We Are The Void
1 March 2010
by Tom Dare
Of the Gothenburg pioneers of melodic death metal, Dark Tranquillity have arguably been the most faithful and consistent, remaining fairly true to the original style and releasing several fine albums this decade, Character being of particular note. Their latest release, We Are The Void, represents something of a departure however. While this may anger loyalists and alienate some fans, it has resulted in one of the best albums of their career.
The change is apparent from the beginning of opener Shadow In Our Blood. While Dark Tranquillity have always used keyboards in their sound, now it is at the very forefront of the sound – dramatically more so than on their previous record, Fiction. This is initially very jarring, as on early plays it feels more like a cross between Rammstein and Lacuna Coil with growled vocals than Dark Tranquillity. This feeling lessens as the album goes on, but the keyboards are noticeably more prevalent throughout, and many of the huge melodic lines that made this band and their scene-mates so influential have shifted from guitar to keyboard. Naturally, the guitar distortion has had to be lessened to avoid smothering the high-register, clean keyboard sound. This requires some getting used to if you are familiar with Dark Tranquillity – in fact it may be more accessible if you are coming across them for the first time – but with sufficient listens the effect is simply stunning.
While We Are The Void may be less heavy than previous outings, the payoff is a hauntingly beautiful album that demands your full attention. This is not a record to have on in the background, because the subtleties will be missed. Despite the reduced heaviness, it is actually more challenging. The harmonies between the keyboard and the guitar riffs are exquisite, and the melodic guitar lines are actually more powerful for their comparative infrequency. It is almost as if the band has taken a conscious decision not to use a lead guitar line unless they have written one worthy of use. Similarly, the keyboards do not always command centre stage, periodically taking a back seat to allow the guitars the limelight. It is the interplay between the heavy guitar riffs, the gently beautiful keyboard parts, the melodic lead guitar lines and the occasional interjection of clean singing that make We Are The Void stand out, and also what makes it require closer listening.
This album is one of those rare records that actually get stronger as the album goes on. The opening track or two are good, but it is the middle and end of the album that makes We Are The Void truly great. The beautiful melodies of songs like ‘The Grandest Acquisition’ and ‘At The Point Of Ignition’ represent a real evolution for Dark Tranquillity; they have been brave, tried something a little different and become stronger for it. The crowning glory of this album is its epic closing track ‘Iridium’, moving from gentle beginnings with clean vocals to real heaviness with a lyrical keyboard melody soaring above before dropping back again. It’s breathtaking.
Watch a behind-the-scenes video of Dark Tranquillity in the studio recording We Are The Void
This album perhaps comes too late to move Dark Tranquillity out from under the shadow of In Flames and At The Gates- Whoracle and Slaughter Of The Soul are pioneering classics, after all. However that does not mean it would not be a colossal mistake to miss We Are The Void. A dark and beautiful record that may require a little effort and several plays through, but will reward you many times over.
Sounds like: At The Gates, In Flames, Lacuna Coil (only a bit, though)
Top tracks: The Grandest Accusation, The Point Of Ignition, Iridium
Dark Tranquillity – We Are The Void tracklisting
Shadow In Our Blood
In My Absence
The Grandest Accusation
At The Point Of Ignition
Her Silent Language
I Am The Void
Surface The Infinite