Dark Tranquillity - Fiction
Century Media
Melodic Death Metal
10 songs (45:46)
Release year: 2007
Dark Tranquillity, Century Media
Reviewed by Kayla
Album of the month

Dark Tranquillity is one of those bands that can seem to do no wrong. Every review of every album heaps on the praise, and if you’re unfamiliar with their music, you might wonder if all that hype is just that – empty hype of the sort that seems to get generated around every trendy new band for the first ten minutes of its existence. Of course, as soon as those first few notes of Skydancer, The Gallery, Damage Done, Character or any other of their albums assaults your ears, you’ll realize that they earn every bit of that praise. Fiction, of course, is no different; an album that for any other band might be considered the pinnacle of their career is, for Dark Tranquillity, just another slice of excellence.

It’s almost impossible to point out specific tracks on Fiction that stand out; although each one is quite different from the rest, they’re all of the same high quality – the opening duo of Nothing To No One and The Lesser Faith continue in the vein of Character and Damage Done in their heavy, aggressive aural assault, with that same dark nastiness coming back to shred the listener in the penultimate track, Focus Shift. Most of the rest of the album, however, harkens back to earlier days; the atmospheric closer, The Mundane And The Magic, could have come straight from Skydancer or The Gallery, along with tracks like Icipher and Inside The Particle Storm.

Therein lies the only possible disappointment in this album; those who (admittedly, like myself) were hoping for something more along the lines of Character’s nearly constant teeth-baring aggression will get something considerably more varied (of course, if this is your biggest complaint in life, I’ll be glad to exchange your problems for my own). The more straightforward approach they took for Character has been abandoned in favor of a return to the complex intertwining more typical of their earlier days. On Misery’s Crown and The Mundane And The Magic, Mikael Stanne switches to a clean vocal style he hasn’t used in any appreciable amount since Skydancer, and an almost-gothic atmosphere comes into play intermittently through the album. I find the clean vocals, especially those on Misery’s Crown, remind me in a strange way of Sascha Mario Klein (Neuroticfish), although that might just be my ears playing tricks on me. Regardless of inadvertent similarities to electronic vocalists, Stanne, in my ever-humble opinion, is a much better growler than singer.

Interestingly enough, despite the presence of slower and more atmospheric tracks like The Mundane And The Magic and Icipher, the aggressive tracks have been pumped up with blastbeats in a way not generally found in Dark Tranquillity’s brand of melodic death metal, though one with which anyone who’s delved into so-called extreme metal is familiar. Some bands use wall-to-wall blasting to create intensity and brutality, which, more often than not, fails terribly. However, as in all things, Dark Tranquillity are hardly a band to eschew variety. The blasting comes as a complete surprise because it’s used quite sparingly, and thus serves to give those tracks that include it (Nothing To No One, Empty Me) a serious set of teeth.

Keys are used far more heavily in Fiction than Dark Tranquillity’s past two albums, and are generally high in the mix; thankfully, in Tue Madsen’s capable hands, they don’t sound detached from the heavier, far more aggressive melody and riffs as they might elsewhere. The guitars themselves are neither rough nor polished into oblivion; they have a weight and presence that wraps itself around you like the humid darkness of a thunderstorm, and are wielded with Niklas Sundin and Martin Henriksson’s typical skill. Occasionally the snare will flatten out a bit, but for the most part the drumming is, to continue our storm metaphor, like lightning crackling among the lowering clouds.

The one track that keeps giving me pause is Empty Me. It bears incredible similarities to the Lost To Apathy, with a sudden cymbal crash followed by a tumbling guitar riff for the opening, a vocal line that seems to match almost perfectly, and the same technique used to open up the chorus into a thunderous, despairing thing. Empty Me is a very good song, of course, as Lost To Apathy is as well, but it seems strange that it would be echoed so strongly. This is not to say they’re the same song, or even that Empty Me is a simple retread of Lost To Apathy; it simply strikes the ear as odd to suddenly hear what seems at first like a warped version of another song.

Dark Tranquillity stand as one of the few Gothenburg bands who have remained true to their roots throughout their careers, and it’s a welcome thing to know that such bands still exist and are putting out quality material without sounding the least bit stale or tired. On Fiction, Dark Tranquillity handles multiple strands of melody and atmosphere with a master’s touch, crafting something that easily stands against accusations of stagnancy in the genre. Simply put – this is one of the good ones.

Killing Songs :
Nothing To No One, Terminus (Where Death Is Most Alive), Focus Shift
Kayla quoted 92 / 100
Alex quoted 95 / 100
Other albums by Dark Tranquillity that we have reviewed:
Dark Tranquillity - Atoma reviewed by Alex and quoted 88 / 100
Dark Tranquillity - Construct reviewed by Jared and quoted 65 / 100
Dark Tranquillity - Zero Distance EP reviewed by Chris and quoted No quote
Dark Tranquillity - The Mind's I reviewed by Goat and quoted 77 / 100
Dark Tranquillity - We Are The Void reviewed by Goat and quoted 86 / 100
To see all 15 reviews click here
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