I still remember it as if it were yesterday: about 9 years ago, I had received a bunch of DARK TRANQUILLITY songs to listen to from a friend of mine. I was a huge fan of IN FLAMES at the time, and I had got the notion that DARK TRANQUILLITY would be to IN FLAMES what our own NORTHER was to CHILDREN OF BODOM: like a little brother following in their big brother’s footsteps. I knew that this probably wouldn’t be the case, but still, for some reason, I took my time pressing the play button for the first time. The first song on the playlist was “Dry Run” from DT’s 2005 “Character” album, and the immediate thought that popped into my head was to question everything that I’d done with the time given to me before that point. A passionate relationship between me and DARK TRANQUILLITY began, and since then I’ve regarded DARK TRANQUILLITY as one of the best metal bands out there. While their fellow countrymen from IN FLAMES lost their way completely on their 2007 album, “A Sense of Purpose,” DARK TRANQUILLITY has managed to keep their output at an incredibly high-level of quality since “Fiction,” released that same year.
The year is late 2016, and DARK TRANQUILLITY is to release their 11th album, “Atoma,” in a few weeks. It’s been over 3 years since their latest effort, Construct, saw the light of day. Having never been a band that repeats itself, it was still difficult to try to predict the direction Mikael Stanne (guitar, vocals) and the others had taken this time. After the almost industrial-sounding 2010 album, “We Are the Void,” “Construct” was a bit slower and, well, more tranquil than their previous work. I loved “Construct” – it was a really mature album from a finely matured band. With “Atoma,” I feel as though the band has taken a good look at their back catalog and cherry-picked all the best parts from “Haven” (2000), “Character,” “Fiction,” “We Are the Void,” and “Construct.”
The album’s opener, “Encircled,” begins with a short intro passage before changing to full speed, and is probably the band’s fastest opening track since “Character”’s “The New Build,” but stylistically leaning towards the more industrially-spiced sound of the last two albums, definitely helping fans feel right at home. A great prelude to the title track indeed – did you love “Misery’s Crown”? “Atoma” is a spiritual successor to the “Fiction” hit, and if there’s any sanity left in the world, it’ll be an instant live favorite. The song also features Mikael Stanne’s clean singing voice – what’s always been great about DARK TRANQUILLITY is that, while Stanne may not have the strongest of clean voices out there, the band has had the courage to utilize it to its full extent, delivering beautiful contrast to his harsh vocals, which are as dry and ripping as ever.
“Forward Momentum” is a bit slower than the first two songs, continuing in the vein of “Construct”’s and “We Are the Void”’s more mellow songs, again with Stanne’s clean voice in the verses, building up to the chorus, which in turn gives way to the beautiful bridge. A music video for the song should be released soon. “Neutrality” is again a faster song with a brilliant lead guitar riff, before “Force of Hand” and “Faithless by Default” offer a moment’s breather, the latter having probably the most beautiful chorus on the whole album.
As for individual songs, the album’s first single, “The Pitiless” and “Our Proof of Life,” are maybe a bit more on the average side, but “Clearing Skies” is a great track. The pre-chorus has a lot of impact as both guitars, bass, and drums all follow the guitar riff while the keyboard soars above them with one of the best melodies on the album. “When the World Screams” has an immensely powerful chorus, and again as a fast, almost thrashy track, provides a great contrast to “Merciless Fate,” the album’s ballad, which has an immensely beautiful chorus.
DARK TRANQUILLITY has always had a quirk for writing excellent album closing tracks, but unfortunately this time “Caves and Embers” doesn’t hold up in comparison to “None Becoming,” “Iridium,” “Mundane and the Magic,” and definitely not against The DARK TRANQUILLITY Song™, “My Negation.” Being only four and a half minutes in length, the song feels like it cuts out midway through, and while being pretty outro-like in terms of chording, it’s almost out of place as the last song. Don’t get me wrong, “Caves and Embers” is a nice song, but when compared to the rest of the album, I don’t think it quite holds up to the quality most DARK TRANQUILLITY closers have, creating a bit of an underwhelming ending to an otherwise excellent DT album.
Once again, DARK TRANQUILLITY has produced a collection of grating but beautiful melodic death metal songs. The album by no means reinvents the wheel, but one cannot say that this band has gotten stuck in a rut either – the band has utilized the best parts of their musical palette to craft an album that holds up great against their best work. The fans of the “Damage Done” era have to swallow their disappointment once again, but I don’t think that the band has been interested in writing more straight-line mid-tempo stuff after “Character” anyway. That being said, for me, “Character” still remains the peak of DT’s career, but I see no reason why someone else wouldn’t think that “Atoma” is the best album the band has made. What’s self-evident though, is that DARK TRANQUILLITY once again has a tough time building a setlist for the upcoming tours, with “Atoma” offering a bunch of strong candidates to overthrow a great number of fan favorites!
Written by Atte Valtonen
- Forward Momentum
- Force of Hand
- Faithless by Default
- The Pitiless
- Our Proof of Life
- Clearing Skies
- When the World Screams
- Merciless Fate
- Caves and Embers
Mikael Stanne – vocals
Niklas Sundin – guitars,
Anders Iwers – bass
Martin Brändström – keyboards
Anders Jivarp – drums
Century Media Records
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