals. Not a single bad moment has passed and I just want to put the album on again.
That's where the CD ends, unless if you get the Osmose re-release. That one has a couple of completely useless throw-away bonus tracks. All of them are covers from great bands (excluding Metallica, which isn't a great band at all). I might be a bit biased about covers as I don't like them, but they're really a letdown after such an amazing album. Especially the cover of Iron Maiden's great '22 Acacia Avenue' is a complete rape of the original, the best riff is even taken out of the song! I own that version, because that was the one being sold in the only store that had it, but those covers add absolutely nothing to the original release.
But without those covers, what you get is a near perfect Metal album, which is quite possibly the best album ever to be made by a band from Gothenburg. If you want to listen first, I'd suggest you listen to 'Punish My Heaven', 'Edenspring', 'Lethe' and 'The Emptiness From Which I Fed', but to be honest, this album just belongs in a serious Metal collection.
The Gallery is, without any doubt, the best Dark Tranquillity album, and a true classic of the so called Gothenburg Melodic Death Metal. It was released by the time this gender was still developing, when In Flames wasn't still the band that all other Gothenburgers wanted to be.
Dark Tranquillity were threading new ground here, joining classic metal riffage with beautiful harmonic and neo-classical inspired solos, and an amazing vocal performance by Mikael Stanne, who is IMO the best singer within this genre to ever exist - instead of the whinning "trying-to-be-black-metal" of Andérs Friden and all his clones, Mikael uses a darker, yet cleaner sound, even alternating with clean vocals in some parts (like in Punish My Heaven). The guitars have a neo-classical feeling, and are amazingly harmonious, with an excellent interplay between the two. None of the guitarists tries to do anything too ambitious or beyond his capacities, preventing the album from reaching an ultimate wankfest. The acoustic guitar parts also give an amazing atmosphere that just improves an already amazing album. The drums are very well executed and technically almost perfect, sometimes leading the music instead of just serving as a rythm. Even the bassist has an opportunity to shine here: the synthetised bass rythms give that finishing touch to the guitar interplay.
So, there is nothing missing on this album: everything from top to bottom is perfect, and the only flaw I can think of is Stanne's lack of vocal variation: no matter how good his growls are, he sometimes can get a little annoying. Also, that female vocal part on The Gallery could have been a little well more interpreted. But that won't prevent from apreciating the amazing display of songwriting and playing talent that DT show here.
Best tracks: Punish My Heaven, Edenspring, The Gallery, The One Brooding Warning, Lethe... all of them are great.