Dark Tranquillity, Gothenburg’s most consistent sons, return with full length number nine. When discussing their extensive melodic death metal history, most fans agree that the band has peaked twice, first with The Gallery, an undisputed classic amongst all metal and one of melodeath’s true essentials, and later with 2002’s Damage Done. Since that particular colossus, the band has been on what could best be described as a lower plateau. Their more recent music is still of a very high quality, particularly within the style, but hopes that they will ever again equal their two greatest achievements have slowly diminished. Unfortunately, We Are The Void does nothing to change this opinion, but fortunately it gives Dark Tranquillity yet another great set of songs and further cements their continued importance to the scene.
Much like 2007’s Fiction, We Are The Void is a conglomeration of the band’s past. The sound here has a greater focus on keyboard melody than recentalbums, bringing to mind the melodies of Haven, but is also heavy on the technical thrash of Damage Done and Character. The styles merge well both within and between songs, providing the album a more holistic feel than their previous long player. Under the no-brainer heading, Dark Tranquillity remain some of metal’s most consummate professionals in terms of technical skills and shimmering, ideal production. In addition, longtime fans can rest easy knowing that the arrival of new bassist Daniel Antonsson does not affect the band’s incredible tightness as an instrumental unit.
In grand opening-track tradition, “Shadow In Our Blood” fires out as one of the strongest and weightiest tracks, only to be followed by the very different “Dream Oblivion,” a catchy tune which shows off the band’s renewed obsession with keyboard melodies. Despite their high quality, both songs almost reach dangerous levels of familiarity. This is what most of We Are The Void offers: high quality familiarity. Several of the following songs, while all quite enjoyable, disappear a bit into the vast Dark Tranquillity song sea. An exception is “The Grandest Accusation,” a sleeper highlight which effortlessly mixes the more modern riffs of recent albums with the melodies of The Gallery.
Luckily, We Are The Void has a very strong final act which pushes it a notch or two up in overall value. This surge begins with the intense, very heavy, and slightly blackened “Arkhangelsk,” and continues into “I Am The Void” (that after-chorus riff peels face). These two tracks, which also feature some well-placed soloing, are some of the album’s most original and well-composed material. The late album surge hits a slight bump with “Surface The Infinite” (that really sounds like the intro to a certain Bush song… sorry guys), before “Iridium” ends the festivities on an beautifully somber and introspective tone. It even finds time to throw in gorgeous tremolo melodies which might have more cynical fans screaming “post.”
In spite of some riff and melody familiarity in several songs, We Are The Void emphatically maintains both Dark Tranquillity’s perfect record (yes, that includes Projector), and their status as melodeath’s greatest flag-bearers. For almost 20 years now they have been releasing music of largely unparalleled quality and class, and this is no different. There are signs that the well is starting to run dry, but let’s agree not to get stressed about that until it really happens.