Dark Tranquillity

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Dark Tranquillity - Skydancer ©1993 Spinefarm
1. Nightfall By The Shores Of Time
2. Crimson Winds
3. A Bolt Of Blazing Gold
4. In Tears Bereaved
5. Skywards
6. Under Ebony Archways
7. Shadow Duet
8. My Faeryland Forgotten
9. Alone

Okay, the production's bad, but would you just relax and quit nitpicking? As witnessed on Dark Tranquillity's debut for Finland's tiny but efficient Spinefarm, the songcraft is textured, stately and the performance is propelled by a youthful enthusiasm, since lost as the band have become obvious masters of their craft. But even in the formative years, DT were in possession of a musical and lyrical sophistication, layering earfulls of searing, decidedly un-aggro melodies interweft with folk passages best conveyed on the mid-album breathcatcher "Through Ebony Archways". Some of the best lyrics ver put to paper as far as I'm concerned (and yes, that's covering ALL genres), Sundin's "Nightfall By the Shore of Time", "A Bolt of Blazing Gold" and "Shadow Duet" cover multitudes of philosophical, spiritual and religious vistas while Stanne's introspective styles of "Skywards" and "Crimson Winds" establish a common thread of poetic appreciation. In contrast with their later works this seems rather tranquil, given the scatterbrained production and thematic cohesiveness that holds the songs together throughout. But this is Dark Tranquillity, kids. Could you do wrong with this band? No. Friden's low-in-the- mix vocals, the folk factor, and the blatantly melodic patchwork all cloak this album in a blanket of extreme beauty.

Review by Lee Steadham

Review date: 10/1998

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The Gallery

Dark Tranquillity - The Gallery ©1995 Osmose
1. Punish My Heaven
2. Silence And The Firmament Withdrew
3. Denspring
4. The Dividing Line
5. The Gallery
6. The One Brooding Warning
7. Midway Through Infinity
8. Lethe
9. Alone
10. Mine Is The Grandeur
11. ...Of Melancholy Burning

Now this is some tasty stuff here! Finally breaking down and buying it at import price, this is my first Dark Tranquility disc, which has been a pursuit of mine since I heard some illicit MP3 samples on the net. (And they say that those samples hurt the recording industry.) And so far I'm breathless from wailing about my room playing broomstick guitar and moshing by myself. These guys, simply put, rock! Sure, they've been accused of using "happy" melodies by the darker, much more sinister and far less talented black metal bands, but what does that matter? Good is good.

The reason I get such a happy smile from bands like Dark Tranquility and In Flames (their histories are somewhat intertwined) is that their guitar playing is phenomenal, using melodic leads to power the songs like a thousand nuclear reactors. Every song has tons of memorable leads and riffs, while still being exceptionally aggressive and powerful. Niklas Sundin and Fredrik Johansson's interplay blows away the famed boys of Maiden in yesterday, pummels the heydey of Helloween, and should make all other guitar tandems rethink their ability to write guitar lines. The songs are almost all equally excellent, though "The Emptiness from which I fed", "Lethe", and "Punish my Heaven" particularly stand out as above and beyond the metal command. It is very refreshing to hear a band that does not let their talent go to waste and create sub-par music. My only question is why they aren't getting distribution in the United States...

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 06/1998

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Enter Suicidal Angels

Dark Tranquillity - Enter Suicidal Angels ©1996 Osmose
1. Zodijackyl Light
2. Razorfever
3. Shadowlit Facade
4. Archetype

Quick little four song EP that gives you three-fourths of a mouth watering appetite for the band. The first three songs are rock solid, complete D.T. in a nutshell. If you've heard the band, you know what I'm talking about. If not, it is my opinion that Dark Tranquillity is perhaps one of the premier metal bands out there today. Why? I'll give you four reasons: 1) Stunning guitar leads and melodies that are both technical and catchy enough to stick in your head for days 2) Powerful vocals that are a combination of black and death metal style without relying too heavily on either 3) lethal songwriting that balances aggression with beauty 4) cuz I said so. Metal purists are advised to skip "Archetype", which is a just-for-fun techno remix of their riffs. Trust me, it's not particularly intriguing. Luckily you have the other three songs to convince you D.T. will satisfy even the hungriest customer.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 11/1998

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Skydancer/Of Chaos And Eternal Night

Dark Tranquillity - Skydancer/Of Chaos And Eternal Night ©1996 Spinefarm
1. Nightfall By The Shore Of Time
2. Crimson Winds
3. A Bolt Of Blazing Gold
4. In Tears Bereaved
5. Skywards
6. Through Ebony Archways
7. Shadow Duet
8. My Faeryland Forgotten
9. Alone
10. Of Chaos And Eternal Night
11. With The Flaming Shades Of Fall
12. Away, Delight, Away
13. Alone '94

I don't know precisely who at Spinefarm is to be held responsible for this pairing of the first two Dark Tranquillity albums, but I want to give them a huge hug for it. By far one of the most stunning and remarkable of the newer Swedish death metal acts, Dark Tranquillity knocked down so many preconceptions of mine about what two guitarists, one bassist and a drummer can accomplish musically. Aside from the somewhat strained sounding vocals, everything here deserves the highest praise. Michael Stanne (who took over vocals after Skydancer) and Niklas Sundin's guitar majesty gets the first gold star. Seldom sticking to simple riffs but having the ability to make the intricate leads, flash and dazzle into melodic and stunning songs, these two guitarists are the primary reason to give Dark Tranquillity a listen. The second reason is the shining "Away, Delight, Away", which contains the best guitar line I can think of in metal. It's so melodic and memorable that it sticks in my head for days. The third reason is that just about every song here contains so much depth that you will find new things with each listen. The lyric book only enhances the experience. In my little world, this is a must have death metal album.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 12/1998

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The Mind's I

Dark Tranquillity - The Mind's I ©1997 Osmose
1. Dreamlore Degenerate
2. Zodijackyl Light
3. Hedon
4. Scythe, Rage And Roses
5. Constant
6. Dissolution Factor Red
7. Insanity's Crescendo
8. Still Moving Sinews
9. Atom Heart 243.5
10. Tidal Tantrum
11. Tongues
12. The Mind's Eye

Crunchy, punchy and good for what ails you. Sweden's remarkable Dark Tranquillity continues on their path of guitar thrash domination with the release of The Mind's I. Unfortunately, when you have such strong albums in your back catalogue like The Gallery or Skydancer, it can be a bit tough living up to the standards you have set for yourself. The Mind's I comes off as a bit less interesting than its two predecessors, but that still implies it is heads and goat horns above most of the metal world. The riffing of twin guitarists Niklas Sundin and Fredrik Johansson seems more based in the thrash world of a decade ago than the whirly, enticing leads of the previous D.T. albums. The overall focus seems to be one of aggression rather than harsh beauty. However, that is not to say this album isn't full of fine moments: "Insanity's Crescendo", "Hedon", "Still Moving Sinews" and "Tongues" are all memorable, and the other tracks are pretty darned good as well. Perhaps Mikael Stanne's one-dimensional hoarse voice could use some variety and perhaps the band could use a few more of those awesome leads, but hey...this is still one snazzy record that deserves your attention. I shall await most impatiently for the next D.T. release.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 12/1998

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Dark Tranquillity - Projector ©1999 Century Media
1. Freecard
2. ThereIn
3. UnDo Control
4. Auctioned
5. To A Bitter Halt
6. The Sun Fired Blanks
7. Nether Novas
8. Day To End
9. Dobermann
10. On Your Time

On the heels of three great studio albums and some interim EPs, Dark Tranquillity has positioned themselves perfectly to finally breakthrough on a level more rewarding to their ability and supreme talent. Their previous albums had the minor misfortune of being nearly impossible to find in North America (well, the problem has been slowly rectifiying itself) but Dark Tranquillity finally snagged a deal with Century Media so perhaps now it won't be fully a quest of Grail-like proportions to find Projector.

Though the album was actually recorded a year ago, it comes across on first listen as one of the freshest things of 1999 so far. Dark Tranquillity has modified its sound somewhat to hone the guitar acrobatics into a more concise, song-oriented approach. Elements such as piano, subtle keyboard effects, clean singing and moodier song arrangements place the band in a more rock territory than extreme metal. Naturally, scene elitists will wring their little hands and scream that Dark Tranquillity has sold out or some inane decree of those who will never see the forest for the trees. The fact is that regardless of a slightly milder approach to the music, these songs are just well-written, solid performances that are much more memorable than anything off their previous albums. I am most impressed with Michael Stanne's clean singing voice. It is deep and rich, but not quite gothic velveeta. Stanne is able to convey a lot of emotion in his singing now, whereas his black metallish scream of the past was rather monochromatic after while. There is a lot to be said for actually having a singer in a band like this, especially considering he can vary his approach between screams and singing. His performances on "Auctioned" and the highly addictive "ThereIn" (which was available as an MP3 at the band's website for a long time) are truly perfect. Musically, the band has toned down the busy, congested arrangements that marked their other albums. Rather than cramming together too many riffs, the band trims that fat to a more lean, song-oriented approach. That's not to say they discard their trademark leads. Projector still has its share of tasty guitar sounds. Above all else, this long-awaited CD is everything I hoped it would be and more. Count this as one of the best albums of the year.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 07/1999

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Review #2:

Take the standard Dark Tranquillity recipe, add a helping of clean singing, a healthy serving of gothic metal ā la Moonspell, and a dash of 90s power metal, and what have you cooked up? You have Projector, the talented quintet's finest performance to date and one of the best examples of Swedish metal, ever. Dark Tranquillity started off as one of the more talented representatives of the famed Göteborg scene, which includes the seminal bands At the Gates, In Flames, and Dissection. However, after repeated listens, the band's genericness became readily apparent, and Dark Tranquillity could not fully break out from the overbearing shadows of their luminaries.

That is, until now. Projector is somewhat different from earlier DT releases, as the band looks to balance aggression with quiet, reflective melancholy instead of bombarding the listener with a full sonic assault of melodic death metal. The most noticeable change, though, comes with the vocal approach of Mikael Stanne, who now realizes that maybe clean singing is cool after all. Emotion just drips from his baritone croon; he conveys sadness and depression admirably without falling into self-parody, a mistake that afflicts many a band. Reading the booklet, one can see that great care and effort went into the lyrics. Stanne's pen is as mighty as his voice, and he presents us with ten thoughtful, metaphorical poems that accompany the impressive songwriting. The only weakness in the album comes with the song "Day to End," in which the singing is often out of sync with the steady beat. Nevertheless, one must respect Dark Tranquillity's willingness to experiment, even if the band, on rare occasions, doesn't achieve what it intended. First, In Flames come out with their best album to date, Colony, and now Dark Tranquillity follow with their masterpiece. Could the Swedish scene be maturing artistically and creatively? The question is rhetorical; listen to Dark Tranquillity's "UnDo Control" and the answer is readily apparent.

Review by Jeffrey Shyu

Review date: 08/1999

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Dark Tranquillity - Haven ©2000 Century Media
1. The Wonders At Your Feet
2. Not Built To Last
3. Indifferent Suns
4. Feast Of Burden
5. Haven
6. The Same
7. Fabric
8. Ego Drama
9. Rundown
10. Emptier Still
11. At Loss For Words

Hot on the heels of last year's Projector, Dark Tranquillity took very little time in recording the follow up, Haven. The resulting album is a workmanship, efficient and good effort from the band, but not quite the wallop of its predecessor. Those who couldn't handle the clean vocals of Michael Stanne may be relieved that he growls and rasps his entire way through Haven. But the keyboards do have a tad more prominence throughout the album, acting both as a subtle underscore and an occasional lead instrument such as they do on "Feast of Burden". This builds quite a bit in the sense of depth and dynamics to the songs, proving that Dark Tranquillity cannot be pigeonholed as a twin guitar hysterics outfit or solely New Wave of Swedish Death Metal. The production is excellent throughout, giving a full, rich sound that benefits the band immensely. The moods in the songs range from a more aggressive assault to moodier, slower tracks like the title song.

The one thing that stands out the most to me is the lack of acknowledgement of where the band went on Projector, at least vocally. I personally thought Stanne's clean vocals were excellent, emotive and rich, adding a lot of depth to an already wildly talented band. Haven is indeed a top notch record in today's musical climate, but I tend to think a tad more of Projector elements would push it into the stratosphere. Regardless of my quibbling, Haven is a wonderful respite and a completely consistent and enjoyable Dark Tranquillity record.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 09/2000

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Damage Done

Dark Tranquillity - Damage Done ©2002 Century Media
1. Final Resistance
2. Hours Passed In Exile
3. Monochromatic Stains
4. Single Part Of Two
5. The Treason Wall
6. Format C: For Cortex
7. Damage Done
8. Cathode Ray Sunshine
9. The Enemy
10. White Noise/Black Silence
11. Ex Nihilo

Damage Done is the sound of a band who has lost their way. Dark Tranquillity, at least up till 1999, represented one of the most exciting bands to come from nearly any part of the world. In 1999, the band released Projector. That album became one of my favorites from Dark Tranquillity as the band broadened their horizons with some excellent clean singing from Michael Stanne and the inclusion of occasional electronics to expand their sound. However, 2000 found Haven to be a step backwards in terms of development as the band seemingly responded to the cries of their less flexible fans, losing the progression of its predecessor. And now, in 2002, Dark Tranquillizer, ahem, Tranquillity proves that there was some Damage Done to their ability to move forward with their music.

Damage Done is one of those maddening albums that offers good musicianship by a band who clearly can outplay the majority of their peers. However, coupled with tepid songwriting, great musicianship only can go so far. Dark Tranquillity has seemingly abandoned their foray into the clean singing forever and immediately wipe out a wide avenue of possibilities by doing so. The songwriting throughout Damage Done sounds like a band going through the motions of creating a scientifically correct album that should appeal to demographics, much like a soda commericial. And we all know how nutritional a bottle of soda is. The CD is lifeless, lacking energy, spirit or drive. The riffs may be in the correct spot, but it very much sounds like a color-by-numbers approach. Maybe there's something wrong with me, but I expect just a bit more out of my music than complying with the bare minimum standards.

After two fairly disappointing CDs, I'm suspecting my interest in this style of music (the hybrid of Swedish death metal that slowly has been evolving) will move to much more exciting acts such as Soilwork, who are successfully blending clean and growly vocals as well as showing impressive songwriting skills. Damage Done is the product of a band who doesn't seem willing to take any more chances with their music and it shows. It's a very sterile, safe and inoffensive record that will fade from memory very quickly.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 08/2002

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Dark Tranquillity - Character ©2005 Century Media
1. The New Build
2. Through Smudged Lenses
3. Out of Nothing
4. The Endless Feed
5. Lost to Apathy
6. Mind Matters
7. One Thought
8. Dry Run
9. Am I 1?
10. Senses Tied
11. My Negation

When Dark Tranquillity got the album naming phase of this recording session, it probably didn't occur to them they chose a name which the album ultimately lacks: Character. My interest in this band waned following 2002's Damage Done and having finally listened to Character in its entirety, I can see that I haven't missed much in the years since.

No one can criticize Dark Tranquillity's musical chops, but it's very easy to scratch one's head over the lackluster songwriting that has plagued this band for years. Much of Character seems as though the band simply turned on the autopilot. The reliance on specific tempos (the album opener "The New Build" relies old ideas, which is slightly ironic) that the band has overused through the years. The vocals stick almost entirely to the gruff approach that Michael Stanne is obviously very comfortable with. In fact, much of this album suggests the band has found their comfortable niche and are unwilling or unable to step outside it. This approach would be fine, except the songwriting isn't particularly stirring. Sadly, one could take my criticisms of Damage Done and apply it to this record without being wildly off-base. Dark Tranquillity sounds like they're playing by numbers and have no interest in challenging themselves or their audience.

If you haven't gotten around to checking out this album by now, trust me when I say you really aren't missing a whole lot.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 09/2009

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