1995 was certainly a definitive year for the New Wave of Swedish Death Metal. At the Gates' Slaughter of the Soul and In Flames' The Jester Race were released that year, both albums seamlessly meshing the melodic ambition of old schoolers Iron Maiden and Judas Priest with the aggression of '90s death metal; boasting instrumental chops and gifted songwriting, those two bands helped define the face of Scandinavian metal for years to come. But one must not overlook Dark Tranquillity's contributions to the genre, specifically The Gallery, which may not be rightfully recognized as the bona fide classic that it is. While these Swedes' debut, Skydancer, was an ambitious and disjointed affair exhibiting more promise than solid tunes, sophomore platter The Gallery fulfilled that promise -- and then some. Gone were Anders Fridén's awkward growls and the stiff production and arrangements, replaced by the confident mid-range rasp of Mikael Stanne and the much-hailed engineering expertise of Fredrik Nordström and Studio Fredman. The busy, melodic guitar work of Niklas Sundin and Fredrik Johansson is still prevalent, but rhythmically The Gallery is an entirely different beast, the songs given breathing room by the bass and drums, which hold down the fort while Sundin and Johansson unleash a frenzy of complex riffs and tasteful, controlled histrionics. The cuts "The Dividing Line," "The Emptiness From Which I Fed," and "Midway Through Infinity" are near-perfect examples of the melody/aggression dynamic exhibited by the myriad of acts making up the New Wave of Swedish Death Metal, replete with sudden, but not needlessly indulgent, shifts in tempo and mood; however, Dark Tranquillity's ornate, pseudo-gothic song structures and fanciful lyrics give the band an intellectual quality -- most prevalent during the title track, where Stanne's well-timed and gritty vocal is carefully balanced by melodic female singing and abstract, poetic lyrics. This sets the band apart from At the Gates' raw assault and battery and In Flames' major-key flights of fancy. The Gallery is a transcendent work from one of the underdogs of the genre -- a bona fide masterpiece that helped further stretch the boundaries of death metal in the '90s.
The Gallery Review
by John Serba