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Essential Gothenburg. - 55%

Empyreal, January 28th, 2009

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