Originally written by Rae Amitay
Dark Tranquillity are melodeath legends and juggernauts of the original Gothenburg scene, but they’d grown weak and predictable after consuming too much of their own watered-down formula. Damage Done, Character, and Fiction all have great tracks on them, but they’re essentially interchangeable stylistically. Unless you’re an avid fan, if you have one of these albums, there’s no compelling need to have the other two. 2010’s We Are The Void stemmed from a tumultuous period for the band, but was more of the same (aside from weaker riffs, weepier atmosphere, and an abusive amount of keyboards). Needless to say, I had no intention of reviewing Construct until I heard the first released single, “The Science of Noise”. It’s a phenomenal melodeath offering with all of Dark Tranquillity’s signature strengths, marked with far more sinister “black metal” chord choices. After hearing that, I decided to go ahead and give the whole album a shot. My final verdict? Read on.
First of all, Construct is easily their most “experimental” effort since Projector, and although it does predominantly stick to basic norms of their melodeath songwriting, it still incorporates a smattering of interesting chord choices, Industrial elements, and a lot more clean singing. If you’re a die-hard fan of Dark Tranquillity, this album will be a fine addition to your collection, although upon further reflection you may find yourself shelving it behind other DT releases. Before you rush off and buy the record, however, you should be forewarned that there are a few serious stinkers on here. The first two tracks, “For Broken Words” and “The Science of Noise” are all killer and no filler, but “Uniformity” marks the beginning of a descent in quality. An awkwardly sung clean chorus with a simplistic melody drags the song down and detracts from the raw and blistering energy that was previously established. Same goes for “What Only You Know.” Dark Tranquillity is at their best when Mikael Stanne’s vocals are brutal, not brooding and crooning. The aforementioned track is extremely strong musically, but the cleanly sung passages during the verses sort of wreck the atmosphere and take it to a cheesy place of forced melancholy. If you’re into the more mellow and depressing side of their discography, this might not bother you, but I’m more a fan of their incendiary and angry riffage coupled with Stanne’s rasps and growls.
“Apathetic” delivers this in force, and it’s a thrashy and pummeling track that I immediately imagined being a standout during a live show. Still, it lacks that “special” quality I felt was so strongly present on “The Science of Noise,” and the excitement I felt over that track did not return over the album’s twelve-track tenure. Apparently, the standard edition of this album ends with the tenth track, “None Becoming”, but my US edition copy included the two completely useless bonus tracks, the inoffensively bland “Immemorial” and the agonizingly boring instrumental “Photon Dreams.” As an album closer, “None Becoming” ends on a weak note, and it’s a plodding and keyboard-laden piece with some lovely chord layering, but the track is pleasantly forgettable at best.
Overall, “pleasantly forgettable” is an apt description of this record, and the strength of the opening tracks only makes the album’s decline more obvious and painful. Catchy moments and excellent riffs are present throughout, but it’s simply not enough to vault Dark Tranquillity to a new level of songwriting grandeur. I commend them on taking a few more risks on here than they have on albums past, but I hope their next crop of tunes are spawned from richer soil.