The masters of melancholy, Gothenburg melodic death group Dark Tranquillity, are coming out with a new album this year, entitled Moment. Century Media Records kindly provided us with an opportunity to listen to the upcoming record in a pre-listening stream, which included a Q&A. As a long-time follower of the band, I was excited to hear it and to give you a few hot takes on it.
The cover art was a mostly-red scene of a mountainous expanse with the silhouette of a man in the middle gazing into it. It also had a beam of light running down the middle, splitting the cover. This, we later learned, was meant to symbolize a moment in time when one can see all the potential paths one can take with the beam of light providing a sense of clarity and solace.
The first song, “Phantom Days,” began strong with the familiar DT sound. The first thing to note was the pleasing guitar harmonies, which had a noticeable delay effect making it seem as if the band was in a large hall with lots of echo, building a formidable soundscape. The riffage had a solid thrash metal staccato to it and the chorus had a good crescendo effect; a promising melodic death metal anthem. Track two, “Transient,” followed in the same groove. Whenever the chorus came in there was a whoosh or an explosion effect. It was cheesy but effective.
Next, “Identical to None” had a certain feel to it that made me think it could have felt at home on In Flames’ Clayman album. “The Dark Unbroken” introduced a prominent synth sound, much like on “Terminus (Where Death is Most Alive)” from Fiction. It was by far the most melancholic song so far. The deep, heavy bass guitar provided a good contrast to the industrial style synths. It was also the first song on the album to have a clean vocal chorus. These sections have never been my favorite aspects of the band but I didn’t mind it. “Remain in the Unknown” began with said clean vocals; they seemed a bit Katatonia-esque and the melody wasn’t that different from what we’ve heard on Atoma, their previous record. The synths were also front and center.
“Standstill” incorporated an industrial metal synth intro which then led into a good guitar ramp-up. It quickly moved into a melancholic Gothic party anthem. The verses were in the usual mid-range growls but the choruses were downright radio-friendly with clean vocals. The chorus was so syrupy that it almost veered into Poets of the Fall -territory. This may be their most mainstream sounding song yet. The next song, “Ego Deception,” had much more punchy guitars. It, too, had clean vocals on the choruses; by this point it had become apparent that this is the album’s deliberate style. After two repetitions of verse-to-chorus, they did a brief breakdown which lead to the pre-chorus again and a very short solo, which then ended the song.
As a welcome change of pace, “A Drawn Out Exit” started out with an ominous, slow bass line accompanied by a guitar riff in an Arabic or Medieval scale. It then built up to a more kicky melodic death groove. Though none of the melodies on this were real stand-outs, sound-wise it was my favorite so far. It also had the most unapologetic, fiddliest guitar solo. “Eyes of the World” brought us back to the Gothic feel. At this point I was starting to get into these cutesy tracks as this one had the catchiest chorus yet. I got a bit of a HIM vibe from it. “Failstate” also spotlighted the synths, especially in the beginning and chorus. It was another solid industrial metal anthem. The chorus in particular made it fit for a great party song.
A more epic, melodic death vibe followed with “Empires Lost to Time.” These were the strongest guitar melodies so far. The main verse-to-chorus run was very upbeat and seemed almost in a hurry. It took a few opportunities to take brief respites from the relentless tremolo, providing a good balance. They then went to what seemed to be the album’s slow song, “In Truth Divided,” which barely had guitars at all. It was more of a power ballad with a synth beat. The vocals were entirely clean and the chorus went full Poets of the Fall. They pulled out all the stops and even had a cliched reverb-y bridge. This one wasn’t for me but I can see how this has its audience.
It was ultimately an interesting sounding album. Even though some of the cleaner sounding elements felt a bit jarring to me, I feel as if I could get used to them on subsequent listens. The overall feel of Moment was well-defined, as it was obviously produced impeccably. My main problem with it ended up being its straightforwardness. The clean choruses wouldn’t have been such an issue if every song didn’t follow such a rigid structure. Not every band needs to be prog but it could have benefited from a bit more variation.
After we heard the album, there was a brief Q&A with the band and the album’s producer. The band seemed a bit flustered and even moved as they finally “sent [the album] out into the world,” as the interviewer put it. Some of the more interesting questions involved the band’s sound and wondered where they thought iit was evolving. The band joked about how they seem to be moving towards an arena level “sell-out” sound but that they’re not quite there yet. One question involved the clean vocals and synth, likening them to Depeche Mode. The band laughed but seemed to take it in stride; admitting that they are more or less all responsible, with Mikael Stanne even noting that in his youth, he learned to sing by listening to DM in between sessions of headbanging to Kreator.
There were also questions involving the pandemic. The band managed to record the album without any issues from the current situation. They also didn’t feel the need to delay the release until the pandemic ends, as there is still a need for music in the world. Another question was about how they think this situation will change the music industry. Stanne seemed optimistic on this topic, saying that the downtime between touring will yield interesting new bands and experiments. He noted that record sales are still strong and so argued that the industry probably won’t change that much.
Moment will be released on November 20th, 2020, through Century Media Records.