Originally written by Tim Pigeon
Young upstarts: look out, for the elder statesmen of melodic death metal have returned with yet another fine album. When a band has been making music for over 15 years, the results tend to be either another step in a slow decline to oblivion, or a mildly decent “return to form”. But in the case of Dark Tranquillity, they have not been in a gradual decline, and they are playing with as much vitality as ever.
Fiction is the 8th full-length record for the Swedish sextet. For those who have spent the last decade in a bomb shelter, Dark Tranquillity are one of the founding fathers of the Gothenburg sound, along with At the Gates, In Flames, and a few others that haven’t enjoyed the recognition of their townsmen. Cross early 90’s death metal with the melodic stylings of Iron Maiden, and you have the basics of Gothenburg metal. DT’s 1995 seminal album, The Gallery, set the standard for furiously melodic death metal, and while they slowed things down a little with Projector and Haven, the last three albums have only gotten heavier as time marches forward.
Fiction is a natural follow-up to 2005’s Character, built on a foundation of heavy rhythmic work, more so than their mid-period work that relied predominantly on sweet melodic leads. The opening track (“Nothing to No One”) even starts with a bass line – an instrument that is hardly noticed in most melodic death. “Terminus” is one of their fastest-paced songs to date, working in a backing electronic riff that gives the song a Mors Principium Estfeel. For a contrast, “Inside the Particle Storm” is a droning, slower track that evokes some of their very early work like “Lethe”. Stanne’s voice sounds more raw and harsh than in the past, and it fits in nicely with the loud, fuzzy production. While all of the tracks are winners, the true pièce de résistance would have to be “Focus Shift” – a song that sums up all that is the Dark Tranquillity of late. Catchy choruses trade time with relentless riffing, and all the while, the vocals are rattled off with intensity to spare.
Dark Tranquillity has been dedicated to making heavy metal their own way for well over a decade, never watering down their sound like others in the scene. For that they should be respected, but this album stands on its own merits, band heritage aside. Fiction makes a worthy addition to my hefty DT collection, and I recommend it to the rest of you as well. May they continue delivering quality albums for another 15 years.