Dark Tranquillity - Character 2005 Century Media --EC
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 I? 10. Senses Tied 11. My Negation
With the new year firmly tucked under our arms, we welcome in that lovely speculation of who will be the best of the best this year. With a wide variety of hopefuls trying out in the "Best Of 2005" category I find it surprising that Dark Tranquillity have kick started the year off with a grand spectacle. With new album "Character", the band's seventh long\player to date, Dark Tranquillity return to form with a vision of pure power and emotion, an album that is super charged with an intensity and drive rarely seen in this genre. With many of Gothenburg's death metal elite wandering past the gates of their familiar stomping grounds, Dark Tranquillity have done the exact opposite, going back to their roots to go one step further.
During my recent research into the history of melodic Swedish death metal I found that it was Dark Tranquillity that started the proverbial ball rolling. With their Spinefarm release "Skydancer" in 1993, Dark Tranquillity created a metal movement that is still being widely felt over ten years later. This band could be looked at in the same light as Judas Priest, who kicked off NWOBHM with "Sad Wings Of Destiny" in the mid-70s, or perhaps Metallica who managed to usher in a decade of thrash with "Kill 'Em All". The early to mid 90s brought in a firestorm of Swedish death metal pioneers looking to exercise a precise melodic signature to the overwhelming sensation of Floridian death metal. With "Skydancer" everything fell into place perfectly, delivering a dramatic, fury filled ascension to something one step beyond. With flashy melodic hooks similar to that of Maiden and Priest, and plenty of extreme tendencies ranging from thrash to black metal, Dark Tranquillity revolutionized heavy metal as we know it.
I'll be the first to open my big trap to say I lost track of what this band was about. I cherished the early stuff like "Skydancer", "The Gallery", and "Mind's I", but after that I lost touch with Dark Tranquillity. I understood the band had to change things around. I knew they had painted themselves into a corner and it was time for a huge step, but 1999's "Projector" just really turned the lights off for me. Perhaps it was the progressive work load or the loss of guitarist Fredrik Johansson that shunned me away. I got on board briefly with the 2000 album "Haven", but the keyboard romps just got to me. Now, after a five year absence from all things Dark Tranquillity, I hike back to camp a brand new man, full of wisdom and a new found appreciation for diversity and change. With "Character" I put on my thinking man's cap and embraced what was to come.
To my surprise "Character" has the same vibe flowing through it as the material from the early era. This album is graceful in its return to the old way of life, never quite going all the way back in time, but flipping the pages just far enough to pick up a few trademarks from the past. I was astonished to hear so many characteristics from the group's past. "Character" really has a mind of it's own, with plenty of material that is right on par with the early albums. With solid licks like "The New Build", "Lost To Apathy", and "Through Smudged Lenses", Dark Tranquillity offer up a smooth and calculated trip through history, firmly embracing their early roots through speedy thrash riffs and plenty of epic melody. Monstrous groove riffs shake through "The Endless Feed" and "Senses Tied". The band build on a new wave foundation with flashy tracks like "Out Of Nothing" and "Mind Matters", with both tracks stopping for some experimentation to add a bit more variance to the formula.
It has been years since Niklas Sundin has performed this well. His guitar sound just lifts right off of the disc along with second guitarist Michael Nicklasson, who may have his finest moment with this record. While demonstrating an understanding of what brought them to the dance, the band go further with many modern accents. Martin Henriksson brings plenty of electronics on board here but he never gets too fancy for his own good. The effects add a certain mood and vibe to the songs but they never take away from the might and thunder of the band. These guys are about power and intensity, they are about song structure, technical finesse, and speed. They keep the modern vibe but it doesn't take away from the main focus.
"Character" is a strong outing and one that clearly shows this band hasn't lost it's stride by any means. Century Media has unleashed a bombshell here, ringing in the new year with a resounding victory anthem sure to please metal fans across the board. I'm happy to be back into the fold, to pick up a Dark Tranquillity album and not only recall the early success of the group but to enjoy the moment and think of the bright future the group is building. These guys are on top of their game, they are on the playing field making it happen in 2005. This is a tremendous album and a bright start to a promising year.
About this Writer: Eric Compton // Eric Compton lives in the most haunted city in the world, St. Augustine, Florida with his family and two yorkies. He has served as senior editor for MaximumMetal.com for nearly 10 years and is the author of the heavy metal book series--Denim & Letters. His reviews, interviews and social commentary has been featured on websites like Brave Words, Blabbermouth, Metal Temple, Metal Rules, Ultimate Metal, Metal Maniacs and Wikipedia.
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