Despite being one of the pioneers of the legendary ‘Gothenburg sound’, Dark Tranquillity have never really ascended to the higher branches of the Metal tree, seemingly destined to dwell somewhere in the middle order on festival bills and forever in the shadow cast by the inexorable growth of contemporaries In Flames. However, they’ve never released a bad album and show no signs of giving up the ghost yet, a fact confirmed with new record “Construct.”
You always know what you’re getting with Dark Tranquillity, and as the melancholic melodies and snarl of vocalist Mikael Stanne introduce themselves on opening track ‘For Broken Words’, the effect is similar to slipping on a well-worn leather jacket that has never let you down yet. One slight difference is the statelier pace of the track, with no appearance of the searing pace of old, but this is merely evidence of the band’s maturity. The brisk chugging and care-free leads of ‘The Science of Noise’ could only have come from the hands of men who have been doing this for a long time and when it speeds up and comparisons to “The Gallery” era pop into your head, the fully rounded nature of Dark Tranquillity’s sound becomes apparent and you realise they are truly masters of their craft.
The vaguely doomy ‘Uniformity’ is masterly in its doleful progression with some understated yet powerful clean singing from Stanne, evoking comparisons with latter day Paradise Lost. In contrast, ‘The Silence in Between’ and ‘Apathetic’ are flawless Scandinavian melo-death ragers, as the ever-present melodies and driving riffs flow and chug like an ever flowing stream. The pace slows down again for the introspective ‘What Only You Know’ as Stanne croons and growls in equal measure over the gloomy chords while the razor-sharp riffing and swirling synths of ‘Endtime Hearts’ has “crowd pleaser” written all over it in thick black strokes.
Although most of the songs on “Construct” are better written and more willing to experiment with different tempos and quieter sections than the wild fury of the early days, Dark Tranquillity have not lost their powerful metallic bite, and while they can quite rightly be considered Elder Statesmen of a genre they helped to create, they can certainly show the legions of young pretenders more than just a thing or two. If in doubt, just listen to ‘Weight of the End’, the penultimate track on “Construct.” Then skip back to the beginning and press play again. You won’t regret it.