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Beginning to emerge, but still obscured a bit. - 73%

hells_unicorn, January 23rd, 2012

If there is one point in Dark Tranquillity’s early releases where the actual face of their well known melodeath sound revealed itself, it’s this rather short and sadly, flawed EP. All of what was going to become cliché about the style begin to fall into place, though a remnant of the early 80s thrash character of the Septic Broiler days still manages to keep itself attached to the band. In fact, apart from the chaotic blast sections which hint a bit more at a Morbid Angel influence, these songs are pretty well in line with the “Human” influences that were also heard on “Trail Of Life Decayed”.

Perhaps the biggest factor that holds “A Moonclad Reflection” bad a bit is the lackluster production, which finds an imbalanced mix job with a overly reverb drenched drum and vocal presence that obscures a lot of the other things going on. Particularly on “Unfurled By Dawn” the raucous snare hit (further sustained by the reverb additives) works against a lot of the fairly impressive riff work going on, and even a set of Schuldiner inspired lead lines find themselves struggling to be heard. Fridén’s vocals, while still fairly close to the early death metal standard accomplished earlier, is becoming a bit more whisper-like, which definitely leaves him a bit exposed when factoring in the mixture of studio effects at work.

The other song “Yesterworld” works a bit better in this capacity because it doesn’t spend as much time in a frenzy of high tempo drum sections and tremolo riffs, but even here there is a bit of an obscurity factor that works against what is otherwise an excellent song. The acoustic guitar lines that occasionally chime in are apparent enough, but robbed of their depth, and the Iron Maiden inspired lead guitar melodies that chime in at key points are the only element that is free of being buried under a barrage of drum noise, mostly because they occur when the drums have settled down a bit.

While definitely the weakest of the early offerings before “Skydancer”, this is still unique enough of a release to be worth checking into if a historical perspective is high on your radar. The trappings of the melodeath sound are definitely here, though they are still somewhat at war with the older, archaic sound of the late 80s. It’s a listen that is governed by a duality of serene beauty and chaotic ugliness, though the latter has the edge, and definitely reveals itself as a sort of rebellious force in a style that was beginning to define itself by employing ugliness and leaving little room for the band’s namesake, ergo tranquility.