by Habib T

One of the few bands that I never get tired of listening to is Dark Tranquillity. They are one of the three Melodic Death Metal bands that defined the Gothenburg sound, and now carry it on with an electronic twist so full of energy and talent. They’ve been at it since 1989, and are still going strong today with their 10th studio album Construct, which was released in 2013. Of course, that means one has a trove of their songs to explore, but there are definitely some of them which aren’t quite well-known but are definitely worth listening to.

“At Loss for Words” from Haven (2000).

Being an album that marked Dark Tranquillity’s new focus on the addition of keyboards and electronic elements to their music, Haven contained some well-known songs such as “The Wonders at Your Feet” and “Rundown”. However, a song I believe that is also worthy of note is “At Loss for Words”, which not only features Dark Tranquillity’s mesmerizing new electronic music elements but also soothing piano that contrasts with the fast, heavy riffs. Mikael Stanne’s vocals are also wonderfully striking throughout the song as they transition from aggressive growls to raspy intonations.

“Inside the Particle Storm” from Fiction (2007).

Fiction was noted by many as the album that defined the band’s current sound. It also contains some of their most popular songs, such as “Misery’s Crown”, “Terminus”, and “Focus Shift”. Although overshadowed by these tracks, “Inside the Particle Storm” proves to be a notable Dark Tranquillity song. The intro is slow yet gripping with its synth, guitar, and drums. Its lyrics revolve around a nuclear holocaust and the End of Days, and Mikael Stanne does really well in painting that harrowing atmosphere with his vocals. Alternating between fast and slow sections, the song progresses beautifully and has one of the best Dark Tranquillity guitar solos that complements its ambience.

“Cathode Ray Sunshine” from Damage Done (2002).

A powerful album, Damage Done pushed the musical boundaries of Dark Tranquillity further as they became even more melodic and heavy. Hits from this album include “Monochromatic Stains”, “The Enemy”, and “The Final Resistance”. However, there is a fine track that usually goes unnoticed when one mentions this album, and it is “Cathode Ray Sunshine”. Melodic guitars, heavy riffs, and a fast rhythm make it a brilliant song along with Stanne’s vocals which always seem to flow accordingly with the riffs. The song itself constitutes a complete headbanging experience.

“Still Moving Sinews” from The Mind’s I (1997).

I don’t know why, but I see The Mind’s I as Dark Tranquillity’s “least-noticed” album, even though it contains some of their more popular tracks like “Insanity’s Crescendo” and “Hedon”. When I go through this album, one song that always stands out is “Still-Moving Sinews”. It gives the same vibes as their previous album, The Gallery, does. The guitars in it are also a bit different from the rest of the album. If The Mind’s I has to have a “trademark” Dark Tranquillity song, it should be this one.

“On Your Time” from Projector (1998).

Although Projector presented a significant departure from their original Melodic Death Metal sound, Dark Tranquillity diversified their musical footprint with this album. “ThereIn”, “Auctioned”, and “Dobermann” are the generally recognizable tracks from Projector. Apart from those, the song “On Your Time” proves to be an excellent demonstration of the band’s new style for that album, incorporating Mikael Stanne’s new operatic baritone vocals with his growls. A great drums-dominated opening begins a musical journey that is fraught with heavy, melodic guitars, giving you that “pumped up” feeling. I think it has the best of both the classical and the then-new Dark Tranquillity sound.

“With the Flaming Shades of Fall” from Of Chaos and Eternal Night EP (1995)

Often coupled with the band’s prior release in 1993 Skydancer, the Of Chaos and Eternal Night EP was released twice. And, perhaps for that reason, its songs are overshadowed by those of the Skydancer album. Perhaps one song that usually eludes some fans of the band is “With the Flaming Shades of Fall”, a gripping tale about the change of seasons embellished with mythological delight. The opening of the track features impressive guitar and drum work; Sundin and Jivarp demonstrate the band’s efficacy in painting a mental picture of the song’s theme. Stanne’s screams and growls are passionate and full of emotion. The main riff and bass lines repeated throughout the song are another reason to enjoy this musical work.

“Shadow Duet” from Skydancer (1993)

The band’s first full-length album Skydancer featured current vocalist Mikael Stanne on guitars and In FlamesAnders Friden on vocals. Characterized by raw guitar double-guitar sounds and a female guest vocalist, Skydancer perfectly captures the early years of the Gothenburg metal scene. Memorable songs from the album include “A Bolt of Blazing Gold” and “Alone”. One impressive, underrated song among Gothenburg metal fan circles is “Shadow Duet”, which features both Friden and Stanne on vocals in a truly dark medley of growls and guitars. Wonderful bass lines and drumming complement the song’s remarkable guitar riffs and alternation between slow and fast-paced parts. Occasional acoustic guitars and Mikael Stanne’s clean vocals complete the formula for a brilliant early Melodic Death Metal song.

“Cornered” from Exposures: In Retrospect and Denial (2004).

A compilation of both new bonus tracks and older Dark Tranquillity hits, Exposures features a bevy of the band’s diverse sounds. It contains many fan favorites, such as “Static” and “No One”. However, one song I find also worth mentioning from that period is “Cornered”. It packs a punch of heavy electronic influences, keyboards, fast melodic guitars, and heavy drumming. The progression of the song between louder and quieter parts is delectable accompanied by Stanne’s well-timed vocals.

“Dry Run” from Character (2005).

Often considered the “transitionary” album between the band’s styles in Damage Done and Fiction, Character features more piano tunes and synth to create a dark yet energetic ambience to Dark Tranquillity’s music. Songs associated with this album include “Lost to Apathy”, “The New Build”, and “Out of Nothing”. A song I felt that didn’t garner much attention is “Dry Run”. The track has a catchy chorus, aggressive vocals, and a perfect keyboards and piano addition to its powerful, fast guitars. Jivarp does an impressive job on the drums as well.

“The Emptiness from Which I Fed” from The Gallery (1995).

The Gallery is greatly considered Dark Tranquillity’s most significant contribution to the original Gothenburg metal scene, along with In FlamesThe Jester Race and At The GatesSlaughter of the Soul. It features all the classical, defining Melodic Death Metal elements: a female guest vocalist, torrential drumming, and double guitars. Well-known and revered songs from this album include “Punish My Heaven”, “Lethe”, “The Gallery”, and “Of Melancholy Burning”. Often less mentioned, “The Emptiness from Which I Fed” is one of my most favorite Dark Tranquillity songs. Everything about this song is incredible: the drumming, the melodic guitars, the vocals, and the poetic lyrics. Niklas Sundin does some of his most impressive work in this song. Also, Stanne’s screams are at his most powerful and passionate here. It surely is a must-listen song for any Melodic Death Metal and Gothenburg scene fan. 

In conclusion, it is safe to say that Dark Tranquillity are a band that have continuously formed depth and diversity in their musical works, ranging from lyrical themes to the music itself, as demonstrated in the above list. They are a band that are still putting themselves out there today and are, without a shadow of doubt, a band that one should look out for in today's world of metal. Their discography is a musical journey definitely worth exploring and re-visiting. 

Leave a comment