Two new axes to grind
Dark Tranquillity, bastion of consistency and one of two NWOSDM holdovers from the ’90s, find a new path on Moment, the group’s 12th full-length. Actually, it’s not a new path per se, but a revolution or two on albums such as (Swedish) Grammy-nominated Atoma and Fiction. What’s different isn’t how the guitars sound as the Swedes turn 31, but rather who’s playing them, and how they’ve been smartly woven into the band’s sonic fabric. Indeed, longtime guitarist/founding member Niklas Sundin (now Mitochondrial Sun) is no longer an active member, replaced permanently by Johan Reinholdz (Nonexist, Andromeda) and Christopher Amott (Armageddon, Black Earth). The result isn’t Cacophony-meets-The Gallery, but rather something far more interesting.
There are true-to-form things happening at the surface and near the core—this is, of course, Dark Tranquillity’s DNA—that are familiar. Frontman Mikael Stanne’s growl/croon combo feels as right at home as it did on We Are the Void; Anders Jivarp and Martin Brändström’s opposing aggro/reflective songwriting stamps are in view; and the squeaky clean production, courtesy yet again of studio ace Brändström, provides all Dark Tranquillity need to launch their truculent death (“Phantom Days,” “Identical to None”) and post-modern contemplation (“The Dark Unbroken”). Moment wouldn’t be a Dark Tranquillity full-length without those things, after all.
The newly trodden lie in Reinholdz (specifically) and Amott’s interpretation of their roles as songwriters/soloists, and their subsequent integration without losing their player identities. Take the vibrant “Transient,” the unprecedented (and wicked) 41-second solo on “Eyes of the World,” the tech-punch of “Standstill” and the oxidized metal of “A Drawn Out Exit,” for example. Here, the duo is able to challenge the status quo, while also complementing Jivarp, Anders Iwers and Brändström’s percussive/score-like thrum.
Moment may sound like yet another round of Dark Tranquillity, but it’s not. Scratch the surface, let it sink in deep; therein is where the Swedes electrify.
Review taken from the December 2020 issue of Decibel, which is available here.