Monday, July 22, 2013

Dark Tranquillity - Construct

Dark Tranquillity
Century Media Records/E.M.I. Music Australia

Like many of the true pioneers of the Gothenburg melodic death metal scene, Dark Tranquillity has made a conscious effort to push beyond the sound they founded to reinvent themselves, without completely discarding the sound they invented in the first place. For the most part, this continued evolution of sound and direction has worked in the band’s favour; with nearly most agreeing that the band’s output over the last twenty years has been of an exceptionally high standard.
Having said that, that was the case until 2010, when the Swedes released ‘We Are The Void’. Although the album is a solid enough release, if you were to compare it to some of the band’s more recent efforts (In particular 2005’s ‘Character’ and 2007’s ‘Fiction’), it’s clear that ‘We Are The Void’ wasn’t so much about pushing the envelope of experimentation, but rather a revision in what the band had done already – only without the strength in song writing. Not surprisingly, the band themselves later said that making ‘We Are The Void’ was a frustrating experience.
So here we are some three years later, and Dark Tranquillity (Who comprise of vocalist/lyricist Mikael Stanne, guitarist/bassist Martin Henriksson, guitarist Niklas Sundin, keyboardist Martin Brändström and drummer Anders Jivarp) are back with their tenth full-length album ‘Construct’. And once again, the band is pushing their sound into new and uncharted territory, which is a move that will no doubt divide opinions.
‘For Broken Words’, as the first single lifted from the album, is not surprisingly fairly typical of the direction Dark Tranquillity have be driving home over the last ten years. But even so, the slower pacing of the track, the lack of a discernible riff and the use of atmospheric lulls in the song show the band’s willingness to go against the grain and shake up the formula to arrive with something familiar sounding, but different at the same time.
Sounding very much like a lost track from Dark Tranquillity’s recent past, ‘The Science Of Noise’ (The second single lifted from the album) is a faster paced melodic death metal gem with Stanne providing some memorable melodies alongside the contorted guitar riffs, while the double kick drum works towards the tail end of the song proves that the band haven’t completely forsaken the heavier and aggressive side.
‘Uniformity’ is the first track on the album that sees Stanne using clean vocals alongside his trademark growls, and it works quite well. The song has a slight ‘Projector’ (1999) feel with its atmospheric backdrop and dominant use of rhythm guitar and keyboards, but still bears it’s very modern day Dark Tranquillity traits via its melodic chorus structures.
Both ‘The Silence In Between’ and ‘Weight Of The End’ again sees a return to Dark Tranquillity’s more recent sound with the intensity of the guitars contrasted perfectly against the industrialised atmospherics within the songs. But for older fans, both ‘Apathetic’ and ‘Endtime Hearts’ will please immensely, with the aggressive aspect of the guitars and the riff structures sounding very much like the Dark Tranquillity of old (Particularly the former, which is hands down the most thrashing and shedding track on the album).
Given the increased amount of clean vocals used by Stanne on recent albums, I was surprised to find that his cleaner efforts are minimal throughout ‘Construct’. ‘What Only You Know’ and ‘State Of Trust’ are the only songs outside ‘Uniformity’ to feature Stanne on clean vocals, and as expected, are two of the more experimental efforts on the album in terms of the direction the band were heading on ‘We Are The Void’ – albeit with any real riff structures, and a greater emphasis on rhythm guitars, a greater keyboard presence and strong melodies. Given the somewhat experimental direction of the songs, I have no doubt that it’s these tracks that will polarise many fans about the merits of ‘Construct’ as a whole.
Finishing up the album is ‘None Becoming’, which not unlike most closers on Dark Tranquillity albums, is a slow, brooding and atmospheric experimental piece that seems to sum up the album perfectly with its move from one passage to the next on the musical front. It may be far from an instant track, but one that certainly grows more with each listen.
Overall, ‘Construct’ is everything that ‘We Of The Void’ wasn’t. Again, ‘We Of The Void’ was far from a disaster, but what it lacked in song writing, ‘Construct’ has in abundance, along with a greater diversity of sounds and styles over the course of its ten tracks.
If you’re a fan of latter day Dark Tranquillity, then ‘Construct’ comes highly recommended. Sure, the album doesn’t break quite as much ground as some of their earlier classics, but it does show some life beyond what we’ve come to expect from the band in more recent times.

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© Justin Donnelly

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