Dark Tranquility | ‘Damage Done’
Lets be serious: in the field of melodic death metal, veterans Dark Tranquility were more or less without equal. In the musical subgenre turned fatted cow the Swedes always did something just a little different – they had that je ne sais quoi that set them apart from the ‘Maiden updates being performed by nearly everyone else.
Whether it was the warm and real guitar tones or their overall musical brass neck in general, this band to my mind was always one step ahead of the pack. I can only tolerate the very best and heaviest of melodic death, and the crap that infests this scene needs to seriously grab my attention before I give it the time of day.
I can count the bands that I really admire in its ranks on one hand. Dark Tranquility have always been one of them.
Always, that is, until a few years back. “The Minds I” is one of my favourite albums by any band, but its follow up was just a wee bit too much for me to take, and its successor in turn was just a bit too slick for me. I ignored them both.
My fondness was rekindled however seeing them live, and I realised that, as in many cases, maybe those two albums we’rent the departure I had supposd them to be. It is in light of this then that I would come to describe their newest outing, “Damage Done” as a synthesis between new and old.
You will doubtless have heard much in the last few years about the integration of keyboards and crisper digital elements into their mix, to the detriment of their earthy tones of old. The band have been keen to emphasise in interviews that those will be staying and are now integral, and that does indeed seem to be the case. But the production here is sufficiently weighty to keep concerns about tinklings taking over at bay.
Though weighty, clear and by anyone elses standards probably great, productions like this just leave me a little cold. I think its the shrink wrap feel again. Like I said, this one is weighty and everything, but its just a little too impersonal – something that I feel doesnt really go with the warm DT sound.
The music is a definite mix between their new more midpaced epic tendencies and the faster riff and hook based metal of old; “Cathode Ray Sunshine” for example is something of a ballad, and fills itself with little piano flourishes that I just consider to be completely unnecessary.
The riffs are class – so why go out of ones way to homogenise them? Is it to appeal to those not into proper metal or what? This happens with some regularity. Fortunately the old groove and underlying power is present also. “White Noise / Black Silence” is a real stomper with leanings toward Nevermore, and “The Treason Wall” brings back memories of their greatness from “The Minds I” and before.
It kills me to say this because I love the band; but damn if those keyboards took a back seat they would still hit as hard as they used to. Its all still in there, and to a greater extent than their last two transitional albums; you just have to find it… and that hurts me a little…but it is there. Solid.
3.7 / 5. -Earl Grey ::: 12/08/02