Dark Tranquillity – Construct
Reviewed by Tom Hirschboeck
Since my introduction to Dark Tranquillity by 2007’s Fiction (at the time their newest album), I have kept their work on fairly regular circulation in my listening, and I have come to enjoy all of it. Perhaps no album of theirs is an undisputed masterpiece (with the possible exception of their sophomore record, The Gallery (1995)), but they have never released anything notably disappointing to my ears.
I only mention this because to approach any Dark Tranquillity album, one should know a bit about the trajectory of the band. Heralded as one of the most important bands in the formation of the Gothenburg melodic death metal scene, they began their career on the vanguard of extreme metal. As the melodeath scene grew, however, the band began a process of self-reinvention, and their fourth album (Projector, 1999) saw them abandon many of their melodeath tendencies in favor of what I like to think of as “modern metal;” a bit slower than typical melodeath, with keyboards, occasional clean vocals, and crisp production. (I wonder what our local musicologist has to say about my inventing genres, hehe…) Subsequent albums reunited this sound with a fair amount of melodeath influence, but never again would they record anything as aggressive as their early works.
I apologize if that was a bit long winded, but there you have it: the legacy to which Construct is the heir. In many ways, Construct follows closely the paths tread by its more modern predecessors. The songs are fairly short by metal standards (with only one topping the five-minute mark) and, although structurally simple, can easily step out of 4/4 time or quiet down for a section (the latter more often this time around) without drawing much attention to the change; the songwriting flows naturally. Mikael Stanne’s lyrics remain vague but darkly eloquent; “You burned the ruin/the torched remains/you set the precedent/of innocence betrayed,” etc., and together with his (impressively emotive) delivery, fit well with the somber, longing tone of the music. The music is generally driven by simple melodies (often played on the keyboard), but underlaid by more complex and aggressive instrumentation.
The only real departure that Construct makes, then, is in taking a bit more time to explore Stanne’s clean vocals (which have improved a bit since Projector); the songwriting accordingly feels slightly more melodic and poppy, if no less dark. For the longtime fan, this may be a bit of a disappointment; as good as it may be on its own merit, Construct boasts little in particular to recommend itself over other recent albums. On the other hand, for the newly-initiated it may be as good a starting point as any. Whichever camp you belong to, I’d recommend that you give a few of the songs a listen before you jump on board; this is not a bad album by any means (in fact, I think it’s pretty good), but it may not be Dark Tranquillity’s best or most unique. A respectable offering, but so are they all.
3.5 // 5