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Between the extravagant The Gallery and Projector pushing melodic death’s boundaries, you have this unmemorable (but not unavoidable) hunk of ritual waste. Production beefed up all the instruments, Stanne honed his vocals, and the band’s tone grew even darker than before (probably the darkest it ever got). Two music videos were spawned and the band’s mother, Mrs. Century Media, pressed reissues - but who really gave two shits about this album? Twelve songs really pushed the time limit and there wasn’t a whole lot you could do with the formula to keep people in their seats before turning this off.
As I previously mentioned, Stanne really nailed his vocals down for the first time in his singing career. His growls here are wretched like a lion’s ferocious roar, and the lasting power of them reigns over the riffs and their tonality boost, as well. Between them, the album’s authority beats out everything else the band had released at the time – nothing they recorded up to this point could compete in terms of aggression and intensity, but the band did themselves in by killing off their harmonies. On previous albums you could always look forward to leads throwing you into the furnace of classical bliss, but this one shows very little of those and instead goes straight for melodic riffs and breaks instead. In some respect this works for songs individually, but as a whole it makes for an incredibly redundant and one-dimensional album with very little lasting value.
Their style here would follow them onto Projector, which further perfected their sound that continues to this very day. However, that album lacks the cryptic, hedonistic darkness that clouds over this one like Morgoth’s (Tolkien reference) fart clouds. The passages accompanying this one are beautiful in a reflective, somber way as opposed to the classical, descriptive flare that engulf The Gallery. That album doesn’t touch this one in terms of boiled anger, but then again that one doesn’t contain constant blasting and dull personality. Not even the bass, with its droopy booms and cranky grumbles, has the decency to rescue this album (save for a couple tracks).
The tempo remains mid-paced throughout, with songs like “Zodijackyl Light,” “Atom Heart 243.5,” and “Dissolution Factor Red” racing a little faster. The more enigmatic tracks like “Hedon,” “Constant,” “Still Moving Sinews,” and “Tidal Tantrum” hold the best riffs and passages that’ll tingle your spine, which was supposed to be the point of the album. The whole thing intended to be gloomy and penchant, but it only gets the second half down correctly. The gloominess comes when you find yourself sitting in an awkward position just to level out the boredom you’ll be feeling when listening to this. Drumming is fluent in consistency, never letting up one moment of lazy relapse like many death metal drummers think they can get away with. Jivarp’s kit sounds so beefy and strong that it’ll be the bane of your eardrums (in a good way).
In terms of composition, this may be Dark Tranquillity’s most progressive / experimental / intellectual release, especially considering how simplistic their music has been for the last ten years. That doesn’t make this one the best since it bores me to death, but there’s tough love to be found here that truly fits the gap between the early releases and the later ones. The foundations cemented by The Mind’s I would act as the same foundation for later albums, as the style hasn’t necessarily been altered too much (they just focused on the riffs and threw keys in). It’s a mixed bag for me, but it might be Santa’s bag or a garbage bag for you.
The Mind’s I” represents an unusual period for Dark Tranquillity. After the release of the masterpiece The Gallery, the band began to head away from the epic classical-influenced melodeath sound of that album towards more progressive and gothic tendencies. The Enter Suicidal Angels EP features some experimentations with electronic programming (transition from Zodijackyl Light into Razorfever) and even a straight out techno song (Archetype). A very strange release indeed, after The Gallery. The Mind’s I finds the band not taking such an extreme approach as the EP did, but it can be seen that the epic melodies are being dumbed down a bit in favor of a darker, more progressive sound. Make no mistake, this is the bridge between The Gallery and Projector.
The first track, Dreamlore Degenerate, is a short burst of aggression, with some slower parts thrown in. The subtle tempo changes in this song prepares the listener for much more extreme ones that follow. Zodijackyl Light, a track from the Enter Suicidal Angels EP, isn’t too far removed from the sound of The Gallery, but is a bit stranger and more experimental. During the chorus, there is an extra half beat every other measure, making the tempo rather strange and confusing. Near the end of the song, a typical hi-hat/snare beat is played against that riff for a very strange feel. It’s almost “math metal”. The third track, Hedon, is definitely my favorite on the album. A darkly epic masterpiece, Hedon has bizarre tempo changes coupled with multiple leads and great vocals and lyrics. Unfortunately, Dark Tranquillity doesn’t manage to make all the rest of the songs on the album as interesting. Scythe, Rage, and Roses is another short burst under three minutes, like the opener, that is a bit faster than the other songs. However, the thing about these short bursts of aggression, is they don’t feel all that heavy or powerful, and aren’t quite as effective as they could be.
Constant is a slower track with some decent leads and not many interesting tempo variations that ends up being pretty good but nothing too special. Here comes another one of those token shorter faster songs to keep you awake…Dissolution Factor Red. Starting to get a bit redundant here, unfortunately. To keep your interest, Dark Tranquillity throws in one of those classic half-acoustic songs with female guest vocals, Insanity’s Crescendo. And for a while it’s pretty, but isn’t executed nearly as well as earlier epics like …Of Melancholy Burning. In fact, 7 minutes of it is a bit much. I tend to get a bit bored after that. Still Moving Sinews is a decent song with some decent leads and such, but a bunch of decent songs put together to make a decent album doesn’t do much for me. Atom Heart 234.5 has a bit more of that fast stuff, but overall none of these tracks nearly match the power of anything on The Gallery. Tidal Tantrum…mid tempo melodic leads and switching off between clean and distorted guitar…not bad on its own but I’m really getting bored here. Tongues isn’t much different either. The closer and title track is a great track, but by the time you get to it you’re more than a bit bored. A good mix of old and new, The Mind’s Eye is acoustic with sampling and electronics in the background. Definitely a good way to bridge the gap between The Gallery and Projector.
Overall…the first few tracks are pretty damn good, but then the damn album just starts to drag. It’s not that these songs are bad, it’s just that they’re not that amazing. Pretty good for a transitional experimental album…but I’d take any other DT album except Haven over it. Skip this one unless you’re a real hardcore fan (like me).
Why is this album so overlooked? I'd like to know that. I talk to many Dark Tranquillity fans and they don't mention this album that much. What is so wrong about this album? This is so vastly underrated it's not funny. It expands the formula they used on The Gallery to include more melodic parts, which is what they still use now.
The album jumps out with Dreamlore Degenerate, one of my absolute favorite DT tracks ever. It's too well made. Then, the one-two of Zodijackyl Light and Hedon hit you with some of the best DT material out there. The other standouts include the next track, Scythe Rage and Roses, as well as Insanity's Crescendo, Atom Heart, and the closer, The Mind's I. They are all very well made, each having a melody section that stands out. It's very catchy in it's own form.
Mikael Stanne's vocals are the best to me in this album. Everything is done right with his vocals. I'm not a huge fan of his clean vocals that are on Projector and Haven, so I think these vocals are perfect. The drumming is amazingly good, with Anders Jivarp also giving his best recorded performance in this album. My problem is the lack of Niklas Sundin's leads. Later material take advantage of his talents, but not this. Sad, because some of the songs could have used an embellishment. That's alright though. It's a damn good album still, and every DT fan should own it. The bonus tracks from the Suicidal Angels EP are good as well, with Archetype being my favorite, it's so quirky and fun.
If Dark tranquillity have an album in their regular discography that has been overlooked, it's for sure 'The mind's I', which had to carry on the difficult task of being the heir to the 1995 classic 'The gallery' and set the ground for the groundbreaking 1998 release 'Projector'. In addition to being between such two relevant works in the career of the band, the very fact that Dark tranquillity decided to go for a much darker sound just makes this album more of a rare bug.
Make no mistake, 'The mind's I' is undoubtedly a Dark tranquillity album, sporting the same level of technical finesse of the rest of their works, both in lyrics and music, and all of it finished with an exceptional execution. 'The mind's I' is still in the pre-electronica age of the band, which means that we don't have keyboards, and instead there are acoustic guitars and female voices at some points. I particularly don't prefer one age over the other, but some may like more the old sound of the band. The general sound goes into a much darker tone than 'The gallery', leaving the almost-pseudo-jazzy guitar work of most themes that album, and going into heavily distorted guitar sound accompanied by Mikael Stanne's magnificent as ever voice. The band still preserves its melodic tendence, but it's definitely a much darker album than the previous two.
In terms of lyrics, 'The mind's I' still has lyrics written by both Sundin and Stanne, and Sundin's writing is recognizable in themes like 'Hedon' or 'Tongues', that feature his characteristical bizarre and surrealist poetry. Stanne writes more or less in that fashion too, and it's nice because his lyrics are much more complex than seen in Projector, for example. The lyrics to this album are definitely magnificent and really give it a second dimension rather than just the sound, what has always been a very good thing about Dark tranquillity's work.
'The mind's I', in its original version (not the new re-release) includes 12 tracks, all of them in the level Dark tranquillity has its fans accustomed to. The best tracks in my opinion are 'Dreamlore degenerate' (a very good opening theme), 'Hedon' (long-winded and semi-progressive theme with Sundin lyrics and a vocal contribution by Anders Fridén), 'Scythe, rage and roses' (a short and rather brutal trash/death headbanger with a drum-killer of an ending), 'Insanity's crescendo' (long and magnificent theme with lots of acoustic guitar and female vocals by Sara Svensson) and 'Tongues' (very good ending theme with some spine-tickling moments). The rest of tracks are very good by themselves, but wind up as a bit boring in the context of the whole album.
All in all, 'The mind's I' is a rather different approach on melodic death metal with some new musical features, magnificent songwriting, and the exceptional execution provided by these Swedes. It'll be an interesting album for those who want to see Dark tranquillity at full power without resorting to their last electronic headcrusher, 'Character', and it's definitely one of the albums they can exploit for concerts, since most of its songs are real headbangers. On the dark side of things, it also gets boring at times. Oh, and the prints in the booklet are almost unreadable (wonderful booklet design otherwise).
It's taken me a long, long time to go anywhere near this band, because of the "M" word — "melodic".
Melodic death metal, as this band are often called, conjures up images of puffy–sleeved, white–frilly–shirt wearing musicians who looked like they belonged with a symphony orchestra, and music comparable to latter day Helloween. Boy, was I wrong! The "melodic" thing has been over emphasised in much that has been said about this band. This is brutal — it's still death fucking metal! Yes, there's an element of melody, but it's really an inappropriate word to be applied to this. Unfortunately, there is no word in the English language more appropriate.
So what's on offer here? The classic Scandinavian dual guitar attack. It's less oppressively crushing than the likes of Entombed or Dismember in their heyday, but is more technical than the earlier death metal leaders. The death grunt is more of a deep breathy rasp, and is able to carry melody (there's that word again…) more effectively than more guttural styles. Double kick drums underscore most songs, in classic death style.
While mostly mid–paced metal, blast beats are used sparingly, but effectively, like in the closing seconds of "Scythe, Rage and Roses". There are gentler moments too, like the melancholic acoustic guitar and female vocal introduction to "Insanity's Crescendo". There's also the majestic closing title track, which builds layer upon layer on a seemingly simple acoustic riff. This is the type of album where the listener will hear new things with each subsequent listen — a tasty riff here, an unheard bass run there, an imaginative drum fill.
Tacked on the end of this version of this album are three bonus tracks. "Razorfever" is a strap–your–balls–down straight–ahead headbanger. "Shadowlit Facade" is a more standard track, with a nice Maiden–esque riff. The final track is a cover of Kreator's ultra–brutal "Bringer of Torture", cleaned up a little, but still given the foot to the floor treatment.