​In search of answers: Dark Tranquillity’s "Atoma"

In search of answers: Dark Tranquillity’s "Atoma"

Sooner or later, at some point, the questions have arisen, the answers to which determine the future direction of the creator: "Why do I need that?", "Was the goal achieved?", "Was it worth it?". It’s important to understand the course and goal of the action, otherwise, it will resemble a moth’s wandering in the darkness. The veterans of Gothenburg’s melodic death metal school Dark Tranquillity have faced with something like that on their new album, the musicians began to record the 12th LP "Atoma", being not in the best frame of mind.

One of the band’s founders the guitarist Martin Henriksson has left Dark Tranquillity at the beginning of the year, explaining that his decision was caused by lack of motivation that has been a serious blow for the musicians. Trying to survive the loss of their fellow musician and find new impulses for continuing the work, the inspiration and ingenuity invariably suffer. The painful and hard process of creation is often justified by outstanding results, transforming mental efforts into striking by its depth and sincerity material. This time, the hardships overpowered creative inspiration.

Musically, Dark Tranquillity’s new album goes to even more remote areas of melodic death metal, which sound is based on the keyboards, while the guitars often complement the general background. Throughout the whole record, the compositions with heavy riffs, like in upbeat "Neutrality", interspersed with keyboard-oriented tracks, the most striking of which are "Clearing Skies" and "Merciless Fate". The synthesizer on "Atoma" brings a nice variety of tunes, being a sort of "filling". The synthesizer reaches the most strong force with Mikael Stanne’s extreme vocals in "Encircled" chorus. The best songs on the album are gentle melancholy compositions to which the band’s heart seemed to be in.

Tracklist:

  1. Encircled
  2. Atoma
  3. Forward Momentum
  4. Neutrality
  5. Force of Hand
  6. Faithless by Default
  7. The Pitiless
  8. Our Proof of Life
  9. Clearing Skies
  10. When the World Screams
  11. Merciless Fate
  12. Caves and Embers

Dark Tranquillity play such music which sounds perfectly with clean vocals. Despite the critics who don’t like Stanne’s baritone, he gives an expressive depth to the record’s melodies: only because of him, "Merciless Fate" has so particularly the fascinating part with the clean vocal. The musicians have never concealed the fact that they are focused on the conveying their own feelings, rather than on technique or performance skills. That is the strength of the Swedish band — the moments that touch to the heart, suddenly reveal between brutality and melody and slightly open the double bottom of the compositions’ sense. "Atoma" has a lot of such moments, but they are too obvious, which is why, after a few nice listening, the album unveils without any hidden motives and innuendos.

It's a good thing that the guys didn’t follow the way of their colleagues In Flames, and, in spite of constant experiments, not stuck in the depths of commerce. But there are other problems in the career, and "Atoma" did not escape them. MDM progenitors Dark Tranquillity, being at the forefront from the very germ of the genre, have developed and built up its strength from underground's lowlands. The top has been conquered and it seems as the band has already recorded its best albums. Loss of motivation and further leaving of one of the main band’s members forced the group to rethink the fate of the project. The questions, which arose because of the musicians’ depressed mood, reflected in the lyrics that speak for themselves: "time is running out, we're nothing, we've lost our way, all that you see is a darkness".

It’s kind of a contested release, initially charming, but fading after each listening. It seems like the material was composed under duress, where inspiration was replaced by craft production, eventually turning into a mosaic of single-color puzzles. The musicians have to sort out their personal problems, get their thoughts together, strike a balance, and sublime experience into music, after that, I’m sure, we will hear Dark Tranquillity at their best.

Reviewed by Alexander Tverdokhleb
Translated from Russian by Anastezia