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Wasting Away on the Merry-Go-Round of Meh - 30%

blackearth, December 22nd, 2016

I’ve ignored Dark Tranquillity for the last 15 years. I have not listened to them since 1999’s Projector album, which marked the first semblance of the shift in their sound away from the original Gothenberg melodic death metal they pioneered along with In Flames & At the Gates back in the early-90s. You remember this style, right? Aggressive, speeding riffs and drums, juxtaposed with well-timed melodic passages, all paved with harsh vocals that border on black metal shrieks. On Projector, things started to slow and become more accessible. Clean vocals, acoustic guitar passages and piano were added to the chaos. And while Projector was by no means a bad album, this period found Dark Tranquillity surrounded by a myriad of imitators, which by association, watered-down the genre and led to listener fatigue due to more of the same. Thus my diversion from this band and the genre as a whole.

So, seven albums later in 2016 has anything changed? Yes, but not for the better. Only 4 songs into the album, a distinct formula emerges. Soft keyboard intro followed by a heavy guitar riff with harsh vocals, then a bridge with that main riff slowed down and overlaid with the soft melody. Repeat for 4 minutes each song. It’s almost like they are trying to make a synth-wave/metal mashup but without any good synth-wave. A few guitar riffs here and there are actually pretty good (see “Forward Momentum,”) but the arrangements of the songs give them little impact. A lyric in “Faithless by Default” goes “we’ve lost our way,” and I’m sitting here like, “…and knowing is half the battle.”

I would think a more accessible hard rock sound & production as found on this album would warrant more clean-singing, like it does on the title track. However, many songs lean heavily on the harsh growls. Dark Tranquillity seem to be trying to be more accessible but still extreme at the same time. Maybe I’m just too far removed from this style of music, but I don’t understand why this blend of sounds is pleasing. I suppose it must be for quite a few people since this band still exists and continues to be a live draw, but I just cannot get excited about this album.

Toward the end of Atoma is a track named “Merciless Fate.” Don’t get excited. It sound nothing like Merciless or Mercyful Fate. Just more of the same on this twelve track merry-go-round of ‘meh.’ Lyrics from the last track actually sum up the album better than I can in this review:

Here we are doing nothing
Being nothing
We are wasting away


Originally posted on http://www.moshpitnation.com/