dark-tranquillity_atomaWhenever a new Dark Tranquillity album drops, it causes me to reflect on the state of the Gothenburg sound. Despite lesser albums like We Are the Void and Construct, it’s abundantly clear Dark Tranquillity reaped the most benefit from the stylistic tontine they established with In Flames and At the Gates back in 1992. Their particular take on melo-death has aged like a fine vintage while others have become little more than hobo wine. That great gulf is even more stark when Dark Tranquillity crafts a masterful release like Atoma. At once maintaining their classic sound and moving it forward, Atoma is the new phase only hinted at on 2013s Construct. The band’s usual cold melancholy weighs heavily like a funeral shroud, yet the writing delivers a vibrancy that belies the sadness while delivering real and immediate hooks to drag you deeper into the album’s spell. They’ve managed to strike a near-perfect balance between moody goth-rock and death metal with tastefully blackened edges, and in the process delivered their best work since Fiction.

The beauty of Atoma is that it’s at once so familiar, but just different enough to avoid feeling stale or rote. Opener “Encircled” is a classic DT cut – blackened but melodic riffs sizzle and undulate against shimmering keyboard and the ever-engaging rasps of Mikael Stanne; it’s fierce even as it’s memorable, moody and beautiful. The title track takes the goth influence up several notches for what could almost be a One Second era Paradise Lost hit, and Stanne’s clean singing is rich in all its Projector-esque sweetness. This is such a memorable, accessible song yet it never feels watered down.

And the hits keep crashing into your consciousness, from the vaguely industrial, edgy catchiness of “Forward Momentum” to the sterile futuristic gleam of “Force of Hand” (which includes some nifty Amon Amarth-riffs), and the depressive beauty of “Faithless by Default,” the band expertly plucks at your emotions with carefully crafted, ingratiating melo-death moments. Even quirky closer, “Caves and Embers” could be a dark-horse favorite, with an approach that echoes latter period Anathema without losing DT‘s core sound.

As great as the material is, it’s the 2 bonus cuts that hit me the hardest. “Time Out of Place” is a beautiful goth song full of angst and bittersweet, The Cure-like keyboards with Stanne delivering a heartbreaking vocal performance. “The Absolute” is equally somber and sad with a strong Projector-era vibe and Stanne again comes through with some wonderfully plaintive vocals.

dark-tranquillity_2016-2

With 12 songs running 49 minutes, there’s not a weak moment to be found and the album plays amazingly well as a whole. Atoma is also the model of concise writing, with all songs running between 3-4 minutes, making their visits seem all too brief and fleeting. The production isn’t overly dynamic but it doesn’t hurt the music in a major way, and the clean, modern sound adds to the overall sense of remote coldness.

Atoma may be triumph of overall song writing, but it’s Mikael Stanne’s impassioned vocals that carry it to the promised land. Whether it’s his trademark blackened death rasps or his impressive clean singing, he’s evolved into a front man with few equals. He also may be the most decipherable of all death metal vocalists, and that’s a plus when the lyrics are worth hearing as they are here. Atoma is the first album without guitarist Martin Henriksson joining Niklas Sundin at the riff desk, but the classic DT sound remains with a never-ending supply of haunting, blackened leads and melodic harmonies. In fact, this is some of DT‘s best riffcraft in years and every song crackles with energetic fret-work. It would be a crime to minimize the importance of Martin Brändström’s keyboards. His playing has long been an essential cog in the DT construct, providing much of the melancholic, morose moods they revel in. He’s outdone himself here, creating his best collection of subtle, downtrodden accents without ever forcing the keys into an overly prominent role.

Atoma is the most definitive statement on the health and vitality of melo-death in a long while and one of the best moments in Dark Tranquillity‘s lengthy career. It’s also one of the year’s best releases and one you should not miss. After a few less than amazing albums, it’s great to hear the last of the Gothenburg golden boys back in top form and to be reminded anew why I’ve loved them for the better part of 2 decades.


Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Century Media
Websites: darktranquillity.com | facebook.com/dtofficial
Releases Worldwide: November 4th, 2016

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  • Kronos

    Great review Steel! This album is fantastic, “Faithless by Default” is a strong contender for song of the year but those bonus tracks are worthy opponents. Also Stanne sounds incredible on this record, it’s crazy that he almost keeps getting better.

    • Grymm

      I can’t get enough of “Faithless by Default” or “The Absolute”.

  • Looked forward to this review after hearing AMG himself praising the album on Twitter (Twice!), and it did not disappoint. Always had a hard time to really love the band (always liked them), but if everything turns right, this might be the album that sways the pendulum right for me. Really hope so

    • An album that defies AMG’s Law of Diminishing Recordings, as stated by AMG himself? Praise be!

  • Reese Burns

    This is fantastic!

    • Dethjesta

      EDIT: Amendment to the above message lead to this message becoming redundant.

  • Dethjesta

    Great review. I’ve really liked what I’ve heard from this album so far, and I’m pleased that the rest of the album is up to the same standard.

    I had feared that a DT without Henriksson wouldn’t work as he wrote so much of their best material. Glad to hear it’s not the case.

  • Dr. Wvrm

    Excellent review and a great assessment of the work, Steel. Strong contender for AotY for sure.

  • AndySynn

    I feel like we must have listened to VERY different albums…

    • Not a fan?

      • AndySynn

        Of the band? Huge. Bigly. The most.

        Of the album? It’s alright. But it’s not “a new phase” by any means. It’s ploughing the exact same furrow the band have been in for the last 4/5 albums. Though it is better than Construct, I’ll give you that.

        It’s just solid Dark Tranquillity. Nothing more, nothing less. Enjoyable for the most part, but not particularly vital.

        I’ll admit that I haven’t heard the bonus tracks though. But then it’s always a concern if/when they outshine the “main” material.

        • I guess we did hear a different album. It’s definitely classic DT but I think they’re incorporating the goth elements in a better way than they’ve done in forever. The bonus tracks are really good and my favorites but I wouldn’t go so far as to say they “outshine” the main material.

    • narrator

      i think, you are think of yourself too much

      • AndySynn

        Hush now, the adults are talking.

  • Oscar Albretsen

    Haven’t been too big on DT’s most recent work, but certainly wanna check this out. Embedded track is great!

  • Grymm

    Good album, but I must admit, I keep spinning “The Absolute” the most, which makes me realize the following:

    1) Why is this a bonus track, and not a bonafide track on the album? This is “Auctioned”‘s spiritual descendant.
    2) They need to play this or “Auctioned” live.

    • They may have felt they were too “different” than the rest of the material. I’m hoping they explore that direction more next time though.

      • Grymm

        Me too, because holy crap, that song is so good.

        • Linnane

          same with amorphis’ album last year..the 2 bonus tracks were def strong enough to be on the album full stop

          • Stefano Kevin Prince Vitali

            man, how good is Winter’s Sleep?!?

          • zorkovitch

            isn’t that the one with… (suddenly feels a bit sad) that female guest vocalist with a very sweet voice?

            Either way i remember all of red cloud’s bonus tracks being good or very good, though I think i got them with the regular album so how is it a bonus?
            I remember Soylent Green on Iced Earth’s Dystopia being one of the best of the album, but i believe that was a true bonus (not on the regular version i mean)

          • Stefano Kevin Prince Vitali

            The one you’re talking about is White Night, which is on the regular version of the album. Winter’s Sleep has those damned finnish keyboard sound that gets me everytime since Black Winter Day. I think Iced Earth trascended their limit in making Alive In Athens, still my favourite live album ever. Never been able to listen to anything from them after.

    • DT have a lot of incredible bonus tracks!

      Out of Gravity is one of my favorite songs of them, and it was first a bonus track for We Are the Void.

      • PurpleDoom

        Out of Gravity is great! Static is a favorite of mine back from the Damage Done period.

    • PurpleDoom

      Back in September there was a little comment about the bonus tracks in one of their Facebook posts:
      “A lot of our songs start out as pieces of music written on
      piano/keyboards before getting transformed into guitar driven metal.
      With this recording, we wanted to explore what would happen if we
      instead let the material take another direction, and we’re extremely
      thrilled by the result.”
      I can only assume they intended for them to be experimental bonus cuts from the get-go regardless of quality, continuing the long tradition of some superb material almost always popping up in the album outtakes. Excited to hear them myself!

    • In an interview Mikael mentioned the bonus tracks were recorded by a different producer in a different studio (analog recording equipment as far as I can remember) and therefor didn’t fit with the rest of the material.

      I can’t wait to hear the album, the three teasers were great so far!

    • Kalsten

      Where can I listen to that song? I only see the normal edition around, but nothing with that song you mention.

      • tomasjacobi

        The 2 bonus tracks are only available on the 2CD edition of the album.

    • KingTravisGriswald1986

      Somehow I managed to think that ‘The Absolute’ and ‘Time Out of Place’ were one track, still convinced it is! Kind of strange they stuck them on a bonus disc, would have been much better as a closer for the album.

      Reminds me of the title track from The Dillinger Escape Plan’s new album as well for some reason!

  • madhare

    I had no idea new DT was going to drop. DT is one of those bands than even their lesser material is pretty damn good compared to others.

    Wasn’t very enthusiastic about the first half of the year in metal. There were couple of good ones, but sort of normal. Now suddenly all the good ones are coming out. Autumn saved. ***mind blown***

  • metalcasket

    Is the album worth picking up without the bonus tracks? To my understanding, they’re only on the physical edition and that’s not an option for me.

    • Oh yeah! There are 12 tracks without the bonus cuts and all of them are great.

  • Good review, dude.

    OMFG, I CAN’T WAIT FOR THIS MO’FO ALBUM TO DROP IT’S HOTNESS ON MY ELFIC EARS!.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    Last year’s October was full of great releases. October this year is full of great releases. I just came to release that October is the right time for releasing Album of the Year contenders: soon enough not to get caught in reviewers’ backlogs to be listened to and not overlooked, yet late enough to be remembered because the impact is fresh,

    • zorkovitch

      may also still be “new” enough to be high priced on christmas

  • brutal_sushi

    The only Atoma I’m about is their debut and only album Skylight!!!

    • sir_c

      Listen to the predecessor band, Slumber. Their album Fallout is an overlooked classic. It overshadows many a Gothenburg band.

      • I love that damn album.

      • brutal_sushi

        Way ahead of you on that! I’m a huge fan of anything Jari Lindholm is involved with… God Fallout is a masterful album!

  • The Nerd.

    Man this has been a great year.

  • walk_among_us

    i definitely appreciate the return to more mature songwriting. i kind of checked out after fiction.

    also, a fun story: mikael called me and some other fans in the front row out at a 2007 show for singing lyrics to fiction tracks before it was out. he called us pirate motherfuckers. it was epic.

    • And that’s my new rap metal band name.

      • [not a Dr]

        Rap covers of Running Wild?

    • Did he sound annoyed when he said it?

      A similar thing happened at a Nevermore gig in London just before the release of The Obsidian Conspiracy. The band recorded video for a new song (which they had to start over a couple of times because Warrel Dane was fucking it up), and he joked that the audience knew the lyrics better than he did. :)

      • walk_among_us

        nah it was all in good fun. we were all there buying t shirts and stickers and cds, anyway.

    • Rina and Raven

      I remember, on Moscow concert of Paradise Lost (it was a day before Russian release of FDUDUU, but after European) Nick Holmes mentioned that “but of course you already got it from torrents” before singing one of new songs. He sounded ironic, not annoyed at all. And yes, we were singing along =)

  • Belgian Tom’s Hat Trick

    Wonderful review, Steel. Glad to know that they are still pumping out some good music. They’re a great band and it’s good to see them get some deserved attention. Now… to the old wallet again.

  • Hammersmith

    One thing DT have always been good at is using keyboards to texture their sound, but it never overpowers it in anyway. It adds just enough to give songs a different feel. And clean piano is always welcome in metal.

    I also like that they are bringing back more of the Projector-esque cleans, but not in a way that makes it feel like a shift in style.

  • robpal

    Now I’m officially pumped! Saw them in August and they slayed, can’t wait for the new album!

    Very nice review.

  • AnnieK13

    Looking forward to this album!

  • PurpleDoom

    Great to hear that it’s a big step up – the title track and Forward Momentum both had me thrilled, and I’m excited to hear the rest.

  • Mr T

    I will give the album a chance. But I have really given up on DT. I have seen them live so many times and always a disapointment. But I haven’t followed closely. Henriksson quit you say? He always looked bored out of his mind whenever I saw them.

    • Utku Yabaş

      Haha, yes he always looks so bored live.

    • savafreak

      Bummer, they are coming to Toronto next week, thought to pay them a visit, but now gonna pass, used to be a big fan but they lost me along the way

  • Dr. A.N. Grier

    Yes, this. And pretty much everything everyone else has said. Including, “pirate motherfuckers.” Excluding, Atoma being “alright.”

  • flashgordon

    Usually, I trust reviews from here almost blindly, but I’m doubting very much on this… You know, after a lot of disappointments from classic Gothemburg bands I have to…

  • Great review! I had a hunch DT would right the ship when they released that sick artwork and first track. Glad to hear it’s a killer! And why are they so damn good at bonus tracks? I remember The Poison Well being my favorite track on Damage Done, and Exposures was better than 95% of melodeath albums anyway. WHY?!?

  • Wilhelm

    I’m going to have to say, of the couple tracks I heard, I don’t hear anything new…I’m still waiting for the band to go in another direction but they keep spinning the same set of wheels since Damage Done, there’s no dramatic difference like from Gallery to Minds I, from that album to Projector. I’m sure there are people who will say that this sounds nothing like Damage Done but I think, given enough effort and time, I could create a new DT album on formula alone and not take 2-3 years to do it.

  • Requiem

    There truly is nothing that feels quite as gorgeous as a good Dark Tranquility hit. This album truly is the epitome of their sound, evolved and refined. A glorious album and an excellent review!

  • jetblindracos

    This would be great for exercise and for painting also too.Thrilled to know that the bonus tracks are as good.The last time it happened for me was with The Wake of Magellan.

  • Hulksteraus

    I have been waiting for this since they announced it earlier this year. Am so glad they appear to have hit it out of the park. Whilst I have liked the last few albums, I have felt that a few fillers were starting to creep in.

    The last album I enjoyed in its entirety was Character, which was a per album from start to finish. Steely D has now got me pumped to hear the whole thing.

    And that artwork!!!!

  • sir_c

    …And I thought that all the references in comments elsewhere to Atoma were about the band with that name…

    This new DT album sounds promising, looking at the stellar review. Thanks, will definitely check out the rest of the songs

  • Rina and Raven

    Sometimes I think I am the only one who thinks that We Are the Void is much more fun than Fiction. The latter is a bit too monochromatic and the former is vibrant. Practically every song on We Are the Void is an anthem of some sort, very emotional and quite diverse, from the freezing cold of Arkhangelsk to the gentle fire of Her Silent Language. Fiction is a bit too abstract for me, both musically and lyrically.

    But I agree completely with Stanne praising part of review. He is perfect. We should just clone him and put him in every growl using band (except for maybe Amorphis and The Black Dahlia Murder). Or maybe simply in every band. Imagine Nightwish with Stanne on vocals, that would be awesome! =)

    • Kronos

      I’m really into that album as well. It was my introduction to the band.

      • basshole

        Noob lol.

  • Dagoth_RAC

    With a band this mature in their sound, it all comes down to songwriting. Judging by the embedded video, this does not drag, has some catchy hooks, and enough variety to be memorable and hold your interest. All good signs! And all things I said about Fiction. Subsequent releases I had trouble making it all the way through. They seemed to lack a certain energy and the whole thing became “samey” after a while. Hopefully this is a return to form for a band I was on the verge of giving up on. Now I am really, really looking forward to Nov. 4th!

  • Dead1

    “best riffcraft ”
    Hilarious – seems to me they’re rehashing the same old riffs except they’re now more gutless.
    This album is piss weak. Basically gutless slowed down DT filler rejects from a band that ran out of ideas a long time ago.
    Another band I am officially giving up on.

  • narrator

    WHAT!!! i thought it’ll get 1.5 and i will complain a lot and now nothing!!! how dare you!!! i agree with you and i cant’t stand it!!!

  • Nick Maestas

    One of my favorite bands ever i am so pumped to see them play next month. The new songs on this album sound great too

  • gerdez

    Well, I started listening to DT with this album after hearing Forward Momentum. I tried them before but didn’t got hooked. Not this time. All the album is great, no fillers. I like it a lot.

  • savafreak

    Allow me to respectfully disagree with your Druhmness. I used to be a big fan of them and I even liked them when they started to experiment in new directions like they did in Projector. And while this album is a major improvement on their hugely disappointing latest 2 efforts, it is still a let down, it lacks creativity and energy and aggressive melody once they had, like the band has nothing more to offer in the field they help to create and perfect; now they start to implement atmospheric/space/semi-black/gothic elements, it may sound a good idea to experiment to some, but please understand new sounds doesn’t necessarily means a good sound, and when a band depart from the style that built them a fan base, it is not encouraging and some of us will get alienated, as not all their early fans gonna embrace the new style. In my opinion it doesn’t deserve more than 3, a merely good, listenable album that I doubt anyone will return to it after a while

    • Nathan Schmidt

      Wrong. Return to form after the last two albums.

      • Dead1

        Not a return at all. It’s gutless, boring and a tepid rehash of previous work.

  • Shrümpelstiltskin

    Just saw them last night in NYC. The new songs are killer live. Great fucking show. Atoma rules!

  • RuySan

    No one else complains about the mastering? It’s way too loud, like most stuff, but i thought DT knew better.

  • AnnieK13

    For me October AOM is between this and the latest Khemmis..