Dark Tranquillity // Construct
Rating: 3.0/5.0 — Shaky construction
Label: Century Media Records
Websites: darktranquillity.com  |  myspace.com/dtofficial
Release Dates: EU: 2013.05.27  |  NA: 05.28.2013

dark-tranquility-construct-cover-e1364407790710I’ve been waiting for this one for some time. As a big Dark Tranquillity fan, I’ve weathered their style shifts and experiments with more commercial and more “modern” sounds. While 2010s We Are the Void was respectable with a few killer cuts, I ended up really liking the extended extras that were included on the limited edition release (which eventually became the Zero Distance EP). That group of songs encapsulated what modern-day DT does best: create melodic, but cold, sterile, modern death metal. I really wanted them to continue in that direction on Construct, but they thought otherwise. What we get is a type of career retrospective where they try to reconcile and merge the diverse sounds they’ve toyed with over the years. For long time fans, the best way to describe this is Projector mixed with We Are the Void. It’s easily the most restrained, melodic album since Projector and the dramatic clean vocals are back in force once again. It’s also their most diverse release, with thrashy tracks alongside new age-y stuff and a few poppy choruses. It’s instantly familiar, but alien all at once. Is this their Sounds of a Playground Fading? I’m sure some will see it that way, but it’s not anywhere near as bad. It’s very listenable and there’s good stuff here and while it keeps the band’s core sound, I don’t see this being hailed as a glorious new beginning for these respectable vets.

First up are the songs that sound like vintage Dark Tranquillity, like “For Broken Words,” “Science of Noise” and “The Silence In Between.” These employ the tried-and-true formula of Gothenburg death with fluid guitar work, melody and deathy roars. These chaps were always able to make their material memorable and hooky and though Mikael Stanne has a true death rasp, he’s always been excellent at enunciation and making his vocals seem somewhat melodic. These chestnuts will hit home with any fans of the style, though they aren’t the heaviest songs they’ve ever penned.

Then there are the Projector-esque songs, like “Uniformity” (which sounds like mid-period Paradise Lost mixed with “Freecard”); “What Only You Know” which plays like an awkward love song with dodgy transitions between deathy and clean vox; and “State of Trust” which uses the cleans in a very poppy, but oddly effective way. Though I was never a fan of  cleans in DT’s music, they only fall flat on “What Only You Know,” which is an iffy song to begin with.

Then there are the wildcard numbers, like “Endtime Hearts” which sounds like goth rockers H.I.M. or To Die For with death vox added in. Also a bit offbeat is the slow, hypnotic trill of “None Becoming,” which is emotional, moody and almost doomy.

While they succeed  at changing things up quite a bit, the album as a whole has some flaws. Some songs just aren’tDark-Tranquility-2013-Daniel-Falk very compelling (“Apathetic” and “Immemorial”) and the overall energy level is a bit low low. Some songs only qualify as death metal because of Stanne’s vocals, as the backing music is so restrained and sleepy. The album also feels about two songs too long.

In the win column are Stanne’s vocals. Though he never goes as brutal as some in the field, his delivery is always dead-on and he injects nuances into his rasps that others can’t. He still has a noticeable Depeche Mode vibe when he sings, and it works here in the same odd way it did on Projector. Martin Henriksson and Niklas Sundin are fine as always, crafting interesting moods and feelings with their riffs as they back away from the modern, almost metalcore riffing they flirted with in recent years. Though they flash some technical chops when called for, they never go for the over-the-top fret-board heroics In Flames were known for and they always keep things restrained and in check. While I would have liked more venom and vigor to offset the melodic nature (like Omnium Gatherum does), that’s not what Construct is all about.

All things considered, I would call Construct a partial success. Despite some glitches, they managed to be quite diverse without completely “selling out” and losing themselves (though they’re going to get some guff for the overall mellowness, that’s for shit sure). I doubt I will come back to this as much as their classic albums, but it has a certain charm and it does grow on you. My concern is where they go from here now that they’ve done this historical salute to the varied eras of Dark Tranquillity. I can’t see them getting lighter than this and remaining relevant, so where do they go? Steel Druhm just doesn’t know.

  • Pascual Villaseca

    I was surprised to see a 3.0 on this album, i was expecting a 4.0
    i’ve read lots of reviews saying its awesome and giving Construct a 9/10-8/10

    I guess i’ll have to wait for the album

    • Nowhere near a 4.0 to me and I love these guys.

  • gustman17

    If they got lighter they would sound like a modern version of Projector, which is what I kinda expected of this, but it seems that isn’t the case.

    Actually, Haven was supposed to be even lighter and more experimental than Projector, but they played some (then)new songs in Japan and the crowd disliked them. After that dissapointment they decided to go on a heavier, ‘safer’ route with Haven, and the rest is history.

    Back on topic, I loved the Katatonia vibe on For Broken Words. I hope there’s more of that in the rest of the album :)

  • Eryops

    What is with the record covers this year? I hope at the end of the year you do a Top-10 Worst Covers list. We all know what #1 would be, but sheesh!

    • Mike Eckman

      Yes, this definitely has been the year for terrible album covers. I dont think Construct is nearly as bad as Voivod or that Phil Anselmo side project band, but its only May and we already have quite a few!

      • sathriel

        Yeah, Stanne’s drawing style is something different for sure. After having read the review it may be a great depiction of clusterfucky nature of album’s content.

        • Juular

          Not Stanne’s artwork. It’s Sundin’s.

          • sathriel

            Doh, surely. My bad.

  • Mr Black

    This album does absolutely nothing for me and i’m normally quite a big DT fan. I found it to be way too inconsistent and i didn’t get any killer vibe from any track. In fact i was rather bored at times. I understand they went for an “atmosphere first” type of album and ia agree with the review that it’s sort of a mix between Projector and WATV but…i dunno it just end up sounding a bit flat and weird.

    Now the thing is i love Projector and thought WATV was pretty decent but can’t get into Construct.. Go figure. Maybe it will be a grower or maybe it’s because i was listening to Vektor – Black Future right before but as of now i’d give it a 2.5.

    • I felt the same way after a listen or two, but most of the songs grew on me with more spins. Definitely not a barnburner, but it has some good stuff.

    • Rik

      I’m the opposite, I never really liked Projector but I love Construct. I don’t think the comparisons between the two albums really hold up. The only real similarities are that both albums have more clean vocals and aren’t as heavy as most of their albums. But they don’t really sound anything alike.

    • venomz09

      couldn’t agree more, can’t fathom how anyone would give this album higher than a 3/5 or 6/10.

      i’d give it a 2.5/5 aswell.

      way too mellow, nothing grabs you really.

      i hope this isn’t a sigh of things to come from this great melo death band.

  • Mike Eckman

    Oh man! A new Dark Tranquility album! I guess I’ve had my head up my arse cause I didn’t even know this was coming! Awwww man, only a 3 out of 5? Im really hoping my long standing love for these guys will allow me to overlook this albums flaws.

  • Zadion

    Having just listened to this album myself, I think my first complaint would be… that I do not see this as an extension of Projector at all. There’s only 3 songs with clean vocals in them; 3 out of 10 songs is hardly dominant. I haven’t heard it in awhile, but I’m pretty sure WATV had more than that. There’s also no emotive and overdramatic ballad like “Auctioned” or a progressive track like “Nether Novas.” The super gothy vibe isn’t around much either. I’d call it more of a WATV 2.0 rather than relating it to Projector at all. This has me disappointed as well, because it’s a lesser version of it for sure; there’s no “Her Silent Language” or “Arkhangelsk” either.

    Gah, I dunno, after this review I was hoping to hear cleans popping up in every song and a return to that overall vibe. I think I’m disappointed in this for reasons different than you are. Hopefully it’ll grow on me a bit more too.

  • Bogdan Niculae

    I, for one, like it. It’s definitely not groundbreaking, but it’s still pretty good. It gets a 4.0 in my book and I think it might grow on me even more.

  • Juular

    The reason why the album feels two songs long? Because you listened to the US version, which has two bonus tracks. I know this because you mentioned Immemorial. :P one of the two bonus tracks.

    • Valid.

      • Juular

        That aside, nice review. I disagree with it, but still, nice read.

  • Jeremy González

    Two times now this week that “Sounds of a Playground Fading” has been mentioned. Something is wrong with 2013 releases.

  • Rado Van

    I like whole album

  • Niedobry Pan

    I think it supposed to be Dark Tranquillity not Dark Tranquility.

  • Benjamin TheUnguided Clarke

    Disappointing.. We Are the Void was getting me exited for this album but it turned out to be more boring than watching Lord of the Rings, I hope their next album follows their more successful albums and don’t continue to down this “construct” path.