Dark Tranquillity


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Having taken longer than most of Gothenburg, Sweden's death metal giants to reveal their greatness, Dark Tranquility have now arguably become that ever-popular subgenre's most enduring torch-bearers -- the living embodiment of melodic death metal midway through the '00s. And, in keeping with that station, 2005's Character marks the third installment of what most agree has been the band's most consistent career-phase; one which finds them, like other genre standard-bearers before them (Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Black Sabbath, anyone?), reveling in their mastery of a formula they know so well it inevitably begs the question: have they become too comfortable in their niche? Are they stagnating? Well, there's a distinct difference between beating a dead horse and riding it to victory every time, and Character sure feels like the latter, as song after memorable song storms by all limbs a-flailing and death-shrieks a-shrieking, their riffs and harmonies stacked as densely as only Dark Tranquility can stack them. If anything, this outing follows a slightly more straightforward and aggressive tact than its two acclaimed predecessors, using well-placed synthesizer breaks and melodies to heighten, not suffocate, the ferocious onslaught driving the nearly black metal barrage of "The New Build," the overpowering fury of "Lost to Apathy," and the brilliantly schizophrenic "Dry Run." In fact, only the rather electronics-heavy "The Endless Feed" and the especially emotive quasi-ballad "My Negation" ever manage to distract us from the dominant maelstroms raging here. Admittedly, there's probably no single perfect offering on Character on par with Haven's "Not Built to Last" or Damage Done's "Cathode Ray Sunshine," but there's also no real weak links to speak of, either -- perhaps the less-than-marvelous, "Mind Matters" and "Am I 1?" But, for all intents and purposes, what we have here is quite simply state-of-the-art melodic death metal.

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