By Brandon “B-Mac” McCarthy
When I first started to write, I wanted to focus on the kind of metal music that often is overlooked. One such metal art form that I really enjoy headbanging to is melodic death metal. With this style, I can feel the intense drive of the blast beats, the whammy effect of the double-bass drum rhythms, and the heavily distorted guitar riffs that have passionate harmonic flow. In 2016, back when I was with Center Stage Magazine, I had the chance to cover one of the bands responsible for pioneering that sound, Dark Tranquillity. Known for helping establish the Gothenburg Metal scene in Gothenburg, Sweden, Dark Tranquillity (aka DT) brought melodic splendor to the Anaheim crowd that night. It has been four years since their last release Atoma, and now they have returned with a deathly vengenance with their 12th album, Moment.
DT kicks the album off with “Phantom Days.” A soft, ominous piano is heard and when gets louder, the guitars kick in. It is then we hear the raucous voice of longtime frontman Mikael Stanne, who lets the beast out. Amazing guitar solo that performed beautifully by Christopher Amott, who has recently replaced original lead guitarist Niklas Sundin. “Transient” has passionate atmospheric riffs in the beginning that lift by spirits during these turbulent times. Add in keyboardist Martin Brändström’s element rhythms to go along Amott’s ardent lead licks, we are transcended deeper into DT’s world. “Identical to None” has an extreme, upbeat melody where Stanne snarls and spews words of revolution. What grabbed my attention was the opening beats of drummer Anders Jivarp and the smoking licks of new rhythmic lunatic guitarist Johan Reinholdz. “The Dark Unbroken” is the group’s first single, and it has a ballad feel at the start before returning to the death metal roots. Stanne goes into a sweet harmony motion when he sings the chorus, then goes back to the rough style we all love to hear. Amott captures the dark essence the song tries to create with his lead hooks. DT steers their melodic death metal sound onto a new course with this tune.
“Remain in the Unknown” is where we see DT go all Gothic like. Stanne restrains himself during the verses, but lets the monster roar when he reaches the chorus. Brändström mesmerizes the listener with his doom riffs on the synthesizer. The song is murky yet buoyant at the same time. We have reached the halfway point with “Standstill.” Brändström plays a sweet melody that is invaded almost immediately by Amott and Reinholdz’s tenacious riffs. Stanne continues to walk the path of harmony and terror. I like that he has the ability to cross those boundaries with his voice. “Ego Deception” has that interesting mix between progressive metal and thrash metal. Stanne tries to keep his ego in-check, but as the lyrics, it is too powerful for him to resist. There is nothing too special about this tune, but it still tickles the pleasure dome of one’s senses. I really dug the melody of “A Drawn Out Exit.” This is the first song in a while on this album where Stanne sticks to his harsh vocal styles. Bassist Anders Iwers is effervescent with the bass beat, while Amott thrusts is lively solo that is one of his best off Moment.
“Eyes of the World” highlights DT’s attempt to throw a little alternative metal into the mix. I feel that song has a melancholic approach where the music is upbeat, but the mood is ill omened with the lyrics. Brändström executes the sound on the piano, while Stanne’s tender voice guides us through the unknown with all eyes on us. “Failstate” features a glorious rhythmic flow that Reinholdz performs attractively. This is the old-school DT that everyone has fallen in love with; relentless and full of deathly adrenaline. Amott rages on this his thriving solo that made him a guitar hero with Arch Enemy back in the day. “Empires Lost to Time” furies with intense death metal swagger. Reinholdz, Iwers, and Brändström come together with a sizzling blast beat, while Amott sneaks in his juicy lead riff. Moment concludes with “In Truth Divided.” Caging the beast within, Stanne is melodious throughout the tune, displaying that he more than a guttural screamer. Brändström captures the atmosphere of the music with his keyboard. I honestly believe this is the most well written song off the record.
Dark Tranquillity is seen pushing the limitations of what melodic death metal can do with different sounds. Moment is one of their more daring albums that is all over the musical map. I was pleasantly surprised by Stanne’s restrained style of singing when not screaming. There are times where I feel they got lost within themselves with their creativity, as if they are trying a little too hard to impress us after many years together. Still, this is a good record for any death metal fan to enjoy. To Dark Tranquillity, I salute you. Horns up!!!
Identical to None
The Dark Unbroken
Remain in the Unknown
A Drawn Out Exit
Eyes of the World
Empires Lost to Time
In Truth Divided
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