(Andy Synn reviews the new album by Sweden’s Dark Tranquillity.)
Broadly speaking, Dark Tranquillity’s career has been one characterised by successive sequences of sudden reinvention and steady refinement, with every major breakthrough followed in turn by a corresponding period of careful, if somewhat less impressive, polishing and fine-tuning.
It’s a pretty obvious pattern in hindsight. The early success of The Gallery was followed by The Mind’s I… the melodic, proggy proclivities of Projector were the jumping-off point for Haven… and then Damage Done, probably the biggest metamorphosis in the band’s career, in turn gave us both the oft-underrated Character and the (arguably) somewhat overrated Fiction.
Unfortunately it’s around this time that things get a little tricky, and we enter what has become a bit of a sensitive area for some fans, as there’s an argument – and not an unreasonable one – that the band have been stuck in something of a rut ever since, repeating the same old formula, to ever-diminishing creative (if not commercial) returns.
For although Character was, in my opinion at least, a worthy enough follow-up to Damage Done, Fiction was effectively just a brace of crowd-pleasing singles surrounded by a wealth of generally solid, but not necessarily stunning, material. And while We Are The Void hinted in places (such as the icy, blackened “Arkhangelsk” and the darkly atmospheric “Iridium”) at burgeoning changes to come, neither it, nor the disappointingly average Construct, managed to capitalise on this potential in order to fully reignite the band’s creative fires.
So the question now is, does Atoma signal another long-awaited, and long-overdue, renaissance from the Gothenburg alchemists?