Dark Tranquillity – Atoma
Atoma is the eleventh full-length studio album by Swedish melodic death metal band Dark Tranquillity. It was released on 4 November 2016 through Century Media Records. Atoma is the band’s first studio album with new bassist Anders Iwers, who replaced founding member Martin Henriksson (also the rhythm guitarist) after Henriksson left the band in early 2016 due to loss of passion for playing music.
There are two songs, “The Absolute” and “Time Out of Place”, that was recorded during the making of this album but were released on a bonus disc in the limited edition. These songs are softer, darker and more brooding with only clean singing, reminiscent of bands such as Katatonia and the later Opeth. Another song, “Reconstruction Time Again”, was released as a Japanese edition bonus track. It is a nine-minute electro-industrial medley of some songs from the Construct album, specifically “State of Trust”, “None Becoming”, and “Uniformity”.
Dark Tranquillity has been around since 1989, yet they still have a fire that keeps the embers of their progressive Melo-death metal burning. While the band In Flames have moved in different directions musically, the 3 original members of Sundin, Jivarp, and Stanne have somehow managed to keep the core Dark Tranquility sound intact over their 2 and a half-decade career. And while they have had their share of member change-ups, most recently longtime guitarist Martin Henriksson called it quits, they persevered in the spirit of the Greek Atoma, that which can’t be split. Musically, nothing has changed. This is a mix of death metal, progressive metal with melodic infusions. That may be a disappointment to those who would like to see Dark Tranquility push the fringe of this scene, but there is sincerity to their art that can’t go unrecognized even though they really haven’t strayed too far from their Gothenburg roots. Stanne mixes a clear voice with his mostly discernable harsh voice (one that actually has clarity beyond that of most death metal bands). Brandstrom’s keyboards have been a significant part of the Dark Tranquility soundscape for well over a decade now and his contribution remains vital, helping to shape the dark nature of the sobering metal mix.
Atoma is a twelve-track album that starts with the speedy Melodic Death tune, “Encircled,” which has all the dark elements and the raspy vocal tones stylistically found in most Dark Tranquillity songs. Next, title-track “Atoma,” delves into the keyboard-heavy tones and intersperses of clean, Gothic lyrics, creating a beautiful path from beginning to end. For a band that has been around for two and a half decades now, with each new album, the world gets a heavy dose of heartfelt darkness and sorrow presented with a very tough and stable backbone. With each new progression, re-invention, and approach to their own music, there is never a dull moment. Allowing this fact to sink in, “Atoma” and “Forward Momentum” are both very visually stimulating tunes that possess the essence of the band and their message to the world, helping shed a heavy helping of beautiful darkness into a world of hate and destruction.
Lyrically, this is a political record – or at least it feels that way – many of the song’s commentary on the present state of the world. I think they were leaning this way with Construct, but now there is a humble admission that we are in big trouble, “Faithless by Default” the most strongly confessional song here. Despite the division rampant in our world, DT stands united like an atom that can’t be split, and the encouragement to stay the course is a clear message here. These guys have been so consistently good for so many years now yet I remain repeatedly amazed by their outpourings. Like “Clearing skies,” there is always a hope that the next chapter will bring light to the darkness. And while their music retains an edgy darkness, their truths, their aggression, and their passion always shine forth in a way that is confrontational yet uplifting. The bonus disc is a bit puzzling in that it only contains 2 songs (8 minutes) (like why not just include those on the main disc?) and there is no mention of them in the liner notes. They are good – a bit more ambient/experimental – but odd nevertheless to have an entire disc with only 2 songs.
Atoma might be a bit of a surprise for a lot of Dark Tranquillity fans. Rather than continuing in the direction that Construct established, the band has chosen to make yet another sharp turn in their sound, a turn that some may not find to be an ideal or exciting as that that they took on Construct. However, Atoma is nevertheless highly rewarding and shows a lot of interesting new ideas that the band could very well develop into another masterpiece. What I hope for now is that they consolidate their sound and choose the elements that they want to develop on the next album. While it’s certainly been interesting to hear these two transitional, experimental albums, what Dark Tranquillity needs is to make a unified and powerful statement with the next one – something that I definitely think they have in them, and that I’m sure that they’ll arrive at eventually. For now, though, we now have two very interesting and unique albums to enjoy, and while it would maybe be more satisfying to indulge in a brand new masterpiece, the uncertainty and anticipation that these albums have left for us is very exciting indeed.
Artist: Dark Tranquillity
Released: November 4, 2016
Label: Century Media
Producer: Martin Brändström
Genre: Melodic Death Metal
Website: Official Website
Discs: 1 disc
Reviewed by: Mike Davidson
Our Rating: 4.0 /5
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