Dark Tranquillity

Fiction

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Intricacy, musicality, craftsmanship, and nuance are words that, back in 1989, were hardly ever used to describe death metal -- a style so extreme, so ferocious, so intent on annoying parents at any cost that it seemed destined to self-destruct. But Dark Tranquillity and their expansive colleagues in Gothenburg, Sweden, refused to believe that death metal could not be musical, nuanced, and melodic, and that outlook continues to define them on Fiction. This rewarding CD was recorded in 2006 and released in 2007, the year that marked Dark Tranquillity's 18th anniversary. Perhaps 18 years isn't all that long compared to the Rolling Stones celebrating their 45th anniversary in 2007; nonetheless, 18 is an impressive number when one recalls all the naysayers who, in the late '80s, thought death metal would be long gone by the 21st century. But Dark Tranquillity not only survived -- they continued to provide highly consistent discs such as Fiction, which, like many of their previous releases, achieves a healthy, coherent, natural-sounding balance of the melodic and the extreme. Melodic death metal is the album's orientation, but there are other influences as well, including black metal (lead singer Mikael Stanne's sinister rasp vocals have a lot of black metal appeal on Fiction), alternative metal, darkwave, and goth. In fact, the darkwave-drenched "Misery's Crown" (which finds Stanne providing mostly clean vocals) is really more goth metal than death metal; it's a gem that would not be out of place on a My Dying Bride album -- and for that matter, the Crüxshadows would probably have an easy time covering the song if they toned down its metal aspects. Not that Dark Tranquillity need to tone anything down; Fiction is excellent the way it is, and it's great to see these Swedes very much on top of their game after many years in the death metal trenches.

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