The discovery of a new band is always exciting. Will it be something you’ve heard countless times? An experience that leaves a bad taste in your mouth? Or is it a treat from which you cannot stop consuming? I wanted to take a trip back in time to reminisce about bands/albums that not only introduced me to heavy music, but kept me coming back for more…
From The Archive: Dark Tranquillity – Character
Two weeks ago I started reflecting on certain melodic death metal bands that were a major gateway for me into the genre itself. Seeing as how I started this trek, I feel it’s best to continue and cover other bands/albums that fit this mold. In the coming weeks I will cover a few of my favorites, but for todays installment I’m going to take a look back on Dark Tranquillity’s 2005 full-length album, Character.
Character wasn’t my first foray into the bands discography, Haven takes that spot, and once I started listening to it, I was quite impressed with the mix of beauty and melody this band possessed. Soon after. I began to hunt down their other albums, and while each album provided their own uniqueness, they still captured the mood and tone that has become a staple of Dark Tranquillity’s sound. Now while I do enjoy both the old and more recent endeavors from the band, I’ve just always had a soft spot for Character.
It’s safe to say that Dark Tranquillity hasn’t changed their sound a whole lot. While the songs consist of simple/repetitive riffs and melodies, what saves this album is the vocal work by Mikael Stanne and the keyboards/electronics by Martin Brändström, which, since 1999’s Projecter came out, has become a significant role in Dark Tranquillity’s music. I feel these are the two main factors of this album, and while I’m not knocking the bands talent as a whole, to be honest, they’re definitely not breaking any new ground in the genre of melodic death. Nevertheless, as stated, the vocals by Mikael are incredible on Character. From his raspy screams and grunts, to his lyrics, it all permeates with incredible emotion, power and passion. I’ve always found his approach to vocals to be different compared to other vocalists in melodic death metal, with his growls being a bit higher pitched, rather than the lower and more monotonous growls you get from your standard melo-death band. Sure he has his lows, but there is no mistaking Mikael’s vocals when you hear them.
Character immediately kicks things into gear with “The New Build”, a fast, technical, heavy and highly melodic song. You instantly hear the emotion behind the vocals while the guitars do their share as well, being equally as emotional. This song is able to make you feel a real connection with the music and this feeling continues with the rest of the album. The thing about Character is, they took the sound from Damage Done, made it darker and heavier, and combined it with key passages from the likes of Haven. It’s chock full of blazing-fast and melodic riffing that is reminiscent of many melodic death metal acts from Gothenburg, and the solos are, you guessed it, melodic as well. While they aren’t that plentiful, which is sort of a down side, they still sound great and add that extra layer to the atmosphere Dark Tranquillity build in all of their songs.
Dark Tranquillity – “Through Smudged Lenses”
Another factor that gives this album an extra boost, is the production. The album in nature, is raw, but this is one of the cleanest sounding albums I’ve heard in a long time. And with all the emotion and passion that these six Swedes have poured into it, it would be a shame to miss out on moments or have an instrument be overshadowed or under mixed. I know there’s many albums out there with good or even great production, but there’s always some small nuance that could have been done better, although they may not even be very significant. However with Character, this is not the case, everything has been taken good care of.
Aside from the vocals and keyboards, the other instruments are no strangers to the album. Besides Dark Tranquillity’s lack of solos, guitarists Martin Henriksson and Niklas Sundin rage through each song with rasping and raw riffs that will stay with you for hours after hearing them. The bass guitar does its own thing in the mix as well, not always following behind the guitar’s lead, and due to the great production is heard very clearly. The drums are pushed somewhat more to the foreground, and usually exactly as one could expect; fast and technical on the faster songs, and less forthcoming but still essential on the slower songs.
Dark Tranquillity – “The Endless Feed”
Dark Tranquillity either get flak or acclaim from folks in the metal community. I will admit I’m not to privy to the cleaner singing heard on their most recent album, but it’s hardly enough to make me dislike the band. They continue to put out solid albums, which cannot be said for other melodic death metal bands that have been sharing the same spotlight with Dark Tranquillity since the mid 90’s. I may not wait with anticipation when they have a new album coming out, but I can rest easy knowing that when I do hear it, it will be Dark Tranquillity that graces my ears, and not some “new” sound that only leaves me sighing.
Dark Tranquillity – “Lost To Apathy”