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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Dark Tranquility: Fiction

April 24 2007
Century Media


1. Nothing to No One [4:10]

2. The Lesser Faith [4:37]

3. Terminus (Where Death Is Most Alive) [4:24]

4. Blind at Heart [4:21]

5. Icipher [4:39]

6. Inside the Particle Storm [5:29]

7. Empty Me [4:59]

8. Misery's Crown [4:14]

9. Focus Shift [3:36]

10. The Mundane and the Magic [5:17]

Pioneers of melodic death metal from the legendary Swedish Gothenburg metal scene, Dark Tranquility has had an illustrious 18 year career thus far. Throughout the years, they hold a mark of high musical integrity, producing music of consistent high proficiency and with a few line-up changes. Their latest album released in 2007, Fiction, does not deviate much from their established pathos. Production remains excellent, Mikael Stanne still manages to growl in a powerful and yet emotional manner, the lyrics continue to be versatile and artistically tasteful and the album generally abides by the formula of Gothenburg melodic death accompanied by lots of keyboard melodies. In fact, the only points of contention lies in what might or might not be the over-use of keyboards, as well as Stanne's decision to include clean vocals for the first time since Projector in 1999.

Unlike some people, I personally have no problems with the use of keyboards. They add a more melodic element and can improve the atmosphere of a song. Moreover, Dark Tranquility's 'electronics' man Martin Brändström can really pull it off, songs like Terminus (Where Death Is Most Alive) and Empty Me have hauntingly beautiful parts. The problem thus to me, doesn't seem to be that keyboards are too prevalent, but the lack of presence in the guitars section. A comparative absence of frequent solos caused the keyboards to be pushed to the forefront, where it appears to take up melodic duties while Niklas Sundin and Martin Henriksson starts covering the background tones instead and only coming into the spotlight with occasional riffs which were mostly too short to give the listener much pleasure. Had more focus been placed on the guitars, the album would have been vastly better and more befitting of its genre.

As to the clean singing, Stanne sings pretty nicely in a rugged forlorn way and I have no objection to including some of that here and there. In fact, I rather enjoyed Misery's Crown for his singing out soulful lyrics for a change. Strange as it is for female clean vocals (in this case Nell Sigland from Theatre of Tragedy) to be included in a Dark Tranquility album, I felt the Mundane and the Magic wasn't all that bad either, albeit a little slow and simplistic on its melody.

Overall, despite the criticism, Fiction is a solid album with good quality, just perhaps not up to the standard of the longest standing band in the Gothenburg metal scene. New listeners of Dark Tranquility might do better with some of their previous albums, such as Damage Done and Character and understand with greater clarity the contributions made to melodic death metal by this band.

Verdict: 3.5/5

(photos from darktranquility.com)

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