What defines a big band? The quality of its music? The years of presence in the scene? How much they influenced other bands? Definitely all that but I want to add managing any difficult moments may occur. Dark Tranquillity has gone through a lot in the last four years. Within a short time, they saw two founding members and key composers leaving the band, each for his own reason.
Guitar players Martin Henriksson and Niklas Sundin (they continue as manager and graphic designer for the band respectively) resigned and were replaced by Christopher Amott (ex-Arch Enemy, ex-Armageddon) and Johan Reinholdz (Andromeda, Nonexist). Bass duties were assigned to their old friend Anders Iwers (Ceremonial Oath, Tiamat, ex-In Flames) who was introduced to us in “Atoma” of 2016. The result? An amazing album, number twelve in their history.
From the first notes of the opening “Phantom Days” the feeling is very positive, with the characteristic melancholic melodies starring. In “Moment”, DT look back a little. As I mentioned in the live streaming listening sessions of the album, elements from “Projector” and “Haven” are more intense than ever. An album full of awesome melodies and of course with the amazing Mikael Stanne reminding us why he is such an awesome singer, since his clean vocals are magic.
Another feature? The guitars. Amott/Reinholdz are very different guitarists from Henriksson/Sundin. More technical and shredder the first, more progressive the second. And yet, their contribution is awesome. Both in the imaginative, well-written leads in which a lot of work has been done and in the many solos that exist, something that we do not often see in songs of the Swedes. Not long and boring solos but small and melodic, which stick perfectly to the rest of the music.
In the foreground, of course, are the keyboards of the always decisive Martin Brändström, who since 1999 when he joined the band has contributed the most to the shaping of their sound. A sound that either becomes more aggressive (“Transient”, “Identical To None”, “Failstate”) or much more melodic with these iconic clear vocals (“The Unbroken Dark”, “Standstill”, “Ego Deception”), the result is excellent. Special mention should be made on the masterpiece “In Truth Divided” which closes the regular version of the album, an incredible song with an out-of-this-world melancholic melody, minimal electricity and without extreme vocals.
In conclusion, Dark Tranquillity easily released their best album since “Fiction” (2007). When we talk about melodic death metal, the best band in the history of the genre was, is (and will always be) these Swedish masters that never stop surprising us. One of the best releases of 2020.