Dark Tranquillity
Fiction

Often I wonder which is the bigger anathema, metalcore or melodic death metal? Most will decide the outcome of this debate in a nanosecond and of course the former will be lauded as the current whipping boy of heavy music. Regardless, melodic death metal’s credibility and relevance has been hanging precariously in the balance since In Flames became mainstream media metal darlings (complimented by Andres Friden becoming something of a shaggy, Swedish mutation of Jonathan Davis) and Soilwork continuously releasing bad, bad albums. One band that have been determined not to let melodic death metal become totally immersed in the soupy mass of mediocrity is Dark Tranquillity who bring forth yet another sturdy, reliable but mostly, enjoyable opus of textbook melodeath.

Like its predecessors Character, Damage Done, and Haven, Fiction, is expertly performed, pushing all the right buttons and containing some excellent songs. Particularly so in the album’s first half as opener ‘Nothing To No One,’ and ‘Blind At Heart,’ show the band peeling out their sumptuous licks and riffs that have made their latter day albums so fiendishly addictive. After the album’s highlight, the moody, mini epic ‘Inside The Particle Storm,’ cracks start to appear and the album’s quality begins to dip. They drop a serious clanger with the total MTV hankering of ‘Misery’s Crown.’ Complete with a misty eyed hook that would be so, so appealing to any smeary eyed teenager adorned head to toe in black attire that is lazily skimming and surfing whatever abominable music channel parading heavy music.

It is everything that has given melodic death metal a bad name, coupled with that aforementioned hook, there are the strategically placed keyboard bleeps and melodramatic melodies cradled by the guitars following suit. ‘Focus Shift,’ is another chink, no doubt placed as the penultimate album cut to hide how weak the track is and evidence of the band actually loosing focus, there is absolutely nothing of interest in this song.

Closer ‘The Mundane and The Magic,’ continues this downturn in quality, what should see the band soaring and confidently affirming their position at the pinnacle of the melodeath food chain, is disappointingly drab and not very magic at all. Accompanied by the lush but annoying vocals of Nell which hinder the track’s impact rather then optimizing it, which is what should be happening.

Considering the band have been treading this path for quite some time now (over a decade and counting), its encouraging to see that they are still writing good music but as highlighted, they are prone to slips in the quality control but I still think that Dark Tranquillity have enough character to keep melodic death metal a safe haven for years to come.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Benjamin DeBlasi
June 21st, 2007

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