REVIEW: Dark Tranquillity – Construct

Construct by Dark Tranquillity

Artist: Dark Tranquillity
Album: Construct
Genre: Melodic death metal
Label: Century Media

Reviewing albums by legendary metal titans always seems a bit daunting to me, especially when they’re longtime favorites of mine. This time around it’s Dark Tranquillity‘s new album Construct, being released via Century Media as a follow-up to their solid 2010 album We Are The Void. When covering a band such as Dark Tranquillity’s tenth full-length record, managing expectations becomes a huge part of the review process. Just what should we be expecting from one of the “big four” of the Gothenburg melodic death metal scene, part of the pioneers of one of the most influential metal movements in the last couple decades?

“On a personal level it was probably important for us to create something different in order to keep the fire burning.” Niklas Sundin (guitar) explains in an article from the July 2013 issue of Decibel Magazine (p. 43).

No line from the band could be more telling of what Construct has turned out to be. Over the band’s career, small stylistic changes have occurred from album to album and year to year. On an album-to-album look these changes and tweaks seem inconsequential, miniscule–but look at the sum of them over a twenty year span and you’ve got a large breadth of stuff there. With We Are The Void in 2010, Dark Tranquillity explored a number of new textures, sounds and moods. Three years later, they’re pushing the envelope in that direction even more.

Moving away from the strict confines of the Gothenburg melodic death metal box they helped build, Dark Tranquillity has instead opted for a slightly more progressive approach to the style, incorporating a number of new songwriting forms. Leaning more toward the slow and melancholic than the aggressive and acutely-focused attack from the Damage Done era, the band has found its calling with grand, sweeping leads mixed with plodding drums all corraled by Michael Stanne’s unmistakable roar. Do not fret, though, the aggression is still there–but only in flashes, and only when necessary.

Also unlike Dark Tranquillity albums of old, Construct legitimately feels like one monolithic, continuous piece of music–not just a collection of related and similar songs in album form. Making use of the varied and indulgent songwriting from song to song, Construct is near-perfectly sequenced (about as perfectly as you’ll find in 2013, anyway). Just when you’re approaching the end of the album, it’s apparent that you’re in the closing stage, “Photon Dreams” playing a perfect closing role.

If Dark Tranquillity’s intention was to find the perfect balance between staying true to the sound they helped mold while inching ever-closer to totally uncharted territory for the band, they’ve exceeded with flying colors. It’s rare that a band totally nails it on that front, but who else than Dark Tranquillity to be the prime example of how to do it right?

Score: 8/10
Review written by: Jordan Munson

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