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Within a fire that consumes itself. - 70%

Diamhea, February 1st, 2014

As the first notes of "Nothing to No One" rumble through your speakers, it becomes obvious that Fiction desperately wants to be Character Part II. It very nearly achieves this goal at several junctures, although it's more experimental nature pulls the proceedings into a more progressive direction more often than not. Brändström approaches the keyboards from a more organic perspective, shying away from the heavy use of electronica elements that had dogged albums like Haven. The one exception is "Terminus (Where Death Is Most Alive)", which desperately tries to take a stab at mainstream appeal whilst retaining the bobbing and weaving of the Gothenburg patterns. It comes off as a slightly more well built "The Wonders at Your Feet", featuring a neck-jerking groove during the chorus and an infectious main synth line.

While Fiction follows familiar trappings at first, it gets more experimental as it goes on. The otherwise average "Misery's Crown" features some crooning vocal passages courtesy of Stanne. He sounds pretty good here, much better than the overacted warbling present on Haven. "The Mundane and the Magic" features the chick from Theatre of Tragedy for some reason. I can go either way regarding these female vocal contributions that Dark Tranquillity feels the need to shoehorn into certain songs. It came off as more novel and appealing on Projector anyway. Conversely, we get some heavier riff-monsters like "Focus Shift" and "Icipher", the latter of which pulverizes the best of Character courtesy of it's monolithic inclinations. Regardless, "Blind at Heart" steals the spotlight from all of these. It starts off formulaic by Dark Tranquillity standards, but the churning tremolo verses that open into the stirring chorus embody the best of this album's approach.

Fiction's production features interesting attributes that aren't necessarily unwelcome. Most glaringly, Jivarp's kit features barely any reverb. His snare has a snappy pop to it that helps him cut through the multiple layers that usually obfuscate the mix. This adds character to his mechanized percussive assault, as per Fiction's prospective atmosphere. A good example is "Empty Me", which has some decent blasting patterns that serve the more agitated riffs well. The somber piano melody during it's chorus is searingly memorable as well, so don't miss that one if anything. "The Lesser Faith" also gets some decent drum-driven grooves going during it's verses, even without much input from Brändström.

Fiction tries to settle into the stagnant Gothenburg formula at times, but there is just enough variation to keep it's head above water. Even so, some tracks like "The Mundane and the Magic" try to inveigle the listener by muddying the creative waters with melodramatic fluff, coming off as more offensive than they need to be. Fiction is more effective when viewed as an amalgamation of differing songwriting styles as opposed to a cohesive experience. Solid for what it is.