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Melodic death metallers Dark Tranquility going on 25 years

Monday 12th, January 2015 / 20:01
By Matt Telgen
Dark Tranquility feels there’s more to their music than the iconic Gothenburg Sound. Photo: Daniel Falk

Dark Tranquility feels there’s more to their music than the iconic “Gothenburg Sound.” Photo: Daniel Falk

CALGARY — Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Simpsons and Nintendo were pop culture’s cause célèbre back in ‘89. By then, a young Swedish band by the name of Septic Broiler had already formed and was releasing nebulous death metal, changing their name after two guttural, sloppy demos to one that metal heads worldwide know today: Dark Tranquility. Since those formative years, the band has forged an unusual legacy. With 10 full-length albums, two live DVDs and a host of EPs, singles and compilations, the band’s career extends far past just printed media.

During their early years a term arose, and has since stuck, in describing the band’s musical style. The “Gothenburg Sound,” coined after Dark Tranquility’s hometown, is a uniquely European sect of melodic death metal, and would go on undeniably inspire a hefty chunk of American metalcore, among other movements. Also popularized by At The Gates and In Flames, this style remains much debated to this day.

At the turn of the millennium, Swedish melodic death metal exploded as numerous bands left their mark. Entombed and Dismembered also carved a path; Amon Amarth, Hypocrisy, Opeth and The Haunted eventually emerged, all of whom released substantial material that stands the test of time. At the centre of it all were bands like Dark Tranquility, who merged their gothic underpinnings with melodic tendencies. To this day, they are leading the pack in an underlying, subtle way. Although there is a consensus that the crest seems to have broke and rolled back, Dark Tranquility vocalist and gruff growler Mikael Stanne doesn’t seem to agree.

“Artistically speaking, things are pretty healthy,” he writes via email from Sweden. Getting the group on the phone was virtually impossible due to the Christmas season and time difference.

“I guess that to a lot of people the ‘melodic death metal’ thing really is a retro genre (and I wouldn’t place Dark Tranquility in that genre at all, even if it’s a tagline that has taken on its own life by now).”

Concluding his point, Stanne notes, “There are quite a lot of younger Swedish bands that carry the spirit of innovation make something unique out of their influences, just like we did back in the day.”

When asked for his thoughts on the genre, and how it has (or hasn’t) progressed since its inception, he was somewhat torn.

“To be honest, I don’t really have much of an opinion. People often expect us to be some kind of ambassadors for the ‘Gothenburg Sound,’ but even back in the late ‘90s, when the phrase was coined, I thought it was a weird classification. In my view, the bands from here were all very different from each other both musically and lyrically, and it’s always hard to relate to a label that’s applied to you from the outside.” Stanne continues, “I think that some great and truly genre defining albums were made, but to me it was always just a bunch of creative people making music.”

Regardless of sound debate, one definitive fact remains, and that is that Dark Tranquility are true ambassadors of metal. Currently touring their 2013 full-length and 10th studio album Construct (a record which incorporated more of their industrial tendencies to mixed response), they plan to refocus on songwriting for their next album as soon as the tour is complete.

When we inquire about the timeline and goals for upcoming material, Stanne is succinct.

“At this point – and it’s probably true for most bands that have been around for this long – it’s more about perfecting the craft and to be as professional and devoted as possible when it comes to writing songs and performing live.”

So whether or not you’ve internalized them as torchbearers for Gothenburg melodic death metal, you can expect more of their signature death metal, featuring baroque keyboards, gruff growls, melodic riffs, and depressive atmospheric underpinnings.

See Dark Tranquility in Edmonton on Monday, January 19 at the Starlite Room, and in Calgary on Tuesday, January 20 at the Republik.

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